First lady Dr. Jill Biden spoke with city leaders and employees at Homeboy Bakery and Homegirl Cafe in Los Angeles Friday.
The visits were part of the first lady’s larger trip through Los Angeles and Burbank. She first arrived at the Hollywood Burbank Airport on Thursday and spoke at an invitation-only Democratic National Committee event Friday morning.
During the quiet, intimate event, the first lady conversed with Homeboy employees Johanna Carbajal and Eugene Walker about how they got involved with Homeboy Industries. Carbajal shared how at the age of 19, she got pregnant, but with the help of Homeboy she attended community college and is now preparing for law school.
Homeboy Industries began with the intention of helping those involved with gangs in East Los Angeles. It was established in 1988 by Father Gregory Boyle. Nearly 35 years later, the group has grown into the Homeboy Global Network whose mission, according to their website, is “to work with organizations across the globe to create therapeutic communities that offer job skills training, cost-free programs and services, and social enterprise employment.”
Biden visited two of Homeboy Industries’ most well known businesses, Homeboy Bakery and Homegirl Cafe. Both of these businesses are housed under one building, where they provide fresh food that includes baked goods.
Other notable visitors, including Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, member of Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Hilda Solis and acting assistant secretary of labor Brent Parton, also took part in the private discussion facilitated by Boyle.
Although the first lady gave no public remarks, she took time to tour the facility and sit down for a conversation with Boyle and Homeboy employees. Those who got the opportunity to speak with the first lady felt her presence was important to the mission of Homeboy Industries.
“I was nervous at first in the morning, but after waiting so long, I got kind of used to it,” Carbajal said. “[She] was just a regular person. I just tried to think of it like that, but it was a privilege.”
With less than two months until midterms, this trip to Los Angeles is part of a broader fundraising effort for the Democratic party. NBC News reported that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has $54.1 million on hand from fundraising, more than double what Republicans have. Tickets for the event on Friday morning before her visit to Homeboy Industries started at $5,000 per person, according to Deadline.
Despite the excitement around the first lady’s visit to the bakery and cafe, some Republicans have focused on the fundraiser and called Biden hypocritical for attending.
In a Thursday interview with City News Service, Republican National Committee’s California and Nevada director of communication Hallie Balch said “[f]irst lady Jill Biden’s trip to Los Angeles to attend a lavish fundraiser while Californians are struggling amidst historic inflation and 13 consecutive days of rising gasoline prices is tone deaf, to say the least.”
Despite the criticism, many of those within the Homeboy community are excited for a future where they are now recognized by someone as powerful as the first lady.
“[She’s] one of the most powerful ladies in the world. And to come and recognize Homeboy is such a huge blessing,” Homeboy employee Myles White said. “That just means we’re on the right path and doing what’s right.”
Father Boyle was especially proud to have the opportunity to speak with Biden and share about an organization that has supported communities across the globe for 35 years.
“[I]t was an honor that she came here and that … she was able to see what we do,” Boyle said. “Homies and homegirls told their stories and that was really powerful.”