The Greater Houston Coalition for Justice has within their organization a committee to address the endless cycle of recidivism chaired by End of Cycle co-founder and Vice President Isidro Garza, Jr. and has conducted studies with preliminary conclusions that continue to be confidential and proprietary. For those who want to know our purpose we offer a synopsis of a few of our studies. All are real stories…with real people…with real victims….with real VIOLENCE. We have compared lives of different individuals, those whom were given guidance and who were expected to succeed and those who had little or no support group, and if anything, were driven to violence.
Little do the lives of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a highly revered theologian whose analysis have set standards for many of the churches in America as well as throughout the world and the lives whose stories we tell now. Bonhoeffer had a support structure in his upbringing, he also had high expectations compared to the lives of ‘El Tejano’, Devon, Shaquanda, Carlos Treviño, or Bill; yet all of their deaths ended violently; one’s head instantly snapped off at the end of a rope, another got repeated fatal stab wounds in front of her children, one young 12 year old girl was hung in her own home in a tribal reservation after being raped, another’s head was crushed after receiving 8 blows to the head with a 3 inch diameter 8 foot long steel rod, all over beer, one received 37 stab wounds. One confidently and boldly walked up the steps of a lynching stand; others struggled against their unavoidable destiny. Bonhoeffer, 65 years later is recognized “a man for his times”, the other’s memories have already been forgotten but for this author and a few loved ones. Bonhoeffer’s legacy will last for many generations compared to the limited memory of the rest.
To understand violence, it must be broken down to its subatomic particles, the protons and the neutrons, the seemingly mass less electrons that orbit around the nucleus, their charge, and how they interact with ‘foreign electrons’, their valence, the why and the how some elements are more reactive(VIOLENT) than others and why some are inert or stable. The following examples go into great detail describing the surroundings leading to acts of violence; some are seemingly irrelevant facts, but it is The Greater Coalition for Justice’s preliminary conclusion that the truth lies within these details in understanding violence and the eventual solution.
In the summer of 1990 or 1991 Devon was shot in the head and killed, supposedly an accident by a family member. Devon had been a member of a team called “The Terminators”, a predominately African American squad of youngsters ranging from 7 years old to 13 years of age in El Centro, California.
Our family arrived in California on a Friday afternoon around mid-September 1989 and just days before school was to commence for our sons Ez (17), a senior, Timber (15) a sophomore, and Fernie (8). On Saturday morning at 6:00 AM all of us were at a baseball field on the high school grounds. My boys were used to getting “1000 groundballs and 1000 cuts” at the plate each and before it was over, Tony Gonzalez, Raul Cortez, and Abel Jimenez (a fatal victim in a flawed drug raid in his house; more on this later), had also been drawn into the action. It was not long before we had practically all of the town’s baseball players going out after school and weekends for, to my surprise, there was no fall baseball (we must provide programs for kids if we are to curtail violence) in El Centro as we were accustomed to in Texas where we enjoyed year round baseball. Soon I was to meet my dear friend “Lefty” Martin who had played professional ball for the Kansas City Royals and Los Charros de Jalisco in Mexico. He was a man for those times, a superb motivator and one of the best hitting instructors I have ever ran across, though his profession was that of being a pitcher. When youngsters were getting a little cocky on the mound, Lefty would manage to get a bat in his hands, jack a baseball so far out of the park that it crossed the street and into adjacent homes just to underscore the precepts of humility and respect for the game. Maintaining a balance in everything we do, even while achieving success is the #one deterrent to violence, and thanks to Lefty, El Centro youngsters have had someone who can show them as good as he could tell them. When one thinks he/she is above reproach and one has reached the epitome in one’s field, one’s head starts to inflate. Just look around for you may be a big fish in a very small puddle of water, and there are real sharks waiting in the ocean if one ever dares to make the leap. Not that it was done to scare anyone off but to better prepare for life’s never ending challenges.
That high school baseball team had no African Americans on the squad and when I went to enroll our little Fernie into Sunbeam Little League, I noticed that out of several hundred kids, there were only 2 African Americans; Robert Thomas (son of baseball star Robert Thomas, brother to Stan Thomas who was the first round draft pick for the Chicago Bears and later played for the Houston Oilers) who himself later played football for UCLA and then for the San Diego Chargers, and Bryan Martin, who later went on to play for the St. Louis Cardinals AAA organization, Lefty’s son. In the organizational meeting and sign-ups it became glaringly clear that the Board of Directors were all Anglo and, when I interjected into an obvious abuse along racial lines, I not only found my challenge but also found the purpose for a just fight. Mr. Ricardo Ortega, a parent of one of the youngsters, a customs agent in Calexico, stepped up to me to caution me to measure what I said or we would be ostracized and that our own kids would be the ones to bear the brunt. He and his son Ricky, told me that the previous year, Ricky’s all-star coach had unabashedly clarified to the team that no Mexicans would be on the starting line up (building blocks for violence in the future). It seems that every time there is a tragedy we are reactionary only to what is at the end of our nose but what we most divert from is the surgical incisions deep down into our hearts, our souls for there we hold not only the deepest of shames but also the Divine comfort and peace that is only manifested when we stop lying to ourselves. What happens when “good men do nothing?” In the late President John F. Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage he states, “The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality”.
Bonhoeffer’s convictions continued to strengthen the more he overcame the fears of repercussions. He knew he was flirting with death in his mission to try to end unconscionable violence. His opposition to Hitler’s purification of Aryans, which Hitler somehow justified, eventually caused him his death. Bonhoeffer was killed before the world found out the degree and the broadness to which the 3rd Reich carried out these mass executions of Jews. But he did know that he had heard enough of the cheap grace and drew the line on the sand through his Confessing Church and condemned killings. He felt that all believers have faith, but also that only those who are obedient are believers.
Bonhoeffer lived his life in obedience to God, living by both the new law and the old. One embraces violence when lawless people are put into power or allowed to take over. The rampant increase in violence in the Kickapoo reservation following the overthrow of a God fearing government is clearly evident when they were replaced by unscrupulous aggressors lead by greed using fear and intimidation to subdue and take control. Our study will clearly show that violence escalates when governments fall into the hands of lawless people. Many, many details will be submitted supporting this study and other independent sources will be quoted that support these findings.
So the next obvious question to these who were “called” to develop the baseball program in El Centro was, “Where are the black kids?” The answer was quick and packaged, “They do not like baseball their favorite sport is football”.
So we embarked on two projects, “The Red Machine” and “The Terminators”. The Red Machine was an invincible group of rag tags that came to believe each was Godzilla and that they could walk on water. This team participated in the conventional Little League Organization. The Red Machine just rolled over all of the other teams thru the system of “1000 ground balls, 1000 cuts at batting practice”. Therefore it stands to reason that if the opponents were only getting 6 to 8 grounders per practice, the Red Machine had to be at least twice as good as them. Expectations become reality and in so doing now you incorporate winning with humility and respect for others. Our youngsters and our society in general will only accomplish that which is expected of us…low or no expectations yield unacceptable behavior and when it comes to violence our results have been unconscionably out of control. But when there are present those who are willing to dedicate the time, the compassion, to set standards of excellence for our youth, the sky then becomes the limit as the Red Machine proved in El Centro.
It is here that I met Sandra Parsons, mother of Jason Parsons, a fair to red headed freckled face center fielder and exceptionally good second baseman. I had noticed that there were always two men who would bring the kid to practice but constantly stayed out of the way and behind the scenes. So it happened on an off day, I am practicing the kids and there is only Ms. Parsons in the bleachers. As I am talking malarkey to the kids, she tells me something in Spanish which totally threw me off since I had assumed she did not know Spanish. She goes on to ask me if I do not know who she is. I informed her that we had just come into Imperial Valley and that we were still quite lost in this environment. She proceeded to tell me that she was sister to Kiki Camarena, the US Federal Agent who had been violently killed in Mexico. So from then I assumed that the two men were probably their body guards. Ms. Parsons was a very pleasant, friendly, classy lady who, when the Red Machine won the championship, presented a plaque to me with a picture of the team with my signature “YEA BABY”. How did I fall out from her graces? More on Sandra later.
My wife, Martha and I set to go throughout El Centro and in to various sandlots in the area. We ran into many African American kids playing baseball at high noon (~120 degrees) so out the window goes the assertion that black kids do not like baseball. It was crystal clear, two sides of a coin. On the one side it was an orchestrated plan, rooted in bigotry (cause for violence) and protectionism so that their own kids would get a chance at the sport without the added competition of the African American kids who had already demonstrated their abilities in track and field and on the football field. From the kids’ perspective, they knew they were unwanted and furthermore started building a resistance towards the system, for anything organized, including sports.
So we proceed to recruit all these kids, letting them know we were from the Yankee organization and that we were scouting for talent. Within a couple of weeks we had generated a hefty list of prospects. We called our first practice at Stark Field at high noon. This is now the middle of summer and it is not uncommon for temperatures to reach 120 degrees F. This particular Saturday was a hot one. Lefty and I show up but there is not one player in site. My dear friend felt sorry for me that “his people” had disappointed us but he applauded our efforts. We waited for about an hour and then decided to abort the mission. We climbed into this old, old pick-up truck painted yellow with a paint brush, with a pile of dirt in the bed of the truck that was already growing a sizeable tree and we proceeded to leave. As we begin to pull out, way out in left field and out of a bush a kid started straggling in. Now we have a project! I got excited and we watched. One by one they came out. Here we go we have a ball club. We gather them and we notice that amongst the 30 plus kids, all African American, there may have been 2 or 3 gloves and about the same amount of caps. I ask Martha to go home and also to Lefty’s house and she comes back with 40 years of caps and gloves we had compiled. Everyone got a cap and glove and the smallest of them all, Devon, a straggly, unkept young lad asked by stating that they would have to turn in the gloves and hats at the end of practice. The joy in the young ones eyes to learn that the equipment now belonged to them was exhilarating! I tell them that their team name was “Little Gems” after one of the first Little League teams in Eagle Pass, Texas dating back to 1953. OKAY? OKAY, but what does Little Gems mean? I told them that it was them, that they were valuable diamonds but that they were still uncut, unpolished, in the rough, but diamonds none the less. So off to practice we go and now we are all having fun. Very soon the honeymoon was over. The oldest youngster, 13 years old was playing third base. I am hitting infield grounders and he misses one. The ball rolls off a few yards away from him but he does not pick it up. I continue hitting ground balls and talking malarkey but watching my third baseman from the corner of my eye. When his turn came I skipped him and instructed him to pick up the ball and throw it in. This was not happening and I could see the pressure in the whole field start to escalate and would soon explode. I see my 3rd baseman take off his glove and cap and put it down and start to walk off. In an awkward manner I continue hitting grounders to the rest of the players but now my baseball malarky has turned into the most serious of confessionals, addressing my third baseman in a half non-chalant manner. I get his attention when I start telling him that it is not his fault but that there are a few people in the community that do not like them, and that they allege that African Americans cannot play baseball and that I have taken on their challenge and that we are scheduled to play in two weeks and that we need his glove and his bat if we are to have a chance, and that now I want to tell him something personal but that I need him closer. I’ve got him! He starts inching his way towards me and now I am alternating between hitting grounders to the rest of the players with its loud associated malarkey and the soft-spoken direct dialogue with my 3rd baseman. I told him it was my intent to have our team travel across town and kick some behind, in the baseball field that is, but that without him, we could get beat. I also told him that the rest of the Little Gems were watching and I felt they would all leave, starting with his twin brother if he left; as it turns out, they are both directly related to Cecil Fielder and Darrel Strawberry the professional sluggers. I clarified that by him not picking up the ball, it was a stand-off between him and I, and that I was the coach. What good is a coach if he does not have players? I asked him to do me the favor of picking up the ball, throwing it in and if he wished at that time to go home, that he pick up the cap and glove which now belonged to him, and if then he wanted to leave for him to do so. To my astonishment and to Lefty’s who was watching with great intrigue the emasculations, my 3rd baseman runs a lap all around the field, picks up his glove, his cap, and throws the ball in and says, “Hit me one coach!”.
It is so easy to handle a discipline problem, if indeed this was one, and to simply cut him off by stating “if you want to play you play by my rules or else just get out of here”. The hardest thing to do is to keep the player and still maintain the integrity of the organization, keeping intact the responsibility that goes with the assumed authority of 1.) someone that is older, and 2.). someone that is the coach.
We practiced and we played; our team beat every team that would dare play against The Terminators. It did not hurt that the entire High School baseball team including my two sons were spread out throughout our practice field working one on ones. It drew a lot of attention in the community and now non African Americans wanted to get their kids on the team, and a few did ‘make the cut’.
On one of our practices, I am asked again what our team name is and what it meant. Though in a much delayed reaction, I asked how many liked our name. They all respectfully raised their hands. Then I asked how many wanted to change their teams name; they apologetically all raised their hands. Our new name was now “The Terminators”.
Then came the news that Devon had been fatally shot. We readily gathered the team and now the coaches turned into counselors on the subject of death. The emotions were uncontrollable for though Devon was small (the youngest), and was always seemingly getting in the way, he too was a Terminator and was loved by all. At the end of each practice each player would leave by shaking the coach’s hand in appreciation. Devon always would shake my hand but seemed to want to cling on to my hand and this I will never forget. I told them that as soon as we learned about the funeral arrangements that we would go as a team and this seemed to bring much needed solace to each one of us. A few days went by and there was no other word. I called around and no one knew anything about the services. I went to the only funeral home in town and inquired of the director/owner. He let me know that Devon’s body was back there but that no one had claimed it. I asked how it would be disposed of. He then informs me that it would go to some county grounds and be buried there without any ceremony. Man, did I get it!!! How much does it cost for a “respectable funeral” with the dignity that our little kid deserved? $5000!!! I dished out the money and the humane process, the only acceptable societal, Christian process commenced. The memorial written for Devon included as accomplishments: A member of “The Terminators” as his major accomplishment. One of Devon’s teachers, an Anglo lady that I never met, had been desperately on a parallel mission similar to ours who was passionately attached to our youngster. Somehow the story got out and the whole town came out, finally Devon’s family surfaces. The community raised funds and a nice memorial with a bench next to his final resting place exists in his honor.
Where was his family? One day, I was asked to be the official commissioner in charge of the championship game of the Babe Ruth League. The Terminators had finished their practice and Devon asked if he could go with me to the park and watch the game. I agreed after he had assured me that he had permission. Since we were in the booth, I asked Devon if he would say the Pledge of Allegiance over the public address system. I told him all he had to do was repeat after me and together, we stumbled thru the Pledge. The capacity crowd gave him a standing ovation that today still sends chills down my spine. As the game proceeded; sometime within the span of the game, Devon’s mother, seemingly very inebriated (another cousin of violence), walks down to the booth and yanks Devon and takes him away. I remembered once again the fact that whenever we departed with a handshake, Devon would cling on to my hand. I read it but did not react. Why did I not do something about this? Could I have prevented his premature death?
The whole community came out to the funeral. At the funeral the “Terminators” alternated posting guard at both sides of the casket. A role call was made. As we called each player the player answered “Here”. When we called out Devon, the whole team answered “Here”, for he continues to live with each one of us as he does while I type his story.
What has gone wrong? Can we as a community come together and address the various issues that affected these unfortunate series of events? How does this compare to Bonhoeffer’s life of high expectations? Was Devon doomed when he was born?
We go into great specificity on all the previously mentioned events, reliving the grueling moments of the hopeless efforts in trying to avoid the inevitable. Using established and recognized processes of problem solving such as Kepner and Tregoe’s Problem Solving Process, caring professionals have worked tirelessly to reduce their effort’s conclusions into writings. End of Cycle has charged on a mission to compile all of this work, define areas that still require additional research, and publish with the hopes that the dissemination of this material is of some valuable interest to someone. Unbeknown to Bonhoeffer, his writings continue to define the many cultures that have constructively developed because of the widespread distribution of his work.
It is the goal of End of Cycle that our work will cause the same type of cultural change in our beloved America…for the benefit of our nation, for the benefit of our children and grandchildren, we hope that the lives and eventual deaths exposed in these writings do not go in vain, that they spark a revolutionary systematical cultural, change and that violence is markedly curtailed. Bonhoeffer’s life had a marked impact on the final outcome of Germany’s end to extreme violence and genocide. We pray that End of Cycle will change the culture and legacy of our beloved nation.