I was an MS-13 gang member. Here's how I got out.

Gerardo Lopez Headshot

Gerardo “Clever” Lopez has worked in gang intervention for over two decades. Formerly of the notorious Los Angeles gang MS-13, Gerardo escaped gang life and now ensures that at-risk youth from making the same mistakes. He is Executive Director of the Denver chapter of Homies Unidos, a nonprofit dedicated to ending violence and promoting peace through gang intervention and prevention. Gerardo is an avid baseball fan waiting for the Dodgers to win the World Series, and the subject of the award-winning, short documentary CLEVER.

My favorite TED talk would be Amy Cuddy: Power Poses. I enjoy continuing to learn about the many wonders of what the brain can do when it is effectively tapped into. I like how Amy, shows very simple and interesting techniques on how your body language can influence you psychologically and physically to feel more power and confidence by posing in certain ways, as well as having others view you in the same matter and the best part is that it only takes two minutes to do.

What sparks your curiosity?

Being able to accomplish something or a task in which some people might think that it is impossible to do. I would be curious if accomplished what would the feeling be on both sides and what change were you able to make in order to help inspire others to try to do what they thought was impossible. The curiosity of wondering if you can change the thought process of a persons judgmental view for the better and have them understand your points of view and the actions that you take.

What is the most uncommon experience, practice, belief, viewpoint, or habit that you have, and how has that shaped you as a person?

I was once wrongfully charged and taken to court shackled with chains on my wrists and ankles, facing a possible 48-year sentence. During my court proceedings, I would write notes and I would take my notes back to my jail cell and continue to break my case apart and write my own court motions. For 2 yrs I went thru this routine and one day a jailer opened up my cell door and said my case had been dismissed and that I was free to go. This experience has shaped me to never give up no matter what.

Hobbies / Passions / Fun Facts

Ever since I was a kid I have been a huge baseball fan. I played in Little League in my local park and in “sandlots” with childhood friends. I enjoy watching the games and playing in softball leagues and have been waiting for the Dodgers to win another World Series, for 30 years. I also enjoy going on mountain hikes and I once climbed a “14er” which was pretty terrifying for me. Lastly, I enjoy going fishing while taking in some sunshine.