CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) - Spike Lee's “Chiraq” is now playing in Chicago theaters. Lee says he hopes the film inspires Chicagoans to be an active component in stopping neighborhood violence.
Friday night on the Northwest Side, another performance provided a tangible solution to gang violence: Chicago youth channeled their own experiences into a stage performance.
It's act one of a play that is based on the lives of real Chicago kids - some of them growing up poor in broken homes and in gang filled streets.
Helping them take their experiences to the stage is an award winning author who barely made it out of the barrio alive.
Robert Renteria grew up in a gang infested East Los Angeles. His father a drunk and heroin addict, his stepfather an abusive alcoholic.
His story is detailed in the book "From the Barrio to the Boardroom".
“I moved to Chicago in 1990 with $200 and a duffle bag. Six years later, I was vice president of a publically traded company on the New York Stock Exchange," Renteria said.
Renteria is helping adapt his book for the stage. The performance is interpreted by Chicago kids, who have included their own struggles.
"My parents were divorced, and that was really hard for me. But you learn to get through it and you have to keep pushing on. You can't stay in that hole, you've got to get yourself up," student performer Rogelio Castro said.
“People are always telling him in the book, ‘oh you're going to be nothing, you're going to end up like your father.’ And it's like, he didn't know he's really successful and maybe one day I could be successful too," student performer Ashley Chavez said.
Seeing Chicago’s youth being caught in the crossfire has inspired Renteria to bring tangible solutions to the city.
“The city of Chicago’s mission is ‘one voice, one city.’ Let’s put the guns down, My question is, ‘then what?’ You've got to give them something," Renteria said.
Renteria has crafted a school curriculum from his book and has offered to donate all the necessary materials to Chicago Public Schools. He believes through his own experiences, he can teach kids that anything is possible, from the hood to doing good, from the barrio to the boardroom.
“Tonight proves that dreams do come true and that dreams are alive and well, and living today right here and right now," Renteria said.
These kids want to spread the word that you make your own fate. They will be taking their performance all over Chicago this summer to help spread that message of hope.