A Los Angeles Times article
about the sad and tragic story of the Barajas family living in South L.A., who
have been victims of gang violence in the area on multiple occasions, resonated
with me because it is a story I have heard far too many times.  I taught in Gardena, a school at the
very edge of South L.A., equally plagued with this kind of gang violence.  I have had several students who lost
parents and siblings because of gang violence. 

Every year, the school had to offer grief counseling because
either one of our own students had been shot and killed, or the victim was
someone who was known by a majority of our students.  Sometimes victims were gang members; often they were in the
way of a stray bullet.  One of my
own students, who in this case was a gang member, was also shot and
killed.  Ironically, this happened
the weekend after I kept him after class to talk to him about life choices; how
his choices pointed to death or jail. 
The people in this area live with a deep fear and yet an inability to
escape it.

In a very personal moment with my senior class right after
some of these shootings, one of my students expressed how hard it was to not
become involved because, "like 50%-75% of people are in a gang or affiliated."  He didn’t mean in his community, he
meant in the whole U.S.  It was
such a far stretch from what the actual national percentage is, but to him it
was an obvious truth. He lived in a world of gangs and believed that gang life
was everywhere.

Given this sentiment, it is no surprise that the Barajas’
family endured tragedy after tragedy until finally deciding to move away.  They must have thought, ‘It is like
this everywhere, (at the least anywhere they could afford), moving won’t help.’  However, in their new location, one
member of the family, Adele, has created a youth group named L.A.U.R.A. — Life
After Uncivil Ruthless Acts. It was named after her sister-in-law killed by
random gang violence. Youths talk about college, racial stereotypes, and the importance
of punctuality and good nutrition.

Adele started the group because she felt that nothing was
being done by the city or by the state to address the issues.  She had to take matters into her own
hands because she had little faith left in the system.  She works directly with the kids,
attempting to change things from the bottom up, rather than from the top down.

It is unfortunate that whole groups of people feel as though
no one is there to listen to them or fight their case for them.  They turn to local solutions, doing the
best they can with the resources they have and hope for the best.

Groups like L.A.U.R.A at least offer some hope of a
better tomorrow.    So maybe in the end, a local grass roots
solution is ultimately the best solution.