Awakin Calls » Rudy Corpuz » Transcript
Rudy Corpuz: Anti-Violence Activist
Aug 15, 2015: It Takes a Hood to Save the Hood
Theme: It Takes a Hood to Save the Hood
Speaker: Rudy Corpuz
Host: Nipun Mehta
Moderator: David Kriozere
Nipun: Today we have a very special guest, whose name is Rudy Corpuz, someone who really embodies today's theme, which we took from one of his T-shirts. It says, "It Takes a Hood to Save the Hood." Reading about Rudy is so inspiring, so deeply moving. He speaks about promoting peace and not just stopping the violence. There's a famous quote from Mother Teresa, "This is not an anti-war rally, it's a pro-peace rally." I think that idea is something Rudy embodies. And it's a challenge; with so many interconnected causes of violence, from economics to education, how can we align these different components of creating peace in our communities and at large in the world? These are all open questions.
Before we go into that dialogue, I also wanted to take a moment to introduce David Kroziere. David is a longtime friend and someone with great values who has stood for a lot of this kind of work throughout his life. He's a housing developer who has served as a principal partner and consultant on many projects, like One Rincon Hill. As you enter the Bay Bridge to San Francisco from Berkeley you see this giant building. He was one of the people behind it. He's also done a lot in the community from creating, the first of its kind, a health plan for Tibetan refugees in India. That program was inaugurated by the Dalai Lama. He loves music and he's always been a mentor for the homeless youth in San Francisco. He's doing a yoga program for homeless adults as well. He's got a rich background in finance, but he's a man with an open heart. David, I'm honored to have you on this call, taking us into this conversation.
David: Nipun, we've had fun these past 15 years when we catch up. I've done a few things that have been fortunate in my life and I'm just a regular guy like everyone else. It's great to sit here over the technology we have and put our hearts together. I met Rudy a couple of years ago. The best way to introduce Rudy is by sharing something with you that he shared with me, which is this:
"I got tired of going in and out of jail. I got tired of waking up at people's houses that were dope houses. I started doing drugs, became involved with gangs, and dealing drugs, but at one point I had a dramatic change of heart. I started loving myself again. I started having a relationship with myself and started to know that I was somebody, and that I was worth something. Soon after, I founded United Playaz and have worked passionately on violence prevention and youth leadership among San Francisco's hardest to reach youth, through street outreach, case management, in-school service, recreational activities, and support to incarcerated youth. When I got high, it gives you a feeling of 'Woo-ee!' Like you on top of the world, right? This feeling I have now when I see kids or people in general make transition in life is a thousand times better. Our goal is to make a consistent home that most kids who come to us lack in other facets of their lives. Our kids feel liberated when given a personal sense of security from those they can trust. Youth have the opportunity for growth from our foundation of love and support."
So I may do foundations that hold 60-story towers next to the Bay Bridge so the tower and the bridge are okay, but this man holds foundations and builds them for people who --- it's beyond dire, so we'll shift it up a little bit.
Rudy, do you remember when you and I first met?
Rudy: Yes, yes, yes. Good morning everybody. Good morning, World! I do remember.
David: It was October of '13, and then there were other guys there who had done a lot more development than me, like Sean, who's done several high-rises, and Arvin, who's the most prolific developer in San Francisco, and a lot of people like that in suits. After the kids spoke, and then your staff spoke, there wasn't a dry eye in the audience. You were clever; all of us from the business guys to the poor families became like little kittens. I came to know just the other day from you that you were a running back in high school, so I have to nail you (laughter) that your offensive line opened up all of us like the size of Mount Rushmore, and you just walked right through.
Rudy: (Laughs) And an effective running back, too.
David: I have to confess one thing to you that I've never told you until now. I absolutely did not want to come to that event. It was late, I was exhausted, I wanted to go home, but one of our broad-minded political leaders twisted my arm good, and I came. I wound up staying past the whole thing, and in walks Willie Brown, the former mayor, after all the politicos are gone. He just wanted to hang with you. He wasn't there to do politics. So I knew it wasn't just that you connected with my head, but here comes the former mayor who's done so much, who doesn't waste time at his age.
Let's talk a little bit about some of the things you've done. So please share with us about your gun buybacks, because you said if you only get one gun off the street it's a victory. Because one gun has ten bullets, so you've saved ten lives.
Rudy: Absolutely. First of all, I'm very honored and humbled that you guys chose me to be able to speak to the world and share testimony, to speak to the hearts of the people. I want to say I want to apologize to all of the kids who have families I've dealt with that I wasn't able to save. To all the military soldiers and all the street soldiers who have lost their lives to violence out there on the streets or abroad. I want to take my hats off to all of them... the veterans who fought in the war. I just wanted to say that first.
The gun buyback originally started with the gentleman who lost his father's life in San Francisco. His father came from another city or another state, and came to San Francisco, just to visit. As he was walking around in our district, he got robbed by a 16-, 17-year-old kid. And when he got robbed, the dude not only robbed him and pulled out his pistol and shot him, he killed the dude. So the man passed away. He was in the hospital; he didn't recover from his wounds. His son was a kid then. When his son grew up, he heard about the story. He wanted to make a difference. He didn't want to go through all the politics, all the political stuff to change laws; he wanted to do something that was dramatically going to make an impact immediately. So he thought about gun buybacks. His name is Ian. Ian started doing these campaigns in San Francisco about gun violence. So me and him ended up connecting because I felt the same way.
I would pull pistols out of kids' pants and I knew once they would give it to me it would not only save somebody else's life, but their life. And anybody who was around it. “Because bullets ain't got no names on them.” Through that, we were trying to figure out "How can we finance this situation? Because we needed to give people money if they turned in their guns. The guns they turned in, they go ahead and demolish them, they neutralize them, they're gone from the planet. So the people who ended up giving me money for this gun buyback was not the city, it wasn't the police, it was the medical marijuana stores. Because in District 6 in my neighborhood in San Francisco, they have numerous medical marijuana stores; and they wanted to kick in without the world knowing, without the city knowing. So I was able to get them to donate money. Brendan Hallinan, who is the son of Terence Hallinan, ended up connecting a lot of the medical marijuana stores. They gave the money, and we were able to get 101 guns off the street. I'm talking about real serious war weapons --- AR-15's, AK-47's. This was done in conjunction with all partners, not just with me and Ian and the medical marijuana stores, but the SFPD, the District Attorney, the City of San Francisco, the mayor, and all of them.... residents... we all came together and under one umbrella, as one unit and one team, and we were able to get guns off the streets.
David: Ian got in touch with you. How did he find you, and then how did you connect up Ian with the SFPD and the medical marijuana folks, and the City Attorney? How did it all come down?
Rudy: Honestly, I don't even know how I met Ian. I think I met him at the medical marijuana store trying to buy some weed (Laughter). I'm lying! Ian was on TV a couple of times because he was pushing gun buybacks already in San Francisco. They were doing another part in San Francisco, at Hunters Point, which has probably the most murders in 'Frisco. He did one in the mission, where there's a lot of gang activity. So I saw this happening and I wanted to connect with him. Somehow, some way, we ended up connecting. I was looking for him, because I was trying to push that line already, of getting guns off the streets.
David: Can you share with everyone, Rudy, a little bit about yourself... where you were born and raised, and what life was like when you were growing up?
Rudy: I'm born and raised in San Francisco in the SOMA district, South of Market. I come from a family of nine. I'm the youngest .... seven boys, two girls. My Moms and Pops, they're from the Philippines. My father was a Master Sergeant in the Army. He raised me and my brothers and sisters to be straight soldiers. In that context, he raised us to be tough. Me being the youngest, in a neighborhood where there was a lot of drugs, where there was a lot of different ethnicities, I would navigate the streets because my Moms and Pops had to work. My father worked constantly trying to provide for my family, and my mom was more of a housewife and cooked, the traditional Filipino family. So I ran the streets. There was a center in my neighborhood that would work with kids. It was called Canon Kip. It was at Eighth and Natoma. You know Natoma, right, Dave? Throughout the alleys there's a historical preservation of over a hundred-year history of Filipinos all through the South of Market. It was not just Filipinos there; there was Blacks, Samoans, Latinos.
I grew up in that era in the mid-70's and the 80's when there was gangbanging and there was drugs. I never graduated from high school legitimately. I didn't start reading, honestly, until I was like in the eighth grade. I was just going to school because my Pops told me to go to school. "Go to school. You need to go to school to learn." I would go to school, but I wouldn't go to class. I had my first encounter when I was in the second grade with Betsy Carmichael (School). Got put out of Betsy Carmichael and ended up going to another school called Buena Vista --- they used to bus us there --- because of me getting in trouble.
David: When you played running back in high school, your team had a little bit of a fair advantage because you were used to dealing with some really serious street stuff.
Rudy: I think my whole team did, because all of us were street cats. Even the coach (Laughing). I played not only running back; I played split end and I played defensive back. But I believe, man, I made an impact on the field, because when I hit you, you'll feel it.
David: And you make an impact off the field, too, sir.
Rudy: I'm still hitting, but I'm hitting in a different spirit.
David: Can you share with everyone what you told me about what happens after 5 p.m., and sometimes at 2 a.m., with your work?
Rudy: You know, the work that I do, I deal with a lot of kids who are caught in their lifestyles. In San Francisco, there's not really gangs: there's "sets." The neighborhoods. That's what they call them. Don't get it twisted, they've got gangbangers in 'Frisco that will lay you down. After 5 o'clock p.m., that's the time usually people get off work, and most of my staff, we work 9 to 5, 10 to 6, 11 to 7, but to me, the life that we deal with actually intensifies --- the gang violence, the street violence --- because when the sun goes down, it starts to kick up; because as you know, law enforcement runs in the morning, and the street cats run at night. So after 5 p.m., a lot of action happens. There's a lot of violence that occurs. A lot of bangin'.
So me and my staff, we have to deal with this. When I'm at home, honestly, this was like around a month ago, less than a month ago, four in the morning, I got a phone call, and one of the kids in our program had got shot 12 times and he was in the hospital. His auntie called me and was hysterical. And those are the phone calls that I may not know that I get that really make me nervous. When my phone is ringing off the hook. “Ain't nobody gonna call you, man, to tell you no good news” at four in the morning. Those phone calls I get at that time, or even having to run somewhere when I'm hearing an incident happen. Because people call me when a lot of chaos is going on. So I can assemble my team and we can go out there and neutralize it, or deal with it the best way we can. It ain't always successful. Trust that!
David: So even with all the stuff you've been through, when that phone starts ringing that late, your stomach starts going and you know you've got to deal with the situation. When the phone rings that late, even though you've been through helping a lot of kids, which we'll talk about, your stomach starts jumbling and you know you've got a serious situation to deal with.
Rudy: First, when I hear a phone call, I get upset. "Who's calling me at four in the morning?" I'm trying to still wake up. Wipe my eyes and focus. When you hear somebody on the other line, and they're screaming, and there's pandemonium, you've got to focus. You've got to be ready to deal with whatever comes your way. And usually it's not pretty. So I started getting myself used to that type of stuff, but it really bothers my spirit when you're dealing with death. Because I don't feel like when somebody gets killed, somebody gets murdered, that that's normal for somebody's spirit, period, when somebody dies that way.
David: You told me, Rudy, something else that really grabbed hold of me. This was just the other day when we were having lunch. And you said you actually don't hate the gangs or feel angry, despite what you said about having to deal with things that hurt your spirit. Help me and everyone else understand that, because I know you were serious. Because we were sitting face-to-face and I'm still taking it in.
Rudy: I want the world to know I'm not anti-gang. If you think about what some gangs do for people, temporarily, they bring love to them in a twisted way. I was doing a gang when I was 12 years old. Like I said earlier, when I was talking about how I would leave the house, I was searching and looking for love that I didn't even know. Even though I had it in my house, my father raised me in a different way. Traditionally, to be a man at 12 years old, or even younger than that. If I crossed the line, he'd beat my ass. My brothers, I had six older brothers, they'd get on my line. So I was looking for different ways to find love that would comfort me. So when people are joining the gangs, that's what they're looking for, they're looking for camaraderie, they're looking for brotherhood, they're looking for people to accept them. Mostly everybody who's in the gang has those same issues. You're not judged.
So there's positive things, too. Some of these guys who run gangs, and I ran my gang, are some of the most articulate, intelligent people on the planet. They just need to know what the end result is of being in the gang. A lot of people look at it as if it's all bad. You look at the police. They're like a gang. They have got their camaraderie, they've got their brotherhood. They do things together. And they're living that life where it's constant.... One of the hardest jobs on the planet, to me, is the police. The things they've got to deal with. And look at fraternities. People join it for that same type of love or brotherhood. You could go way back to the Little Rascals. So I'm not anti-gang, but I just let people know the results and the consequences in it. Because they're not good.
David: So, in both cases, it's like a fraternity, and that's why you genuinely feel no hatred, but you actually recognize good. What you said that really stands out, that has a lot of affinity with ServiceSpace, is the non-judgmental atmosphere which is so important. And I know you provide that for the kids who you serve. How would you say that United Playaz has provided healing to them and to your staff and to yourself?
Rudy: That's a really good question, David, and I think that goes parallel to what you're saying about gangs. Because United Playaz is a family. We have that family setup like the gangs do. But we do positive things. Some of the guys and some of the girls who join gangs, they have spirits, strong spirits of warriors. When you have that spirit, and you have that destination --- that “I will go all-out for what I believe in.” Just imagine some of these gangs who are on a block. They own nothing on that block, but they say "That's my block," and they're willing to die for that brick or that board on that block. But they really don't own it. Imagine that type of spirit you have once you find out the truth. So that's the same spirit I utilize with UP. We would die for a cause, now. We would die for a reason. Not because we're on this block, which nobody owns. You know that, you're a developer. They've got houses where people live their lives, and all of a sudden they could be taken in a year, or less than a year. And you're talking about people dying for that block or that "set" as they call it, which really they don't own. So we provide that same type of spirit with the people that we deal with. You're involved... but we're going to go out there and, instead of go do a drive-by, we're going to do a cleanup. Or we're going to do a gun buyback. Or we're going to be washing cars....like anybody else would do. Whether you're playing football, basketball, we're going to go all out because that's the spirit that some of these guys evolved in, in a gang.
David: That's what I loved about you when we got to know each other, as I said, "Okay, you know, Mother Teresa and Thich Nhat Hanh and Martin Luther King may be happy with your work, but as core individuals you guys have a tough core. If I have to be on an island and we gotta survive, I want you there with me. And I recognize that, and it was very cool. The other thing which I loved, was when we both got together for doing this. I asked you, “Pick someone other than me, who can really showcase your work, like Willie Brown or Joe Montana, who's come down there, or other people,” and you came back to me. I said "Why are you doing this to me? I'm a developer. It's controversial for us to be together.” But I love that because I think it's healing for us to come together despite different types of things we might do, and look for solutions with that fighter spirit, and saying that in action gives me a lot of strength. I don't mind having an audience to hear us talk like this.
Can I ask you one other question, Rudy? How do you feel personally, with coming through everything you have, you've been able to transform all the anger and the pain and the grief into this forgiveness and compassion and love that you're sharing with us?
Rudy: I've got one answer for that. The only person I believe that would have me be transformed with that anger, that compassion, and that love, was finding God. I truly believe that God has restored me to become the man that I am now, and to actually have my purpose. All that pain is my purpose now, the pain that I went through in life. I didn't have an easy life. Some people probably had it harder than me. I'm not going to say I had the hardest life. Because you know I had at least a roof over my head and a foundation under my feet, but I didn't understand and know God then. And to me, that is one of the highest plateaus in life. For you to get through life is to find some spiritual type of belief. I'm a Christian. Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior. Some other people believe in other things, which is cool to me, as long as you have a spiritual foundation. That's what I was obtaining and what I learned through my years, when I went through so much turmoil. It brought me back into perspective, and God always was faithful and loyal to me. I just didn't know it. That's what people want in life --- to trust somebody, to have somebody accept you, not judge you, and to be faithful and loyal to you. That's what God brought to me.
Trust me, I'm not perfect to this day. I'm still learning to be a better man in life. But I know God has restored my spirit and my soul, and for that I give Him all the honor and all the glory, and I do my best "bang," to "bang for God." Because God is the ultimate gangbanger. That's why his name starts with a "G." That's "God."
David: Can you share about a couple of the kids who you felt a real special connection with, that came to you in tough circumstances? Who you call your Brooklyn nephew, who was sent from the East Coast to you, and he's doing some stuff? And the girl who is now over at Davis? And whoever else comes to mind would be great to share a little bit about.
Rudy: Absolutely. And I always love to tell these types of stories, because they're real. So the two people you were talking about:
First, I'll talk about the young female. She came from another country, so when she originally came, she couldn't speak English. But she and her Mom came out to America, landed in San Francisco, and they put her in the SOMA district. When she went to school as a first- or second-grader, she couldn't speak English, she couldn't understand the school system, and her Mom left her there. When the end of the school day came her didn't pick her up on time, and she's stuck there; everybody's going home and she was like Elvis, she was "all shook up," she was confused and didn't know what to do. She was crying. During that time, me and my pack, we go pick up kids at the elementary, at Betsy Carmichael, because they are a part of our program. I look and see the girl crying and crying and crying. I'm not going to just let her cry, so I go over and try to talk to her, but she couldn't respond because she couldn't speak English. So I got somebody to assist her and interpret her. We tried to comfort her. Sure enough, we started a relationship with the young lady. Her name is Jessica.
From then, she started working hard at school, because she felt somebody was there that had her back. Like a gang, we had her back. And she started working hard in school and she got A's throughout her whole school years. Elementary: she started to speak English. Middle school: she got all A's, 6th, 7th, and 8th grades, all A's every report card. Her English got even stronger. Her work ethics were impeccable. Ninth grade, 10th grade, 11th and 12th, she went to school in San Francisco --- all A's. All the way from when we met her, all the way to the end, when she graduated from high school... that spirit I'm talking about, all A's. Her Mom and us met, we've got a relationship, we go over to their house with some of our staff, she joined our program at an early age, and she ended up graduating with the highest honors of her high school. And she ended up being accepted into UC Davis, where she's currently at right now. She's doing her thing, working hard, she got her own apartment, she got her own car, she got a little boyfriend now (I think she does).
That, to me, is rewarding, to see somebody who just needed some comfort. Something that little, planting that little mustard seed, to see it blossom into something so beautiful and so amazing. Now she's actually on my board at UP. She comes down and volunteers in the community. She does speaking engagements when she has the time. Her English is so fluent, you would never know she came from another country. To me, that, right there, is what makes it fulfilling for me. To see that kind of transition. Once you start hearing her story, when she grew up, she went through a lot of turmoil, too. It wasn't all cotton candy. She had her struggles also. But she was willing to go through that adversity, and that adversity built her character.
David: The pivot wasn't some heroic thing that only a superhero or a person with a lot of money or a big charity could do. It sounds like you just cared enough to give a damn and say, "Well, I've just got to get a translator, and I've just got to see what's going on. Can you share about your Brooklyn nephew? I love this story, too.
Rudy: He's not from Brooklyn, he's from the South Bronx. United Playaz started a chapter ten years ago in the South Bronx in New York. One of the guys in 'Frisco was able to go out there and start it in the worst school in the Bronx. He left a girl from San Francisco. I thought about going down there repeatedly and meeting the New York group out there, United Playaz, because I'm the director. I would go down and meet a lot of the youngsters who were involved out there. One of the youngsters wanted to get away from the situation out there because it was tough out there. There was rarely opportunities for him. He was living in that box where you do everything the same. I said, "Come to San Francisco. We've got opportunities." I didn't know he was taking it seriously. One year he said, "I'm coming." When he flew out to San Francisco we... got him a place to stay. We had food for him. We created opportunities for him with jobs. This boy right now has three jobs. He's been in San Francisco and has been successful. He has a spiritual connection now. He's been doing good. He has the same spirit as the tough dude, but in a way now he's more humble. You should see the way he responds and talks now. He's more mature. He put away a lot of the childish ways. I'm proud of him now. He's independent. I hardly even see him now. He's at the barber shop, he cuts people's hair; he goes to his other job and he loves the fact that he left, because he has now expanded and learned how, I believe, to know who he is. And he's more of a man. And he's still young, and he's doing good. And he's got a lot of girls, too. (Laughter) Maybe 'cause he's got three jobs.
David: what's it like facing all of these challenges with the staff and the kids and the calls at four in the morning? You've been doing this for two decades. How do you get up in the morning and just keep doing it?
Rudy: I think the drive that keeps me going is knowing.... there are several things. From day one, knowing this is my purpose in life. “This ain't my job no more, this is my life.” I live it. I dream it. I'm eating and I'm thinking about it. My sweat and tears, man, this is what I do. I feel like I'm still bangin', because I used to bang. And I used to put in work when I was a gangbanger. I still bang. But I bang for change now. I bang to make our community more safe for my kids and my kids' kids, so they can walk down the street and not have to trip over my community.
Nipun: Rudy, I was wondering if you could give us an insight into your turning point. What was that transformation point where you go to a very different lifestyle --- to talking about love and compassion and healing and bringing the community together?
Rudy: Thank you for the question. Personally, I've never been a hardcore thug type of cat. I did some hardcore thug type of stuff in my life because I made bad choices. I was no serious person who liked to hurt. I was raised to love and care for people. So my turning point honestly came when.... it wasn't being locked up in jail, it wasn't me being shot at or stabbed. Those things didn't change my life. I honestly caught a case and I was going to do some serious time. And I was invited to go to this Christian camp 60 miles past Sacramento. And I only chose to go because I didn't want to go to jail. I had somebody who would vouch for me. "We'd get him over here, to save him from going to jail," and you're on probation, and I was like, "Let me go. There's going to be women at the camp? Yeah? All right, I'm going?" When I went I was introduced to Jesus Christ, which I never had a relationship with in the way I did prior to that. I was raised, as a Filipino, as a Catholic. I would go to church when I was little with my Mom and Dad on 10th and Howard, St. Joseph's. I would go because they would force me to go but the whole church would be dark, and there'd be candles lit and people would be preaching and humming or whatever, and I couldn't relate to that. And not to knock any Catholic religion, because they believe in what they believe, and I've got respect for that. But I couldn't resonate with that. So I never really turned that light on, because I always turned it off.
But when I went to that camp, honestly, I was away from the world, homie. I was away from the world. For some reason God spoke to me. And he was telling me, "If you do not change your life, you're going to end up dead." For real, my Self and my Spirit sang, and I was at that camp for a while and when I came back, I had that feeling, "Man this is something better than any high. Somebody loves me for just me." When I got back from the camp, the first day I got back I was so pumped up, and I was hyped to tell everybody about this guy who I’d met named Jesus Christ and how much he loved us, but nobody was around for that day. I don't know where everybody was at. My family wasn't around. My friends weren't. I was calling around and nobody was around for me to share. And all of a sudden I was back into the neighborhood where all that stuff started to come in, and I ended up robbing a house the first day I got back. And I forgot Jesus. I remember this, vividly. I came back, I was looking to tell everybody the good news. Nobody was around. Then that old feeling set back inside of me. "Oh, man, you need to go get high, I know where to go get the dope at. I know where everybody is getting high at." I did it, and I ended up robbing a drug dealer right next to his house. That first day I got back, feeling high from a spiritual connection, and I fell back into the world for a while.
But that's what really changed me, knowing that there was that peace. I was always praying. People know me. When they would see me “high,” I was praying. I always had a gun in one hand and a bottle in the other. That's what really transformed me. Rome wasn't built overnight, so I feel God always was working through me to get to where I'm at. It wasn't easy. So now I figured it out. My pain was my purpose, I'm telling you. My test was my testimony. This is where I'm at now. Serving God, doing his work. I give Him all the honor, all the glory. I'm on borrowed time now. I almost died three times. I got shot at a year ago. Even doing this type of work. People don't care if you do positive things sometimes. There's haters out there. They don't want to see people happy, they want you to be miserable just like them. I did stuff back in the day that people don't forgive me about. So they're trying to take my head off ---standing in front of my Mama's house.
Nipun: In those times when you have that faith --- I can feel it when you're describing it, you totally come alive with that sort of love. But there must be those other times, like you said, on that first day, where you forgot about that love. What is it that brings you back to it? What do you use? If feel that there's a lot of people who have those moments of that raw goodness, but then that point of disconnection starts to come in, and they make bad choices. What is it, maybe even now, that keeps bringing you back to that place of deep connection we have with all life, that you describe as God's love?
Rudy: Do you believe in angels?
Nipun: I think there's life beyond just human beings, yes, sure.
Rudy: There's angels on this Earth. I'm going to tell you who's one of them; his name is David. Guys like him who come in my life and always remind me that good is better than evil. It's hard, man, being in the community, in the neighborhood, where all you see constantly around you is death and drugs. You always need somebody to pull your coat, to tell you, "Man, there's something better than this." And David is one of those dudes. He's an angel. Just like you. There's people on this Earth that remind me, when I get back into that mindset. I've got to wear a mask sometimes when I'm walking down the streets in the neighborhood where there's a lot of evil. And if you're a person walking good in the evil, you get tested every second. I've got to rebuke people. During those hard times I've run into people who, I believe, were sent by God...What they're saying is already imprinted in the Bible. But those things get me back to my place. "You know what? Let me focus back." Seeing little kids. Little kids say stuff to you that you would never believe they would say. So you trip out, you say "What you say?"
There was a kid in my program who.... somebody tagged over our wall. We've got a big mural at the center that we have. You know the mural, right Dave? With all the faces on it? Somebody spray-painted over that mural, over all the faces. And we ended up finding out who the dude was, because we have connections on the streets. And while I was sitting there with all my staff --- and you know, everybody feels a certain way, like "How we going to deal with this dude?" We were just being humans. "Oh man, we gonna break this man! We gonna hurt him!"
There was a little kid in the room --- it was all adults --- and the little kid said, "Excuse me. Can I ask y'all somethin'?" He was a kid in our program. "Ain't we about stoppin' the violence? Why y'all talkin' about hurtin' here? Why don't we have him join us, so he could help us?" He put us all in check. I said to myself, "You know what, he's right!" Here we were talking about harming somebody when the dude actually needs help. And I took that little kid's advice, yo. I found the dude. He came all the way back from Hawaii. He sat in a room with us, with all my staff, and some of the kids, and he told us why... what he was going through. He said his father just died, and he was drinking a lot of alcohol, and he was going around the city and beating up the world with his spray paint because he's angry. So we said, "Ah, it was deeper then, than we thought. He had issues." And I knew, because my father died. So we got him some help with his alcoholic problem. He restored the wall back. And he came and helped, just the way the little kid said he’d act. And to me, that's restorative justice. And it took a little kid who was sitting on the side, who wasn't even sitting in the meeting there, to overhear our conversation, because he said, "Hey, wait a minute, man, y'all are goin' about it wrong."
David: Rudy, what I love about that type of situation is, I can't listen to some angel who is just all goody-goody. I need an angel to inspire me who bleeds when they get cut and gets angry, because that's what happens to all of us, regardless of our situation. I need a little devil like that little kid, who says "Excuse me, aren't we about nonviolence?" And the fact that it's coming from a little kid... what was your staff's reaction? Are they still talking about this little guy?"
Rudy: You know when Mike Tyson punches somebody in their face and they look stunned? They had their mouth open, looking like "Oh, snap, we is wrong!" I felt embarrassed...That the little kid was standing on the side doing his homework, ear-hustling, listening to our conversation. Some people weren't saying something, but I'm sure they entertained in their minds revenge. Most of my staff, we're gangbangers. We weren't gang members, we were gangbangers, we participated in activity on the street. A lot of the old ways were coming out.
David: One of my perspectives as a housing developer, and we're both in the same neighborhood, is how can we all work together? And here you had the help of this little kid and you wound up actually getting help from the guy who tagged you and defaced your beautiful mural. Because then you started to have a relationship with him. And I know you work with a lot of different diverse groups, and I'm hoping at some point we can talk about different ways we can all talk together. I know you guys had the opportunity to have Joe Montana and Ron Conway come over there and speak with you. There's a little video of Joe talking, and he's not a big "Hall-of-Famer," he's like the little kid or your staff who's going "Wow!" His jaw drops. Share a little bit about that, and how you work with different groups in the community who don't necessarily work with each other.
Rudy: I always pray at our Center that we would get certain people there so the kids would know the historical perspective of the San Francisco 49ers, because they won five Superbowls. And it wasn't Kaepernick who did it. (Laughter) So one day I was asked to speak at City Hall. You know how they have the testimonies in the hearings? I was asked to speak up there through a friend. When I went up there .... I had heard the story of what it was about, so I said, "Okay, I'm down for that." So when it was comment and public testimony I went up there to speak in support of this project that was happening. It was a tech company. When I went up to speak I heard what the story was, but the guy who was actually the director, I didn't really meet him or know him that well, it was one of the staff. After I was done speaking at testimony, one of the district supervisors who knew me said, "Excuse me, Rudy, this is the first time this has ever happened. Can I ask you a question? How long have you been actually working with this tech company?" I kept it one hundred. I kept it real. I said, "We've only been doing this for two weeks." She said, "Two weeks!" And the crowd, where everybody was opposing it, kind of laughed. She said, "That's what I thought." That was her way of shutting the project down.
I felt bad. I felt like I got played. The dude who was the guy who ran that tech called me that same day, when I got to my office, and he said, "I'm sorry I put you in the line of fire like that." I thought for a while. I said, "You know, actually, you put me in the line of fire but this is good now, because now you have to build a relationship with me like you said you were when you told everybody on that board." Because that's what they said they were doing --- building a relationship with us. We were building. He said, "You're right." And I said, "We're going to have to go back in front of the board in a couple of months, and when we do, tell them the genuine relationship we've been building." And he was like, "You're right." So he said "Do you like football players?" I said, "Yes, I played football." He said, "If you can get anybody from the 49ers, because I have a relationship with the 49ers, who would you want?" And so, boom, I said "Joe Montana." He said "Joe Montana? I'm going to get him to come speak to you." I was like, "Yeah, whatever." And sure enough, Joe Montana comes in a month later with Ron Conway. And Ron Conway was one of the dudes who the people were talking about, that he didn't like helping the community out at the grassroots. That dude came in and he was so genuine and he was so cool, he not only came and visited the kids, he donated to us. He kept a constant relationship. He gave me the direct number. I would call on a cell, like you call me, and sure enough, Ron would answer, and it was him. [Rudy then describes how he confirmed it was the number.]
David: Whether it's a guy who is hurting your beautiful mural out front, or it's some big sports guy, tech guy, you are just real and you're connecting, and everyone lines up. When we met that night, it was a mixed crowd and we all were like feeling really good. People stayed really late even though they had stuff to do, because they wanted to hang with you. Rudy, five years from right now, what is it that is the one thing that you would hope that all of us who have been on the phone with you this morning would take to heart and really remember?
Rudy: In five years, what I would like people to remember? That's a tough question. I would say that there is good in this world despite all the things you see in the news or you hear. There are people out there who love and who care and are willing to put their life on the line to save somebody else's. Just like Jesus Christ did. That's it.
Caller (Hugh, from Ventura, reading a poem by Rumi):
(Laughs) Come, come, whoever you are, wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving.
It doesn't matter.
Ours is not a caravan of despair. (Laughs)
Even though you have broken your vow
a thousand times
Come, yet again, come, come
From Mewlana Jalala ad-Din Rumi, Persian poet and originator of the whirling dervishes, 1207 to 1273. I'm Hugh Rose. Thank you.
Nipun: That's Beautiful. "Come, come, whoever you are," that's beautiful. Thank you, Hugh. Thank you so much.
Rudy: He's in Ventura? Cool, we can come visit each other, we're not too far, we can come visit each other. I would like him to learn more about our organization.
Hugh: Come to our church, the Ventura Center for Spiritual Living, where my wife is the minister.
Rudy: Look us up. United Playaz dot org. God bless you and your family.
[While waiting to connect to a caller, Pancho, Nipun explains Pancho's background]
Nipun: He's a super-inspiring brother, Rudy, from Oakland at the Occupy Oakland showdown between the police and the community. There were a lot of people amping up the rhetoric of violence, and Pancho and his friends say, "The only way to counteract that is to ramp up the rhetoric of nonviolence and love," so at 3 a.m. they decided to go and meditate at Occupy Oakland. It was amazing because the police brought in all these choppers and all this stuff, and here were these guys just meditating. It became an iconic photo, because you saw all these police in riot gear and these people are just meditating. And when they took Pancho and took him to jail, his offense read, "Disturbing peace." And he was meditating! And he actually lives in the Fruitvale district of Oakland on the border of three gangs, and they're just doing some really courageous work.
Rudy: Shouts out to my brothers and sisters in Oakland, who are standing for truth and power. When you told me that, Nipun, that gave me goosebumps.
Nipun: What would you say, Rudy, about this pace of change? One of the things Pancho talks about, one of the stories he shared with me one time was this beautiful story: There were a bunch of kids who came out and got into a fight and took their empty bottles and slammed them on the ground, and it makes this big sound. And everyone runs in, because they figure some violent people are outside. Pancho and his roommate Adelaja just walk out instead of walking away from it, and they start picking up these small pieces of glass. They do it so humbly, so gently, so full of love, and these kids who had smashed these bottles, have taken off, but at a distance they look back, and they're like, "What are these two dudes doing, picking up this glass?" Bit by bit, their energy was such that they just started getting drawn back to them. So they come back and they're like, "What are you guys doing?" And what Pancho Adelaja said is, "Hey, brother, you know, we got a neighbor here who's got a two-year-old, and sometimes that two-year-old will run out, and we just don't want that two-year-old to get hurt, so we're just cleaning up here." And it was non-judgmental, it was straight, it was direct, and those same kids started helping them pick up the pieces of glass. And when you say to Pancho, "Looks, you guys have been doing this for six years." They live on the border of three gangs in Oakland and there are so many different problems in that community, but there are so many different gifts as well. But a lot of people come in and say, "What is that magic pill to erase all this tomorrow?" And one of the things that Pancho says is that it happens one small conversation at a time, one small act of kindness at a time. This is not something that you can put in some spreadsheet and say, "Hey, look, we've helped 10,000 people in the last 30 days. This is about a slow kind of revolution." What are your thoughts on that idea of not just being fast, not just creating change which ends up being superficial, but really going much deeper, into a deeper connection with much richer possibilities that can emerge out of that? What are your thoughts on the speed of change?
Rudy: I think I said earlier, Rome wasn't built overnight. One act at a time is powerful when it comes to change. And everybody has different methods and different strategies how to get down; but as long as you're leading with love and gentleness, you'll make a big impact. And I think the brother you were just sharing about demonstrated through his actions, not through his talk, through his actions, by doing things. That's what I meant by five years later, know there's good people out there. It's not all negative and bad. That's all it takes, is one grain of sand to move the Earth. That's what the brother is doing in Oakland, and there are people all over this planet. This show, this radio station you've got us on right now, is revolutionary. They said the revolution wouldn't be televised? It's being televised right now. So it's not what you say, it's what you do, and how you do it. I salute the brothers and sisters out there who's picking up the glass, or more than glass, they're picking up spirits, they're picking up souls, they're picking up life for everybody else who's looking, and dying slowly and bleeding in their hearts, because that's what they need to see more, is that type of love. It's unconditional. It's non-judgmental. It's one act at a time, brother. And people have been doing this many, many years before us. You know what time it is. You know who they are. And some people you don't know have been doing this, that are under the radar, but they do it. Not for show, not to be on the news. They do it because they have compassion in their heart.
Nipun: That's beautiful. If a kid comes to you who has been part of a gang and has been making some bad choices, what do you say to him, Rudy, to try to turn him onto this path, that is so powerful no matter what background you're coming from? How do you approach a child or a young teenager, and how do you convince them?
Rudy: Honestly, there's a lot of different ways, depending on how the kid's situation is that I meet. I want to speak directly to his heart when I deal with him. And not just talk to him about it, but show him. That's why I do. It's effective, it works. Not with every kid. There's a lot of kids who I've dealt with who have ended up going back down that journey and they end up being killed. And that's the hard part for me. Because I know how much potential they had... It's different with every kid, but that's just the sum of it. I just let them know that somebody loves them.
Nipun: Can you give us an example of a kid you had encountered and that ended up being transformative, not just for the kid, but maybe even for you in terms of the spirit? Like that kid who said, "Hey, aren't we about peace?" Does any story come up for you around those interactions that went well?
Rudy: Absolutely. There's so many stories that I can think of, even within my own kids. I have four kids... It's like the preacher. The preacher's son is always the worst son? (Laughs) ... So I have a kid who's supposed to be doing good because he's my son, but not knowing that I'm neglecting him because I'm serving everybody else. That hit me, because before he even got into trouble, we had a good one-on-one, we sat down. For him to tell me, "I know you love a lot of people, and I see the work you do, but I love you too, and I've got feelings too. I like to be embraced. I like to be told positive things, instead of being disciplined all the time."
I didn't look at it that way. It really shook me up because he's the closest to me. And it made me step back to be a better father. Like I was sharing when I first started off, when David asked that question, what was my hood life, raised up in my neighborhood? Me and my father never had a relationship, because he was so busy disciplining us. He was raised to be a soldier. So my father never ever told me "I love you" out loud. I didn't understand. He just showed me and disciplined me. I was just scared of my father. So I would use all that now, when my son checked me on that, to let him know I love him. I've got a cell phone, he's got a cell phone. Out of the blue, I check in, "Hey, Son, I love you." That's it. He'll say, "Thanks, Pops." It's the little things that matter the most, that make me a better man in life. Even the first day my son went to high school. I took him, and when we were driving in to school, we weren't even talking. Usually we're talking, and I'm like "What's your problem?" And I got mad, and, "What's wrong with you? You got nothing to say? You having a bad day?" And I dropped him off and I left. And when I got home, somebody told me...I said, "My son is bugging out." And she said, "You know why? Because it's his first day of school. He's going to a new school. The last school he was in, he was in eighth grade, he was the big dog, and now he's going to a high school, but he knows nobody, so he's probably scared."
And I thought, "Damn, yeah, he is scared.” So I went back to the school and I pulled him out and I asked, "Are you scared?" and he was like, "Yeah." And it made me feel bad... My father never took me to school. I didn't know how to have a conversation with him like that. It took somebody to pull my coat, to say those little things like, "He was scared." He wasn't talking.
Nipun: It's so inspiring, Rudy, the way you share these stories, because it shows how big of a heart you have, to not have had this, but still somehow have found the capacity to listen, and then have the courage to go back to the school and find your son. A lot of people could get a big ego about it, or get lazy about it, or wipe it under the rug, but you went back, man, and you found your son, and you looked him in the eye and said, "Are you scared?" That's powerful. If we just treated all our relationships in that way, it would be a different world.
Mish (Caller): This is Mish in New York City. Rudy, I just wanted to tell you that I'm delighted listening to you speak, because there's nothing phony about you. You're so down-to-earth. It's refreshing. There's no phony-baloney. Listening to you, would you say it's lack of feeling love and lack of a spiritual focus, that brings kids into gangs? Is that correct?
Rudy: I feel like that's part of it.
Mish: The solution is that they're worthy of being loved, and to help them change their focus onto something positive and spiritual?
Rudy: I think it's a combination of a couple of things. One is --- I know when you're young, you probably don't understand the situation about spiritual stuff. But it's important. There's something in the Bible… One of the wisest men who God ordained is King Solomon. He wrote Proverbs. If you read Proverbs, there are 31 verses in there, and it talks about becoming a better man or a better woman. A better person, period. It's more written for youngsters. So I think it’s about having that spiritual belief, knowing that there's a purpose for them, and that they are loved, and they are somebody special. We come from kings and queens. We come from a blood line that's strong. And they need to know that they're hand-picked and they’re special. Reading that makes us special. Then having the mindset, their behavior changed, because most of the stuff they see in this world is worldly. If you watch and see most kids when they go on YouTube, or they go on Instagram, most of the stuff is about fights. Fights or people talking about each other in negative ways. To me you have to change that mindset. That's not how natural behavior is supposed to be. Learning how to channel your anger and your emotions, learning all that. And I know it's hard for a young kid, but that's where our parenting comes in, that's where services and programs that provide those things (come in).
The last one, I would say, is the things we're eating now. That's sort of a violent thing. Some kids in my neighborhood have no money. All they eat is red chips and drink soda in the morning. And do you know how bad that is for your body? They say "You are what you eat."
Mish: Thank you so much for being out there with your open heart and for using your life experience to help other people find beauty in their life, and God bless you.
Rudy: Thank you, sister. God bless you, too.
Pancho (Caller): Greetings, brother. This is Pancho calling from Fruitvale. It is so nourishing to hear your experience and to feel the vibration of your voice, and the love, and bang the change for others. Love you so much! I don't know you, we haven't met, but it is truly nourishing to be learning from you. I want to make a couple of questions, but the first things is to stress how true nonviolence is when you are really capable of hurting people and you know it spiritually, physically, and emotionally, but you choose not to. Many people don't understand what true nonviolence is all about. So I really appreciate that you're an embodiment and example for the people that really want to practice it.
From my very limited experience, not in your two decades of serving in this way, but in my limited 4 1/2 years living here, in Fruitvale, in East Oakland, the most dangerous gang by far is the institutionalized gang, as you were saying. And that's the police. And they're accountable for what they do, and I know they need a little rehab too, because they're trained also to hurt people. And you know that hurt people hurt people. And healed people heal people. And loved people love people. They are not healed, they are not loved, many of them. So my first question is, do you have any connection with them? Have you connected with them in a way that they also have a rehab program? They just killed another brother ten blocks from here, Oscar Grant was shot dead. That's my first question, brother.
Then the second question is that, from my experiences in this neighborhood, where there's no healthy food, where there is... drugs and prostitution and no healthy food, you have some people being killed by drive-bys, but actually thousands, millions of people in this part of the planet are dying from the "drive-throughs" rather than from the "drive-bys."
How do you engage in a way that we stop killing each other, and then all gangs connect? Let's connect, let’s have this sense of brotherhood and sisterhood and kinship. And what do you think about defending the real turf? The real turf now is the Earth. How do we defend the Earth from the devastation of the powerful attorneys and the corporate capitalism, that machine that's destroying everything right now and future generations, and just bring that lone warrior/love-magician energy, and bring all those angels and all those blessings from the past and from the future right now to say "We're in an emergency and we need real love and we need it on the street and we need it everywhere."
Rudy: I salute you, brother, for all your efforts to make this a better world, to make this a better place. And for your tenaciousness, brother. I look forward to meeting you, brother, and you are my brother, man. You're “my brother from another mother,” but we're from the same father in spirit. I hope I can answer your questions. I'm going to do my best to respond.
First, on the issue of the police situation. You're right. One is, police are trained to kill, period. They're trained to get you. That's the way my understanding is. They're trained to neutralize their target. So when you have officers I believe who are not in tune and have communication skills that are not built to communicate, off the top you're put in a situation where, I'm walking up to someone I don't know and it's scary. Not all police are bad people. You have cops who are in the force who are really bad cops, but they really need to be held accountable for it, just like anybody else. Some of these cops who are not trained properly and don't have that experience to deal with it, they need to be retrained, man, they need to be either fired or held in jail for the action they commit, or they need to be trained properly by people and experts who can give them that information and knowledge. You've got little boys coming out there and dealing with grown-ass men. They're put in situations they've never experienced before, and they've got a gun and a badge, and they're put in certain areas where people who have so much mental health issues. So it's a hard situation. I know police now, and I'm not trying to defend them, they want to go home to their families. So they're going to do what they've got to do by all means necessary.
So this is what I do. Honestly. It seems like the rapid killing, of police killing people on the streets is more now, and it's justified, "Oh, yeah, he had a gun by him," or whatever. So what I do now is, I teach kids how to deal with the police when they're pulled over or they're being questioned. Like, "Don't grab and try to pull your pants up, because they get the opportunity to shoot you, because they think you're going for a gun." Or learn how to communicate better with the police, and know how to deal with him. Because the "OG” told me once, "Every now and then you've got to learn how to kiss ass. Just don't suck no woo-woo," know what I mean? From my experience, I used to ride down the street, because I used to have a 5.0 Mustang, with speakers in it, police pulled me over, and I'd get mad at them and say "Man, what you pulling me over for? I ain't did nothin'." And the next thing you know, they'll be beating my ass and taking me to jail. And I have to sit there. Now I'm older and wiser. I get pulled over and it's "Yes, officer. Yes, here is my ID, officer." And you know what, I get to go home at the end of the day.
So I want to teach kids --- to educate them on how to deal with that situation. That's what I feel is effective, and at the same time hold them accountable for the actions that they do. And hopefully this justice system, which to me sometimes "ain't just," will get those police out there who're doing bad. So it's an uphill battle, man.
Pancho: And maybe this is something to talk about a little more in depth, but in the same way I see you, that you were called by the "OG," God, who called you, and now people see you as an example... I'm wondering if there really are some police officers that are really "rehabed," and they have this call of the Universal Love and God, that they are out there without guns doing the same work that you're doing, talking to their own people. That's another thing.
What do you think about the food thing, brother?
Rudy: Let me go back. Some of the police I know in San Francisco, I couldn't do the things I do if I didn't have them with me on my team. To me, they're part of the community. The Chief of Police, Greg Suhr, he's a good friend of mine now. I call him "brother." He has the understanding and experience to know how to deal with stuff. For which I'm very, very thankful. There's Officer Redmond, he's the Commander, and the dude is a solid dude. He and another officer.... gets kids and they put them in programs, out of "juvenile," and these officers don't want the credit, or don't even want it to be known, but that's the type of officers we need: "community policing." Who know how to deal with people, not run up and be scared when they've got a gun, and they're shaking. So I just wanted to put that out for the record. There's a lot of police I know personally who are doing amazing work.
Let me go to the food thing. Honestly, man, it's a business. People don't care, as long as they're getting their money, how they treat their people. I believe, though, Pancho, we have to educate our own people. We need to grow our own food. We need to open our own stores. We have to pay attention to the things that we put in our bodies, because kids don't know. They're just eating. We've got to change food programs. We've got to start building our gardens and growing healthy food. Safeway and (the others) aren't going to stop selling what they're selling when they get all that food. They're about making their money.... We have to educate our kids at an early age, as young as elementary. With the food epidemic, that is violence, and we treat it like other types of violence --- we educate people.
Nipun: Rudy, can you share a little bit about United Playaz? I would love for you to share, even in the few minutes that we have left, the story of how it started and what it's doing now. And ultimately lead into how we can all help. There are a lot of issues, and you're trying to address all of them through the awareness-building that you're doing at United Playaz. So could you just share a little bit of the origin story, and where you're at now?
Rudy: Sure. Hey, Pancho, I need you to connect with me soonest so we can discuss this point.
United Playaz originated in 1994, through interracial violence and gang violence at a high school called Balboa High School. It was one of the most notorious schools in San Francisco back in the days. I got hired as a gang prevention counselor, directly to do with Filipinos back then, because I'm Filipino, and I was a gangbanger. So I qualified for the position. They put me in there, and a big fight ensued between two different ethnicities, originally, then it came to other ethnicities.
I gave people the opportunity, because I got them all in a room, all the gangbangers. No police, no administration, just the people. And all the gang members sat in a room and they came up with all the solutions to curb and prevent the violence that happened. So 21 years later now, we're still effective at the work we do, and I truly believe the secret to our success was putting love first, and love, the unconditional love, and that's what comes from God. So we kept God first. Look at it! We bought our own building now in the neighborhood that I'm born and raised in. I used to gangbang and destroy; now I'm a stakeholder in it. I've got chapters in New York. I've got one in the Philippines. We're world-wide. So you're dealing with a player with a passport now. Eighty percent of my staff is all ex-felons. Some of our staff are life-in-prison who got out. I've got a guy who I introduced you to, David, who just recently came home. He did 45 years in prison. He just got home. And he's working with the kids.
These things are restorative justice. I've got an amazing team. We're banging. But we're banging for change. And they play their part. The big shots are all guys who were locked up in prison, man, and the brother who just passed away, Yogi Purneal. I just want to get a shout out there, "Rest in peace, may he rest in peace." And love and respect to his family. And 38 Howard St., if you want to learn more about us and get involved. Giving back to the hood. "It Takes a Hood to Save the Hood." It takes the people to save the people. That's what we're about, and that's where we started... We're in seven different schools in San Francisco, elementary, middle school, and high school. We serve "kids" that are seven all the way to 70, because you know there are some big kids.
Nipun: Rudy, one last question. I know you have a big event on October 8th, and in general a broader question of, how can listeners now, and even those listening in the future to the online archive, how can people reach out, get connected, support, and serve the vision? Are there a few things people can do? Maybe the October 8th event, but how can people get involved?
Rudy: If you give my number and information. Because I want to learn from you guys. I want you to tell me the word. And I want you to give me the advice that I need to know to make this even a better and safer, effective way of living. That's what I need. I need you to help me.
Nipun: That's awesome. We're on it, man. We all definitely want to help you.
Rudy: I want to say today that my brother David, is an angel, he's a "thug angel." (Laughter) If it weren't for you, man, a lot of this wouldn't be possible. He's been hooking me up like a tow truck with a lot of good people, and connecting me with the right people. So I take my hat off to you, David, Nipun, Pancho, and the rest of the world out there listening. We can conquer and overcome all this. And through God. You keep him first. Proverbs, Chapter 3, Verses 5-8, check that out.... That's been the success of me and many, many other people on this planet, keeping G-O-D first. If you have him, you're not going to lose. If God is for you, who can be against you?
Nipun: Do you write poems, Rudy? Because you just sound like you're so poetic. Just naturally spilling stuff out. (Laughter)
Rudy: I'm not a poet, and I don't even know it.
Nipun: (Laughing) That is the best kind of poet.
David: His poetry: Nipun, if you sit down and you go to his favorite Vietnamese place with him and a couple of his staff, you live and you eat and you breathe the poetry.
Nipun: So beautiful, man. Rudy, I can think of so many ways that we can all intersect with the work that so many great community members are doing like Pancho, so this is definitely a "to be continued" kind of conversation. We're so honored and so grateful. There were so many things you said that touched us, from listening to that small voice of a kid, to listening to your inner voice on so many occasions --- to you just saying, "Look, this is not my 9-to-5 job, man, this is my life." Whenever you can say that, you're not giving a part of your heart, you're giving 110 percent. And this idea that "Hurt people hurt people," we really need to move from that, to say "Healed people heal people, and loved people love people," so let's all love each other. Let's all step into that realm of compassion and forgiveness and kindness and empathy. And this is who you are. And that's the flavor I got from you today. It warms my heart. It warms so many of our hearts. On behalf of everyone I just want to say thank you.
Rudy: I appreciate you digging the flavor, man. And remember, love comes from Self. Love you first before you can work with anybody else.
Pancho: And just a reminder, Gandhi was an exile, and Martin Luther King Jr. was an exile and Mandela was locked up 20 years and was an exile. Why? Because they were following the law of love. And that's what we're trying to do here, right? Love first.
Rudy: Amen. Love is love. And that's what God is. Love.
Nipun: This is great. We're all talking love.
Rudy: Love conquers all hate. One love, one love.
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