Documentary Week: G-Dawg

G-Dawg. That's what the young Latinos of East Los Angeles affectionately call Father Greg Boyle. Jesuit priests are usually found in the many colleges they founded in America, mulling over weighty theological questions. Greg Boyle is a Jesuit in the mean streets of the barrio, working with gangbangers. Sooner or later, the young people realize they can't continue in the gang life and that their luck in staying alive might someday run out. Others get married, have children, and want to leave the gangs and meet their new responsibilities. That's not so easy if have a spotty education, no job experience and little family support (indeed, the gang is often the only family some of them know). This is where Father Greg steps in. His slogan is "Jobs, not jails." If he can't find a job for some kids, he tries to employ them at Homeboy Industries, a group of companies he started--then turned over to the former gang members. Homeboy Industries includes a bakery, a silk-screening business, a landscaping service and the Homegirl Cafe, where young Latinas plan the menu, cook, and serve the food. G-Dawg also has ten volunteer doctors removing the tattoos that mark these young people with gang signs--making them targets for assassination by a rival gang. Father Greg told me that the LAPD has given up on the gangbangers and want them all in jail. A priest, however, believes in redemption and Greg Boyle shows it can happen. He's not saving souls, he's saving lives.

Producer Andy Danyo was the one who told me about Greg Boyle and she produced the 2005 interview which we're airing again on Friday. The interview had a couple of other things going for it. Father Greg happens to be a superb story-teller who knows exactly how to build drama and deliver a great snappy closing sentence. He is also a cancer survivor and the concern his young people had for him is a big part of the story. I've spent 40 years doing 30,000 interviews---THIS one is my favorite.