"So What's Up this Summer?" The 'Bellytelly' is all Charged Up!

It seems a little dated, perhaps, but I'm waiting for Amazon.com to ship me the movie, Colors. I remember the intense controversy that surrounded the release of this film back in 1988; young gang-bangers were actually being killed inside theatres in larger metropolitan cities as people risked their lives to see the movie at the hour of theatrical release. I'm not the greatest movie go-er; instead, I wait for it to come out on dvd so I can watch these shows at my own leisure, plugged into my 9 inch Sony bellytelly.

In actuality, I am waiting for four movies to arrive. Now the cheap price of these movies scares me -- I hope it's because they are a bit dated, not because they're some sort of B or C movie. I'll let you know after I watch them! Amazon has been pretty 'spot on' when recommending movies and books for me, but there have been a few duds over the years. So here's the names of the other coming attractions:

Mi Vida Loca (My Crazy Life)

My Family

American Me

If you think these movies all have the same, monotonous theme, hold on! Here's the books that I've begun to read over the summer break:

Inside the Crips:
Life Inside L.A.'s Most Notorious Gang

Gang Intelligence Manual:
Identifying And Understanding Modern-Day Violent Gangs
In The United States

Street Gangs

Gangbangers: Understanding The Deadly Minds Of America's Street Gangs

As you can imagine, not only does my reading and viewing list include material of the same genre, but it also makes for a pretty dark and heavy encounter. Therefore, I ran to Barnes & Noble last week to pick up a copy of Rick Reilly's,

SPORTS ILLUSTRATED: Hate Mail from Cheerleaders
And Other Adventures from the Life of Reilly

Now this book will be read for pure enjoyment! I don't get a chance to view Sports Illustrated all that often -- only when I'm waiting for my car's oil job to be finished or while I'm waiting in line for a haircut -- the wait these days tends to be longer than the cut itself -- and that's not a commentary on tardiness! Nevertheless, Reilly's articles are pure joy -- even homiletic at times! His recent article about Coach Tony Dungy is simply heartwarming and yet also challenging. The book will be a great summertime read. I'll keep you posted -- or blogged, that is!

But what's up with these other books? As I mentioned in an earlier blog, many of the members of my GBCI congregation are members of gangs -- from Milwaukee or Chicago -- or even from smaller cities throughout the Midwest. Let me make it clear, I do not find anything even remotely appealing or attractive to gang culture -- but because it is such a prevalent issue among my parishioners, I feel as though I should be aware of some of the issues that these young men are confronting. Already, I've been able to decipher some codes embedded -- or embodied -- within some of the tattoos I encounter during the Sign of Peace.

Last week I learned that one of our college professors, Cheryl Carpenter, is a local expert on gang populations. I will compare and contrast my gang library with hers and I hope this new-found information will assist me in my ministry to the prison population.

In the past couple of weeks, I have received several invitations to speak at various functions regarding my ministry at the Green Bay Packers. That should not be a surprise given the Packers are gearing up for a new season. I surely enjoy such engagements and I hope I represent the organization well.

And yet, interestingly enough, I am rarely asked to give talks about prison ministry! This reminds me of Bishop Bob Morneau's original assertion that, "this is a forgotten population" in our community. And yet, there is so much work that needs to be done proactively and reactively to address street and neighborhood violence -- it's even on a rise right here in Titletown!

The Catholic Church, via the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, offers an exceptional resource in offering tangible assistance in the general area of prison life. Pope John Paul II stated, "We are still a long way from the time when our conscience can be certain of having done everything possible to prevent crime and to control it effectively so that it no longer does harm and, at the same time, to offer to those who commit crimes a way of redeeming themselves and making a positive return to society. If all those in some way involved in the problem tried to . . . develop this line of thought, perhaps humanity as a whole could take a great step forward in creating a more serene and peaceful society."

For more information -- embedded with tangible and pastoral methods of prevention and response, feel free to check out, Responsibility, Rehabilitation, and Restoration: A Catholic Perspective on Crime and Criminal Justice: A Statement of the Catholic Bishops of the United States by consulting, www.usccb.org/sdwp/criminal.htm.

So, my work's cut out for me on this Memorial Day. Have a great time with family and friends; let's remember on this day those who gave their lives for the good of the country and those who find themselves in harm's way even today: "God's flock is in your midst, give it a shepherd's care!"

Father James Baraniak, O. Praem.


Katie C. said...

Fr. Jim--
Check out the literature on race and gangs and hate subcultures within prisons ;-) Prison gangs/gangs are not my area of expertise but from my work in hate crime I know there is some good stuff out there that focuses on race-based prison gangs (let me know if you want some names of articles).

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