default avatar
Welcome to the site! Login or Signup below.
Logout|My Dashboard

Changing hearts and minds with music on Lodi’s Eastside

Hispanic church-goers form bands in hopes of reaching gang members

Font Size:
Default font size
Larger font size

Posted: Monday, April 16, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 6:50 am, Mon Apr 16, 2012.

Lodi's Eastside is known for its violent gang activity, thanks to the competing gangs who live east of the Union Pacific Railroad tracks.

However, several Spanish-speaking musicians are turning to God and music to improve the Eastside's image.

"We try to show there's another face on that side of Lodi," said Juan Lima, 30, who attends Iglesia Biblica El Calvario on Hilborn Street.

Lima is a member of a seven-member Christian band called the IBC Band. His band is one of two Spanish-speaking bands trying to reach out to gang members and other Hispanics, exposing them to Christ through music.

"What gang members are looking for is recognition of what they're doing," said Adam Cortes, who is active with Iglesia Bautista de Lodi, a branch of First Baptist Church on North Mills Avenue. "Through music, it's a way to reach out to the kids."

Iglesia Bautista is sponsoring two Lodi Spanish-speaking Christian bands — IBC and Liber7os — in their effort to qualify for a Sacramento Christian music festival in June. The audition will be on Friday at a Sacramento church.

Liber7os consists of a quartet from Lodi Spanish Church of God on Eden Street, also in the Eastside. The group blends Latin rock, fusion, reggae, samba and ska music styles, but they want to appear cool enough to attract non-churchgoeers.

"We look like a heavy metal band," said Manuel Leyva Jr., 28, who performs with Liber7os. "We don't look like Christians out there." They wear black pants and shirts with the group's logo.

The other group, IBC, from Iglesia Biblica El Calvario, plays more what Lima describes as pop rock. The group consists of Hugo Gonzalez, 21, Juan Lima, 30, and Reginaldo Lagarda, 27, of Lodi, plus four Stockton residents — brothers Gustavo, Victor and Luis Hernandez, 25, 31 and 34, respectively, and Isai Telles, 29.

Liber7os consists of brothers Mike Leyva, 20, Oscar Leyva, 16, Manuel Leyva Jr. and Samuel Hernandez, 28, all of Lodi. Oscar Leyva is a junior at Tokay High School, and Mike Leyva is a Tokay graduate.

"With music, we get the attention of gang members," Manuel Leyva Jr. said.

"They're respectful; they come from a Catholic background," Oscar Leyva said of the Eastside gang members who listen to his group's music. "Some of them just leave."

But the goal is to bring the gang members into church.

"A relationship with God is the only way to get them out of gang activity," said Manuel Leyva Jr., whose father is pastor of Lodi Spanish Church of God. "They must know that if they come to God, they will be free."

Both bands hope to qualify for the Luis Palau Festival, to be held June 16 and 17 at Cal Expo in Sacramento. Even if they don't make the cut, band members hope to attract Hispanics from Lodi to the festival to experience Christian music and lead them to God. Lagarda, an IBC band member, said he used to hang out with gang members while attending Lodi Middle School. He transferred to Henderson Community Day School in Lodi and got out of gang activity.

Cortes has his own story. He left his native Mexico in 1988 and moved in with his grandparents in Lodi. He was 17 at the time and didn't speak a word of English.

Today, he is fluent in English, is married with three children and has been an American citizen for five years.

Cortes attended Lodi High School, but he enrolled there too late to graduate. He said he later got his GED and attended San Joaquin Delta College briefly, until his grandparents forced him to live in his own home and get a job.

Cortes said he didn't attend church while growing up in Mexico, but a friend talked to him about God and took him to a service at First Baptist.

"We have two communities in Lodi — the Eastside and the west side, and I want to change that," Cortes said.

Contact reporter Ross Farrow at rossf@lodinews.com.

More about

Rules of Conduct

  • 1 Use your real name. You must register with your full first and last name before you can comment. (And don't pretend you're someone else.)
  • 2 Keep it clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually oriented language.
  • 3 Don't threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
  • 4 Be truthful. Don't lie about anyone or anything. Don't post unsubstantiated allegations, rumors or gossip that could harm the reputation of a person, company or organization.
  • 5 Be nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
  • 6 Stay on topic. Make sure your comments are about the story. Don't insult each other.
  • 7 Tell us if the discussion is getting out of hand. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
  • 8 Share what you know, and ask about what you don't.

Welcome to the discussion.


Popular Stories


Should graduations return to the Grape Bowl?

Lodi Unified leaders are moving Lodi and Tokay high school graduations from the Grape Bowl to the Spanos Center at UOP in Stockton. They cite limited seating, costs and unpredictable weather at the Grape Bowl. But others say graduations at the Grape Bowl are an important Lodi tradition, and one reason many supported renovating the stadium. What do you think?

Total Votes: 98


Mailing List

Subscribe to a mailing list to have daily news sent directly to your inbox.

  • Breaking News

    Would you like to receive breaking news alerts? Sign up now!

  • News Updates

    Would you like to receive our daily news headlines? Sign up now!

  • Sports Updates

    Would you like to receive our daily sports headlines? Sign up now!

Manage Your Lists