Blanca Martinez was founder and director of Nuestro Centro, a gang, drug, and dropout intervention program in Dallas when this interview appeared. Jim Wallis spoke with her after the Gang Summit.
- The Editors
Jim Wallis: Tell us what the experience of the Gang Summit was for you.
Blanca Martinez: It was strengthening to me. I had a lot of barriers in my life to point that I should have been a statistic, or even dead. But because a lot of people cared, I worked myself back into the community. These kids have that same potential and can reach it if they're encouraged and have their basic needs met. But I am sick and tired of millions of dollars nationwide going into so-called gang intervention. The money should be put into proven grassroots programs that are working to support the kids--not to these super-rich entities that are not doing their jobs.
Wallis: What was the significance of the women's caucus at the summit?
Martinez: The way women came together was a growing experience for our men. They not only saw us as mothers, as sisters, as daughters--which we are. They also began to see us as spiritual leaders.
They began to see us as effective partners rather than just in our traditional roles. You could never take those roles away from us. But there were many times when it was the women who influenced, motivated, and encouraged a lot of things to happen at that summit.