Latino turns street life into poetry

By Jim Harris

A former gang member is coming to NIU to share his experiences with the university community.

Luis Rodriguez, a Latino poet and former Los Angeles gang member, will be appearing at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 5 in the Heritage Room of the Holmes Student Center to speak to the public and present some of his work. The event is a part of National Hispanic Month activities.

Rodriguez, one of the leading Latino poets based in Chicago, grew up in L.A. His poetry is based on his youth when he was a member of a Latino street gang.

Rodriguez also works with Latino youth and serves as a mediator between rival street gangs. His son is now a member of a Latino gang, and has appeared with him during previous speaking engagements, where they discussed their experiences in Latino gangs.

Michael Gonzalez, director of the center for Latino and Latin American studies, said Rodriguez’s appearance could be valuable for those who are interested in poetry, as well as for those who are curious about street gangs.

Paul Alvarez, the president of Alpha Psi Lambda, said “I feel that these events are not only put on for Latino students, but for the entire NIU community so that everyone is educated on different Latino cultures.”

Hispanic Month began on Sept. 15, and the last scheduled activity related to it will take place on Oct. 12.

Following the appearance by Rodriguez, there will be a dance contest and debate on Oct. 7, and the concluding activity for the special month will be Resistance through Arts, a special program on Oct. 12.

The published poetry of Luis Rodriguez can be purchased in the University Bookstore, Holmes Student Center lower level.