Ameena Matthews, Violence Interrupter
It takes a lot of courage to step into fights on the streets of Chicago, but that's exactly what Ameena Matthews does every single day. Ameena is a Violence Interrupter with Cure Violence, a non-profit organization that works to reverse the spread of violence in cities across America, and on today's show, she tells Jeff all about her line of work, and why it's so important to her.
As a violence interrupter, Ameena protects her community by placing herself in the middle of fights as they're happening, with the goal of helping young people understand the consequences of what could potentially happen next and encourage them to make better choices. Ameena, the daughter of one of Chicago's most infamous gang leaders, is determined to rid her neighborhood - and the entire city - of the senseless street violence she grew up witnessing.
Putting yourself in harm's way by inserting yourself into the middle of a gang dispute requires bravery, but Ameena doesn't get frightened. "I don't get scared," she told us backstage. "I know that the stakes are very high to save a life, as well as [when] someone decides to take someone's life... no, I'm not afraid. Because people know that when Ameena comes around, they know that she comes with a hand not to harm anybody. It's not a closed fist, it's not in my pocket... And they know I'm there to make the situation better instead of worse."
Ameena is one of three Violence Interrupters featured in the documentary 'The Interrupters,' which played at the Sundance Film Festival and is now available on DVD and Blu-Ray - more information about it here.
"For someone that is just watching me speak about violence for the first time," says Ameena, "you can go to www.cureviolence.org, and learn a lot more about what we do as Violence Interrupters, as well as outreach workers, and you can donate, or donate your time."