The Gang Reality–Looking to root causes to address gangs
Posted by Arroyoribera on September 13, 2007
Spokane police are enthusiastically acquiring larger and more powerful weapons for their war on gangs — not to mention their wars on drugs and on the poor and the mentally ill and the homeless. Meanwhile, the Washington state legislature is muscling up the law and financing for the same war on gangs et al. And bogus stories, bogus statistics and bogus e-mails are circulating in the Spokane area about the supposed threat of gangs.
Yet some folks either don’t buy it or at least see a different approach.
Recognizing root causes is, literally, too radical for most people and institutions in this society and country. So it should not be surprising that a project looking to address root causes would be little known and little mentioned.
The September 2007 edition of The Fig Tree, an independent non-profit communications ministry operating in Spokane since 1984, reports on Project HOPE (Helping Our Young People Excel).
Here is the article from The Fig Tree:
Jobs Not Jails is both a slogan and an organization.The logo appears on clothing and accessories to create community awareness while it deters gang life by providing jobs for young people in West Central Spokane through Project HOPE (Helping Our young People Excel).
“Too often, ‘gang’ has become a four-letter word no one wants to talk about. Our goal is to help people find constructive ways to talk about gangs and to help young people choose viable options—especially employment as an economic incentive—to reduce the appeal of gang life,” said Pat Copeland-Malone, who is coordinating several efforts at workforce development in the neighborhood through Project HOPE.
Jobs not Jails logos are printed on T-shirts, tank tops, coats, handbags, tote bags, hats, work shirts, dress denim, sweatshirts and other items on display at the Book Parlor, 1414 W. Broadway. Organizers are seeking other outlets.
Pat said they will also produce shirts for the Riverfront Farm Project and God’s Gym, which re-opened in early August at Salem Lutheran Church 1428 W. Broadway, with five former gang members serving as volunteers.
“Nothing stops a bullet like a job,” said Pat.
Other workforce development programs he is encouraging include a Youth Entrepreneurship Program and a Youth Landscape Business, as well as the Riverfront Farm Project.
He also is researching what other products to produce in partnership with other outlets, including churches.
“As we mature, we will learn more about what people will buy and will find more ways to involve youth in building skills and leadership,” he said,
He believes that churches will become interested in the social justice aspects of the anti-gang effort.
God’s Gym, which operated in the 1990s at Central United Methodist Church downtown, is an avenue for drawing youth into recreation and awareness of alternatives to gang life.
Having former gang members who are now in school and employed engaged in the effort makes it more credible, Pat said. Their stories of turning their lives around can motivate young people more than a nonprofit director or counselor can.
For information, call 280-1702.
Mary Stamp – The Fig Tree – © September 2007