A Conversation on Gang Interventions: The Five Percenters

Dec 27, 2016 by Dr. Bob Weathers

The medieval Persian poet, Rumi, once observed: “Sometimes a door opens, and a human being becomes a way for grace to come through.”* Educator and social justice innovator, Carlos Alvarez, is one such individual. One of the central joys of my teaching down through the years has been the opportunity to meet such brilliant minds and spirits like Carlos. Let me begin by introducing him, as well as the topics of the two podcasts to which you are about to be treated.

First, Carlos Alvarez comes to these presentations here with a rich and accomplished academic background in criminal justice (B.A.), forensic psychology (M.A.), and current doctoral studies in counseling psychology. Lest there be any shadow of a doubt as to the effectiveness of Carlos’ work: as a truly pioneering dean of a highly progressive, local charter high school, he has successfully addressed their previous, high rate of academic suspensions (averaging 137 per year) to a current containment of only 1 suspension/year. “The proof of the pudding…”

Carlos’ presentations here address his work with gang interventions and violence interruption, utilizing principles of restorative justice, while focusing on the “5 percenters” --- that 5% of the gang population which is indeed most prone to violent behavior and other, sustained criminality. Owing to Carlos’ own personal history, earlier in his life, of being active in gangs himself, and then transforming into now being fully committed to serving that same population --- passing it forward --- I cannot help but think of the jazz pioneer Charlie Parker’s dictum: “If you don’t live it, your horn won’t play it.” Carlos is a living embodiment of the huge potential for healing and community reintegration, which he offers to those fortunate enough to meet him.

Here then, in his own words, allow me to introduce you to a most remarkable human being, Mr. Carlos Alvarez...


For CalSouthern learners, we are happy to announce that the first segment above, on working with “5-percenter” gang members, is currently slated to be included in our recently revamped Cultural Diversity course (1st year in the M.A. in Psychology); the second segment, on restorative justice, will now be included in our Ethical Issues in Marriage, Family and Child Therapy course (also 1st year in the above program).

One very important take-away from both of Carlos Alvarez’ presentations here: we at CalSouthern wish to invite our learners to understand cultural competency primarily as a process that involves an open, curious, and accepting stance towards others that invites dialogue. May Carlos’ example serve as inspiration for all to achieving those noble goals!

* From The Essential Rumi, p. 188

Carlos-Alvarez at CalSouthern Campus
CalSouthern faculty Dr. Bob Weathers and Carlos Alvarez at CalSouthern's campus


About the author:
A highly regarded educator and university administrator, as well as recovery coach, author, and public speaker, Dr. Bob Weathers holds a Ph.D. in clinical psychology, with an M.A. in religious studies. Over the course of his professional career, “Dr. Bob” has provided tens of thousands of hours of therapeutic counseling and recovery coaching to satisfied clients. He has also committed the past 35 years to teaching, training, and inspiring graduate-level mental health providers at several southern California universities, most recently here at California Southern University.

Dr. Bob is currently academic effectiveness coordinator at CalSouthern, engaged full-time in ongoing initiatives for improving the educational experience of our learners, including his chairing the brand-new Student Advisory Council (more about this soon to be announced in a future newsletter). Additionally, Dr. Bob has published numerous articles in a broad cross-section of respected professional reference books, journals, and edited volumes.

Dr. Bob’s current writing and in-demand public speaking focus on applying the principles of Integral Recovery (a body/mind/spirit approach) to healing from the shame and stigma of active addiction on the way to sustained, successful recovery. For fun, he loves to perform locally, as an avid, lifelong drummer, in his own widely praised jazz ensemble.




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