Uncornered Project on Boston Common trying to help solve gang violence

The uncornered project

BOSTON — If a picture says a thousand words, College Bound Dorchester and The Uncornered Project is hoping a larger-than-life photo documentary of former gang members side by side with elected officials and community leaders will help unite the public in their effort to solve gang violence in Boston.

"It's just a sign of hope," said Luis Rodrigues of Boston.

"I hope the photos stop them," photographer John Huet said. "But I really want them to read the stories."

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Stories about people like Luis Rodrigues, a former gang member turned advocate.

"I was shot 10 times," he said. "Just surviving that had more to do than just my strength. There was divine power. That's what I believe, and here I am in the commons doing the work that I do."

Rodrigues' portrait is one of more than a dozen on the common forcing locals and tourists alike to stop and learn from his journey.

"It's [going to] give a lot of hope," Rodrigues said. "There's a lot of people in the city that know me; some that know me for bad and some for good."

The Uncornered Project is an initiative of non-profit College Bound Dorchester CEO Mark Culliton. His portrait is about losing his father; that story resonated with people who heard.

"Think about how we can 'uncorner' our narratives about, 'there will always be gang violence,' or, 'there are certain communities in Boston that will always be under-resourced or underserved,'" he said.

The Uncornered Project is the only national program that provides a stipend. They not only expect their members to go to college, they demand it.

"Just going to prison and being able to get out and have the support from College Bound to help me out, to put me through school and get me my first job when I came home, it showed me a whole lot," said former gang member Luis Diaz.

Diaz's story from prison to college graduate and father inspired Floria Vives, visiting with friends from Lawrence.

"That's something that you can feel in your heart," Vives said.

"Mayor Walsh, I didn't know he battled alcoholism and my father just passed from alcoholism so, again, goosebumps," said Jessalyn, a Boston native.

To read select stories from The Uncornered Project click here.