Ameena Matthews

  • Aired:  02/01/12
  •  | Views: 257,530

CeaseFire's Ameena Matthews explores how her tough inner-city upbringing informs her work as a peacemaker among Chicago's gangs. (6:57)

>> Stephen: WELCOME BACK,

EVERYBODY.

MY GUEST TONIGHT IS WORKING TO

END GANG VIOLENCE.

SHE SHOULD HAVE FIVE TEACH THEM

POETRY.

PLEASE WELCOME AMEENA MATTHEWS.

( CHEERS AND APPLAUSE ).

MISS MOOTS -- THANK YOU SO MUCH

FOR BEING HERE.

I LOVE THOSE LIGHTNING BOLT

EARRINGS.

>> I WORE THEM JUST FOR YOU.

>> Stephen: YOUNG LADY YOU'RE

WHAT'S CALLED A VIOLENCE

INTERRUPTER.

>> I AM.

>> Stephen: FOR A GROUP

CALLED C-SPIRE.

>> YES.

>> Stephen: AND YOU'RE

FEATURED IN THE DOCUMENTARY

""THE INTERRUPTED"" WHICH WILL

BE ON FRONTLINE FEBRUARY 14 AT

9:00 P.M.

VIOLENCE INTERRUPTER.

>> YES.

>> Stephen: I'M AN

INTERRUPTER MYSELF.

BUT HOW DO YOU INTERRUPT

VIOLENCE?

THAT SOUND LIKE A VERY DANGEROUS

THING TO DO.

>> YES.

YOU ARE AN INTERRUPTER IN A RUDE

WAY.

I'M A VIOLENCE INTERRUPTER IN

SAVING LINES.

>> Stephen: I SAVE OUR

NATION.

>> YEAH, WELL, I'VE SEEN YOU DO

IT.

( LAUGHTER ).

YES.

>> Stephen: YOU'RE WELCOME,

YOU'RE WELCOME.

SO WHAT DO YOU DO?

>> WE STOP THE TRANSMISSION OF

VIOLENCE FROM ONE PERSON TO

ANOTHER.

>> Stephen: HOW DO YOU KNOW--

HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN VIOLENCE IS

COMING?

>> THE COMMUNITY IS VERY, VERY

INFORMATIVE.

YOU KNOW, WHERE I WORK IS WHERE

I USED TO LIVE.

>> Stephen: IN CHICAGO.

>> IT'S IN CHICAGO, ENGLEWOOD.

ENGLEWOOD IS-- PEOPLE THINK THAT

IT'S VIOLENT, BUT IT'S NOT.

IT'S JUST STRICKEN BY JUST

POVERTY AND LACK OF EDUCATION

AND LACK OF JOBS.

BUT WHEN WE HEAR OF VIOLENCE--

AND SOMETIMES WHEN WE'RE DRIVING

DOWN THE STREET THINGS JUMP OFF,

WHEN YOU LOOK AT THE

DOCUMENTARY, WHEN IT FIRST

STARTED THERE WAS A FIGHT, AND

WE JUST GET RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE

OF IT BECAUSE MY GOAL IS TO SAVE

A LIFE AND TO BE PROACTIVE AND

NOT REACTIVE.

>> Stephen: SO LET'S TAKE A

LOOK AT YOU DOING SOME VIOLENCE

INTERRUPTION.

JIM.

>> AND ALL OF IT IS STUPID.

ALL OF IT IS STUPID.

2:00 IN THE AFTERNOON WHEN THESE

BABIES ARE COMING HOME FROM

SCHOOL AND Y'ALL SHOOTING.

FOR REAL?

THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE FOR ME TO

BE HOLDING THIS BOY, THIS YOUNG

MAN'S OBITUARY.

SCHOOLS, CHURCHES, YOUR MAMA'S

HOUSE, YOUR CARS-- THOSE ARE

SAFE ZONES.

I WAS MAKE SOMETHING REAL STUPID

DECISIONS AND SOME STUPID CALLS.

IT WAS ME, MY LIFE, BLOOD ON MY

HANDS, IN MY HEAD.

STOP.

( CHEERS AND APPLAUSE )

>> Stephen: SO WHY-- WHY ARE

THOSE YOUNG MEN LISTENING TO

YOU?

>> BECAUSE I'M CONSIDERED A

CREDIBLE MESSENGER.

>> Stephen: WHY?

>> I'VE BEEN THERE AND I'VE DONE

THAT.

YOU KNOW, I'VE BEEN OUT THERE ON

THE STREETS OF CHICAGO.

>> Stephen: YOUR DAD IS THE

FOUNDER OF THE AL RUBEINS, MAJOR

GANG FIGURE IN CHICAGO.

DOES THAT GIVE YOU ANY CRED WITH

THESE PEOPLE?

>> YEAH, THAT GIVES ME A LITTLE

BIT.

THAT GIVES ME A LITTLE BIT.

BUT I WAS OUT THERE DOING MY OWN

THING.

I MADE MY OWN NAME ON THE STREET

SO I FIGURED SINCE I GOT OUT,

EXPOSURE, I KNOW BETTER, I HAVE

DONE BETTER, THEN I CAN TAKE IT

BACK TO MY GUYS AND GIRLS AND

LET THEM KNOW.

>> Stephen: SO WHY DOES

SOMEBODY JOIN A GANG?

>> WELL, FOR DIFFERENT REASONS,

STEPHEN.

YOU KNOW, BECAUSE OF WHAT'S

GOING ON AT HOME.

YOU KNOW, THEY MAY FEEL LIKE

THEY'RE NOT GETTING THAT TYPE OF

LOVE OR THE ATTENTION.

HOMES ARE BROKEN.

THERE MAY BE A FARTHER IN A

PENITENTIARIRY, A MOTHER IN A

PENITENTIARIRY, SUBSTANCE ABUSE

ISSUES, BEING RAISED BY THEIR

GRANDPARENTS, WHATEVER.

SO THEY FEEL LIKE THE DISCONNECT

IS THERE.

SO WHEN THEY GO OUT ON THE

STREET AND SEE SOMEBODY TO SAY,

"HEY, LOOK, YOU WANT SOMETHING

TO EAT?

YOU WANT SOME GYM SHOES?

YOU WANT SOME MONEY?"

THAT'S APPEALING TO THEM.

>> Stephen: I WANT ALL OF

THOSE THINGS.

I'M NOT EVEN IN A GANG AND I

WANT THOSE THINGS.

YOU WERE LECTURING THOSE GUYS

ABOUT WHAT HAD HAPPENED IN THAT

NEIGHBORHOOD AND WHAT YOU HAD

DONE AS A CHILD.

>> I WAS HAVING A CONVERSATION

WITH THEM.

I WASN'T LECTURING.

>> Stephen: YOU WEREN'T.

>> NOT AT ALL.

JUST LETTING THEM KNOW --

>> Stephen: YOU'RE NOT SAYING

HEY, GUYS LET'S PUT THE ANGER ON

THE BACK BURNER AND SETTLE THIS

ROCK, PAPER, SCISSORS.

YOU'RE BEING TOUGH WITH THESE

GUYS.

>> ABSOLUTELY.

YOU MENTIONED MY DAD AND YOU

MENTIONED WHAT HE WAS ABOUT, BUT

BACK IN THE DAY IT WAS ABSURD TO

SHOOT AT 2:00 IN THE AFTERNOON

WHEN KIDS ARE COMING HOME FROM

SCHOOL, OR SHOOTING AT A CAR

WHERE YOUR MOM WAS IN.

I WAS EDUCATING THOSE GUYS.

>> Stephen: SO ARE YOU

ACTUALLY SAYING IN THERE, LIKE,

IF YOU'RE GOING TO DO THIS, DO

IT, YOU KNOW, WHERE YOU SHOULD

BE SHOOTING EACH OTHER?

>> NO, I WAS SAYING DON'T DO IT

AT ALL.

>> Stephen: OKAY, OKAY.

>> AND THEY DIDN'T DO IT AT ALL.

>> Stephen: DID THAT STOP?

>> IT STOPPED.

>> Stephen: HOW WOULD YOU

KNOW ABOUT THAT?

IS THERE A BAT SIGNAL?

>> COMMUNICATION.

I'M ALWAYS --

>> Stephen: YOUR SPIDER

SENSES WERE TINGLING.

>> WHAT DO YOU MEAN?

>> Stephen: COME ON!

>> ABSOLUTELY.

WHEN YOU'RE IN A COMMUNITY WHERE

I'M FROM AND YOU SEE ON A DAILY

BASIS KIDS ARE OUTSIDE, THEY'RE

RIDING THEIR BIKES, THE GUYS ARE

PLAYING BASKETBALL WITH A MILK

CRATE, AND THEN YOU DRIVE

THROUGH THERE THE NEXT HOUR, AND

NOBODY'S THERE.

THEN YOUR SENSE GOES UP AND SAY

IT'S GOING TO BE SOMETHING

JUMPING OFF PRETTY SOON.

LET ME FIND OUT.

LET ME SEE WHAT'S GOING ON.

LET ME GET OUT AND ASK

QUESTIONS.

AND NINE TIME-- 10 TIMES OUT OF

10 I GET THOSE QUESTIONS

ANSWERED.

>> Stephen: YOU CALLED

VIOLENCE A DISEASE.

>> IT IS.

>> Stephen: WHAT DO YOU MEAN

BY THAT?

>> YOU KNOW, WHEN I STARTED

WORKING WITH THE PROJECT, I

DIDN'T THINK ABOUT VIOLENCE

BEING A DISEASE.

I THOUGHT ABOUT MY GRANDMOTHER

TAUGHT ME THAT IF SOMEONE HITS

YOU, YOU HIT THEM BACK.

THAT MEANS PROTECTING YOURSELF.

BUT WHAT IT DID WAS, BY ME

HAVING A BIG FAMILY AND THE

OTHER PERSON HAVING A BIG

FAMILY, IF I HIT THAT PERSON

BACK AND THEY HIT ME BACK,

THEY'RE GOING TO GET THEIR CRAZY

COUSIN, THEIR BIG MAMA, THEIR

AUNT, THEIR UNCLE --

>> Stephen: BIG MAMA.

>> I WAS TOLD IF SOMEONE HITS

YOU, HIT THEM BACK.

BUT THEN IF I HIT THEM BACK AND

A PERSON HITS ME BACK, I'VE GOT

A FAMILY THAT WANTS TO PROTECT

ME.

>> Stephen: THAT'S HOW THE

DISEASE SPREADS?

>> IT SPREADS LIKE DIRTY WATER.

I GET IN THE MIDDLE OF IT.

>> Stephen: YOU'RE LIKE AN

ANTIBODY.

>> I'M LIKE AN ANTIBODY.

>> Stephen: YOU'RE LIKE-- IF

YOU'LL PARDON THE EXPRESSION-- A

WHITE BLOOD CELL.

>> I WOULD LIKE TO SAY I'M A

PAPER SACK BROWN BLOOD CELL.

( APPLAUSE ).

>> Stephen: ALL RIGHT, HAPPY

BLACK HISTORY MONTH.

AMEENA MATTHEWS.

"FRONTLINE," THE ROUP, AIRS

FEBRUARY 14 ON PBS.

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