Monday, October 24, 2011

What I learned in Chicago schools.

I have been to New York doing book signings, I have been to Houston, to Philly, and have have come in contact with different people. But Chicago was a different experience.

In Chicago the gang culture is a way of life. Whether you are in one or not, you live surrounded by it. And not only that. On the streets it is life or death everyday. You can live on the same block and not be able to go to the park across the street because that is a different territory and someone who knows you live on the other side may shoot you. I have always known that Chicago was a pretty wild city and that gang life up there is pretty tough. I had plenty home boys who were from there and told me about it. But what I didn't know was how close the gangs were to each other. I was astonished to see the heaviness that you see in the eyes of the people, especially the youth. Those who live in the rough areas have seen a lot. I know every city has it's problems. But I'm not talking about every city right now, I'm talking about Chicago Illinois.

Anyway, when I went to the schools there, I must admit I was a little nervous that they would not want to hear what I had to say, even though I was in a gang before, because I wasn't in a gang from Chicago. And as well, I remembered my experience in Philly, how it took about 5-10mins to calm the students down and get them to listen, because they were so rowdy. So I figured if Philly was so bad, how will Chicago be? By the way, in Philly the biggest crown I spoke to was 300 students at once. in Chicago, the first crowd I spoke to was over 500, and the second school (one of the worst in the whole city) had a crowd of 750 students, but get this, ONLY BOYS. Imagine, a crowd or 750 boys, with more than half of them gang bangers, in a school that they have to have a police station inside of. This was a little overwhelming.

But I quickly remembered what I was there for... To help them.
So I figured I had to "go hard, or go home". So I went straight at them with the truth. With the facts.

And to my surprise, these students got quiet and listened from the moment I opened my mouth. They were not like the students in Philly who only laughed and talked for 5 to 10 minutes before finally hearing something that was strong enough to quiet them down. These students listened. And you could see the pain in their eyes. At one school in the middle of the assembly a student stood up and shouted that just two weeks ago his cousin got murdered and his father got deported back to Mexico for being a gang banger. Imagine, cousin murdered and father A GANG BANGER TOO. This is wild.

So what I learned is that sometimes it's the ones who are the "roughest" who will listen to most. It is the ones who society has written off, who are thirsty for someone to take the time to listen to them or try to get threw to them. I am not an idiot to think that all of them will leave and be reformed young men and women. But I am absolutely sure someone listened, someone heard, and someone will THINK about where they are going with their life. And if just one gets it, then it was worth the trip.

My perception of Chicago, was a city that is hurting. The youth are living in a war zone and need help. I am so happy to have had a chance to see it for myself.

I may write a part two to this blog to express more of my experience there. Keep an eye on the website and YPG page for pictures of this great event. We reached out to nearly 2000 students in two days. This is a big step forward for the youth group here.


  1. Yes your message was really strong, and not only is it going to help those youth outside, but those in the YPG as well. Thank God, He gave you the Spirit to talk to us, thank you to, because now i know what i need to do.

  2. Thanks for sharing. Hopefully you'll be able to come to England too!
    Miguel Lacerda

  3. Miguel, I would be a pleasure to come there. I hope we can work that out. Let me know. I am ready.

  4. Thats a good idea pr if you can come to uk,it will be exactly wat many youths will need here in uk n it will be å huge break thru point for VYG in UK.looking forward to that!! Jenny muruko,uk

  5. Strong point

  6. Thats amazing, and Damien I believe there are so many more cities out there just like Chicago, We dont know what they are going through but thats why we committed to God, so he can use us to help them. God is using you , and its not over , your going to go all over the US , and in Jesus name you will open up many more eyes..


  7. Hi Pr. Damien.

    I was born and raised in Chicago until the age of 18. The best word to describe the city is 'gangland.' I remember being 'checked' by fellow girl gang members just because of the colors that I happened to be wearing that day! Almost every color combination belongs to a gang; red and black, blue and black, green and black, yellow and black, light blue and white, etc. You really don't have to be in a gang to know gang members. I was never involved in such, put I knew several people who were.

    High school was a nightmare - all you see is pure suffering and the saddest part is that there aren't many people who are willing to reach out to youths. I'm really glad you got the chance to go there and get to share your testimony with those youths.