In partnership with Homeboy Industries and Forestry and Fire Recruitment Program, Our Stories Matter Season Four shares the stories of folx reentering the free world through radical resistance and activism. Prisons and many organizations in the free world complement each other as two sides of the same coin, as they continue to oppress and shackle folx coming home. Our Stories Matter engages in dialogue with two organizations that are dismantling the 46,000 collateral consequences around employment and education within a punishing system that has been created for recidivism. Storytelling is political. Storytelling is liberating. Storytelling is community healing. Our Stories Matter.
Fabian Debora has always placed art at the center of his healing. As Founder and Executive Director of Homeboy Art Academy, Fabian describes in detail how his upbringing influenced his relationship with art and healing. Using the knowledge he knows now, Fabian is using his cultural influence to highlight the facilitation of art and its healing powers. Through art, Fabian is changing the paradigm of how to connect with another human being.
Brandon Smith is the co-founder and CEO of The Forestry and Fire Recruitment Program. Brandon exempifies what is like to be relentless, innovative and passionate to bring opportunities to become a firefighter not only for himself, but to formerly incarcerated folks who complete fire camp and are in search of a similar career. Brandon recounts the different challenges that he experienced after his release with different social institutions, the stigma that comes of being in prison and how this inspired him to create a path to help others achieve the same success through mentorship and support post release through FFRP.
From living in anguish thinking that a lifetime in prison is all that was left, to getting another chance at life with freedom through SB 1437, Ivy Navarrete shares about the role that Homeboy Industries played in her life to overcome challenges that came after being released. Ivy faced obstacles with employment, housing, and navigation of different patriarcal systems that oppress women and limit their ability to succeed as free individuals.
Benjamin Fowler embodies what it means to be resilient. Detailing the hardships he faced transitioning from incarceration to the reentry community, Benjamin describes how the Fire Camps and the Forestry and Fire Recruitment Program gave him a second chance at a new life. Benjamin recounts the struggles and rewards of what it means to be an inmate firefighter, and how the love for his children and his community empowered him to never give up.
Manuel Torres shares one of the many challenges that he had to go through while incarcerated – having to learn how to represent himself in court due to a flawed legal system. Manuel learned the importance of education early on through the teachings of his mother, which was one of the motivators that helped him reduce his sentence significantly by advocating for a fair court process while fighting his case. Despite all the struggles, Manuel continues to grow personally and professionally with the support of family and Homeboy Industries; and continues his healing journey creating music and sharing his story.
Tyler Lord shares his journey as he transitions from a 32 years to life sentence to becoming a firefighter for FFRP. He discusses his battle with addiction and now, over 16 years clean and sober, he expresses a newfound love for life. As he talks about the lessons he’s learned and the support he’s received post-incarceration, Tyler hopes to be a beacon of light for others as they start their own healing journey.
Gonzalo Alvarado discusses his relationship with violence, how that shaped him and isolated him as a young man, and how that eventually influenced him to join a men’s group in prison dedicated to finding solutions for the senseless violence inside. He discusses the power of the written word and how sharing his words with other people incarcerated created an unspoken bond that transcended racial lines. Now navigating the reentry community after spending over 20 years in prison, Gonzalo recounts his experiences with Homeboy Industries and how they’ve supported him on his healing journey.
Stephanie Lane is an example of resilience and determination. She recounts how every struggle and trauma she experienced allowed her to grow into the woman she is today: fierced, independent and full of purpose. Stephanie also indicates the powerful impact that Homeboy Industries had in her life by providing employment and professional opportunities. She now leads a women’s focus group where she gives back to women by guiding, counseling, and providing resources to help them find their place in the free world after incarceration.
Dr. Daniel Siegel is a Clinical Professor in the Psychiatrist at the UCLA School of Medicine and the author of the book IntraConnected where he explains the concept of MWe (Me + We) as the integration of the Self, Identity, and Belonging. He describes how culture, especifically in the United States, has taught society that identity is an individual and separate concept unrelated to the collective whole. This creates a lot of mental distress as individuals begin to feel like they don’t fit in or don’t belong. Drawing from wisdom of Indigenous and contemplative traditions, Dr. Siegel shares how the self (Me) is connected with others and is within all the human world and nature (We), creating an intraconnection that helps us realize that we are a Me as much as we are a We – a MWe – to create a better world that would also be inclusive of formerly incarcerated folks.
Co-founder and CEO of the Uncuffed Project, Damon Cooke interviews Susie Hess who is an Associate Professor of Practicum Education at USC Suzanne Dwoark Peck School of Social Work and has extensive experience in the field of intimate partner violence, James Debbaco MSW student at USC Suzanne Dworak Peck School of Social Work, who currently serves as the Chair of the Unchained Scholars student caucus and Martin Leyva, program coordinator for Project Bound at California State University, San Marcos and a doctoral student UC San Diego in education share their lived experiences and explore how the intersectionality in their struggles has brought healing to their journeys.
Father Greg Boyle is the founder of Homeboy Industries, the largest gang-intervention, rehabilitation, and re-entry program in the world. Detailing the origins of Homeboy Industries, he reflects on powerful moments and stories that shaped his journey. He discusses the importance of unwavering compassion, the intentional act of loving, and dares to ask us – what would happen if we believed that people are unshakably good and we belong to each other?
Season 4 Finale Coming Soon
Sneak Peek at Season 4 Finale Bonus Episode with FATHER Gregory Boyle, Founder of Homeboy Industries shares his wisdom through compassion and love.
Video editing and music: @ivan_r_714