A pile of stories were hastily reported and written yesterday about Guillermo Cespedes and his elevation to the position of LA’s new gang czar. Viewed as a collective whole they start to give us a fuller picture of Mr. Cespedes than we had a day ago.
For instance, LA Times and MyFox gave us some information about Cespedes’ rich and varied biography. Cespedes is an accomplished music conductor and composer. He taught the history of Africans in Latin America at Cal State Dominguez Hills. He helped design innovative programs for families and individuals in need. He is credited by the mayor as being the primary architect of the much lauded Summer Night Lights
Rich Orlov’s story for the Daily News was mostly giddily laudatory—or more accurately it simply repeated the giddily laudatory things that the mayor said about Mr. Cespedes—which is okay, I guess. (If my students used solely that strategy, I’d nag them to do more reporting—but whatever.) Nonetheless it provides additional information, so should be part of your Cespedes reading list.
For my money, however, the most interesting—and probably the quirkiest— of yesterday’s stories was Frank Stoltz’s interview with Cespedes, which you can find here.
In the interview, Cespedes had some interesting things to say about how he thinks some of the racial animus between certain gangs and groups in the city might be healed—even if his phraseology was a bit stilted and academic.
But on the topic of the city’s gang programs-–he was somewhat more opaque. For instance, he said things like this:
“I have a very simplistic view of what we’re doing in these neighborhoods, which is basically we are trying to humanize the person with a badge and we’re trying to humanize the person with the tattoo. If we can accomplish that, I think violence goes down.
Really? We mostly need conflict resolution between the gangsters and the cops?
Certainly, not treating people—gangsters, police, or anybody else for that matter— as “other” is essential.
However, that’s an attitude, an ethical, humanistic world view—-not a program.
Thus we are hoping that soon Mr. Cespedes will bring us up to date about what our millions of tax dollars poured ino the mayor’s GRYD strategy has bought us in terms of functional, effective programs.