Sunday, December 18, 2011

"There With Me" essay runs in The Skagit Valley Herald

This past summer, I was lucky enough to work for The Skagit Valley Herald as their photo intern.  In my free time between daily assignments and on weekends, I pursued a personal project on Latino gang culture.  The final essay, entitled "There With Me," just ran today in the Sunday edition.  The final product, I believe, serves a purpose in understanding the struggles of an individual trapped within a dangerous - yet "supportive" - lifestyle while fighting to escape for the greater good.

Raised in Juarez, Mexico, Ramon Luna came to the United States following the random murder of his brother. Blinded by rage and disconnected from his cultural roots, Luna turned to gang life in Skagit County, Washington state. After gaining a reputation on the street as a notorious fighter, Luna was accused of rape, burglary and kidnapping by a young woman who recognized him from a local party. In jail and awaiting the jury's verdict, Ramon was met by street minister Chris Hoke, a man Ramon had previously mocked. Through Chris's words and an out-of-the-blue admission by the accusing woman that she had lied, Ramon was set free by what he believes was forgiveness and the grace of a newfound God. Luna continues to live in Skagit County, this time with Chris Hoke at a new age ministry called Tierra Nueva, or "new ground." He has abandoned the gang lifestyle, despite the involvement of his current friends and family members. Ramon recently began to use his life experiences as leverage to reason others out of the gang life. 

Thanks to all my people at the SVH for bearing with me and this story on its path to publishing.  I appreciate it.  The essay in full resolution is available for viewing on www.jordanbstead.com.


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