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In a new documentary, The Interrupters, airing on the PBS program Frontline this past week follows the daily of three Violence Interrupters who try to protect their Chicago communities from the violence they once employed. The cycle of violence and its causes are examined and interpreted throw the eyes of ex-gang members who are now working to stop violence in Chicago neighbor hoods. In watching the film the same struggles that public school teachers face every day in class in the most at risk schools in Chicago. One of the most interesting parts of the movie is when the organization Cease Fire is having a group meeting discussing the Derrion Albert murder.

In a room full of experts on street violence the blame was squarely put on Chicago Public Schools for forcing the conditions that exacerbated gang and interpersonal tension across neighborhoods when students had no free choice to attend a neighbor hood school. Instead students had to travel long disturbances through opposing gang turfs to get to an open enrollment public school. In a shortened clip blame was squarely put on the decisions to close Carver High school and converting it to a military school with selective enrollment thereby forcing students to find another school to attend. The closest school to attend was miles away across gang turf. That school was Fenger High School that was recently turned around by the school board.

The turnaround meant that veteran staff were all fired and replaced with new staff who did not know the history of the area nor the rivalries between students. As seen in the clip it is clear that the responsibility of Derrion Albert’s murder is on the decision of the Chicago Board of education to close schools and fire staff without first involving the community and experts who understand the history of Chicago.

Here is the link to the shorten clip

Past Posts Regarding Violence in Chicago Schools
Bloody Days in Chicago - Déjà vu
Murder of Derrion Albert was a Turnaround School

Below is the full description of the film and link to the entire movie.

Watch The Interrupters (Graphic Language) on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.

About the Film

The Interrupters tells the moving and surprising stories of three Violence Interrupters who try to protect their Chicago communities from the violence they once employed. From acclaimed director Steve James and bestselling author Alex Kotlowitz, this film is an unusually intimate journey into the stubborn persistence of violence in our cities. Shot over the course of a year out of Kartemquin Films, The Interrupters captures a period in Chicago when it became a national symbol for the violence in our cities. During that period, the city was besieged by high-profile incidents, most notably the brutal beating of Derrion Albert, a Chicago High School student, whose death was caught on videotape.

The film’s main subjects work for an innovative organization, CeaseFire. It was founded by an epidemiologist, Gary Slutkin, who believes that the spread of violence mimics the spread of infectious diseases, and so the treatment should be similar: go after the most infected, and stop the infection at its source. One of the cornerstones of the organization is the “Violence Interrupters” program, created by Tio Hardiman, who heads the program. The Interrupters — who have credibility on the streets because of their own personal histories — intervene in conflicts before they explode into violence.

In The Interrupters, Ameena Matthews, whose father is Jeff Fort, one of the city’s most notorious gang leaders, was herself a drug ring enforcer. But having children and finding solace in her Muslim faith pulled her off the streets and grounded her. In the wake of Derrion Albert’s death, Ameena becomes a close confidante to his mother, and helps her through her grieving. Ameena, who is known among her colleagues for her fearlessness, befriends a feisty teenaged girl who reminds her of herself at that age. The film follows that friendship over the course of many months, as Ameena tries to nudge the troubled girl in the right direction.

Cobe Williams, scarred by his father’s murder, was in and out of prison, until he had had enough. His family – particularly a young son – helped him find his footing. Cobe disarms others with his humor and his general good nature. His most challenging moment comes when he has to confront a man so bent on revenge that Cobe has to pat him down to make sure he’s put away his gun. Like Ameena, he gets deeply involved in the lives of those he encounters, including a teenaged boy just out of prison and a young man from his old neighborhood who’s squatting in a foreclosed home.

Eddie Bocanegra is haunted by a murder he committed when he was seventeen. His CeaseFire work is a part of his repentance for what he did. Eddie is most deeply disturbed by the aftereffects of the violence on children, and so he spends much of his time working with younger kids in an effort to both keep them off the streets and to get support to those who need it – including a 16-year-old girl whose brother died in her arms. Soulful and empathic, Eddie, who learned to paint in prison, teaches art to children, trying to warn them of the debilitating trauma experienced by those touched by the violence.

The Interrupters follows Ameena, Cobe and Eddie as they go about their work, and while doing so reveals their own inspired journeys of hope and redemption. The film attempts to make sense of what CeaseFire’s Tio Hardiman calls, simply, “the madness”

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    revsue, peptabysmal, slatsg, alizard

    Those that know, do. Those that understand, teach. -Aristotle

    by Hyde Park Johnny on Tue Feb 21, 2012 at 05:00:04 PM PST

  •  What I find to be unbelievable is that a program (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    slatsg, alizard

    that yielded results like this would become the model for a  national plan.

  •  I am stunned... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    What is going on?

    I grew up on the southside,
    graduated from Fenger back in the day...
    it was one of the top high schools in the city.

    But times change... I know.
    Now living in PA, I am shocked with the
    changes in my hometown.

    This country has de-volved into bitter
    sides; the top 1% locks itself behind
    high walls, and all the energy, opportunity,
    streams of life that once brought forth a
    flourishing working class, into the promise
    of a middle class life has been sucked dry..

    Why does violence destroy life?
    Because there is no where else to go,
    and no nourishment to grow into life itself.

    There is no more American dreams...

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