Meet The Interrupters

by

Ameena Matthews

“I have no regrets. I’m not Ameena from the past or Jeff Fort’s daughter. I’m Ameena with a soul, a peacebuilder who is showing others how to be peacebuilders and how to react in certain situations.”

Ameena is in her fifth year working as a violence interrupter for CeaseFire. She also works with the Al Hafeez Initiative, a grassroots organization in the east Englewood and the Greater Grand Crossing area of Chicago, which helps to find resources for young boys and girls to utilize in after-school programs. She also helps to set up Saturday clinics with OB/GYNs to treat young women in the area.

Ameena says the film has helped her reveal her true self and why she does the work that she does. “I have no regrets,” she says about making the film and exposing her personal history. “I’m not Ameena from the past or Jeff Fort’s daughter. I’m Ameena with a soul, a peacebuilder who is showing others how to be peacebuilders and how to react in certain situations.”

Cobe Williams

“I love it because I see myself and others who’ve been through some of the things I’ve been through and it feels good to see people trying to make a difference and do the right thing.”

In late 2011, Cobe became a national trainer for the organization, traveling around the country to train interrupters in cities where new programs are starting up. “Violence isn’t just in Chicago,” he says, explaining CeaseFire’s expanding operations. “It’s everywhere.”

Despite the new position, Cobe still works informally as an interrupter. “Once you build that trust and that bond with people, they’re still gonna reach out to you,” he said. “I still do it because it’s about saving a life.”

Eddie Bocanegra

“I’m really grateful to the people who give and believe in second chances and opportunities. Ameena, Cobe and myself got a second opportunity. I hope people know the value of giving others a second, or even a first, chance.”

Eddie, who is finishing his undergraduate degree in social work from Northeastern Illinois University this spring, still works as a CeaseFire interrupter, but he also has his hands in several other projects.

Last year Eddie began “Grupo Consuelo,” a group through Enlace Chicago that helps parents who have lost a child to violence. Vanessa’s parents, he says, are some of its most active members, reaching out to both victims and perpetrators of violence. Eddie also helps to run a youth art therapy program, assists with a program in which veteran soldiers speak to at-risk youth and works as a part-time organizer for the Community Renewal Society’s Force Project, which aims to create more job opportunities for ex-offenders.

And Eddie recently received some good news: In the fall, he’ll be attending the University of Chicago for a graduate degree from the School of Social Service Administration. “I’m really excited,” he says. “Not many people can say they come from the background I have and still get to go to a school like this one. I want to tap into these educational resources and bring them back to my community.” He added that he’s been fortunate to have had so many people and organizations supporting him along his journey — Northeastern University’s Social Work program, Enlace Chicago, Christ the Savior Church, the CeaseFire organization and his family – and is grateful they gave him a chance.

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