By CAITLIN ESCH
Before she found God, Monica Ortiz, 24, sold drugs on 16th Street in the Mission to fund her addiction. Tuesday night, she recorded her story to air this weekend on KIQI 1010 radio.
The 40-minute narrative begins with her first taste of marijuana at age 12 and ends with her conversion experience several years later.
“I used to smoke a lot of weed, drink a lot of alcohol… pop a lot of ecstasy,” said Ortiz before recording. “I’ll be talking about what God took me out of.”
Ortiz’ segment will air on Yocal’s radio program, which shares an hour-long slot with Ventana a la Comunidad, or Window on the Community, an hour long program hosted by Omar Gallego.
It’s these narratives that Yocal, a youth rehabilitation program in the Mission District, hopes will inspire others in trouble, said Julio Escobar, who is both founder of Yocal and Communications Coordinator for the Archdiocese of San Francisco.
“The radio inspires them,” said Escobar who facilitates the recordings of former drug addicts, gang members and other troubled teenagers. “They don’t get that kind of attention usually. When they talk they’re all smiles—they become kids again.”
In the five years that Escobar has been recording, approximately 60 rehabbed youth have been interviewed. Escobar hopes their stories—delivered with a religious slant—will help others turn away from violence and drugs. In addition to his work with Yocal, Escobar directs Comunidad San Dimas, a Catholic group through St. Peter’s Catholic Church that counsels incarcerated youth.
Escobar can relate. His brother died of a drug overdose, after combining cocaine, alcohol and marijuana in the nineties.
“For me, it was my brother’s death,” Escobar said. “I started going to the juvenile justice center soon after.”
Ortiz spoke about getting into drugs as a young teen, shoplifting and drug dealing to support her habit, and eventually waking up one morning covered in bruises, barely remembering what had happened.
She raps. Religious rap. She performed “Calling All Soldiers” Tuesday night. Hunched over the microphone in the cramped recording studio—tucked away in an upper floor of the US Bank on Mission Street—Ortiz looked only slight nervous.
“God almighty is in me, flowing all in me/He put his holy spirit I’m my life, now I can die/ I got immortal life/ He put a double edged sword in my mouth and in my hand so I can use it to restore my soul.”
“Youth can easily be influenced when given attention—good or bad—because adolescents are thirsty for love,” said Escobar after listening to Ortiz’ story.
The rehabbed rapper closed by repeating the moment God intervened, almost literally pulling a joint from her lips.
“God liberated me from marijuana,” she said. “One day after summer school, God spoke to me. It was the first time I heard his voice. I wasn’t high either.”