Interrupting the Bloodshed

Interrupting the Bloodshed

A DIFFERENT PATH: Ameena Matthews, whose father is Jeff Fort, one of the Chicago’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. (Photo: Courtesy of Kartemquin Films)

Youth violence in Chicago has reached epidemic levels, with gunfire plaguing neighborhoods across the metropolitan area. It is a disease that is responsible for claiming the lives of dozens of young people, many of whom were engaged in activities as innocent as walking to school or playing in their yards when their lives were cut short.

Each day innocent bystanders are being killed due to the incessant gunfire. In an effort to counteract the violence, a number of community activists have come together in a collaborative effort with hopes of “interrupting” the bloodshed in the city’s streets. Their stories are told in the award-winning documentary The Interrupters. Directed by acclaimed filmmaker Steve James (Hoop Dreams) and produced by bestselling author Alex Kotlowitz (There Are No Children Here), The Interrupters chronicles the lives of three Chicagoans who were once participants in the destruction but who turned their lives around to become “violence interrupters.” Now they are working to restore peace to their community.

Last month, a collection of community organization, including the South Side Help Center, CeaseFire, and the University of Chicago Medicine, partnered with the filmmakers of The Interrupters to host a movie screening and panel discussion on addressing the youth violence problem. UrbanFaith attended the event and chatted with the students, community leaders, and anti-violence experts who participated in the forum.

Check out the video below for an overview of the event, and then visit TheInterrupters.com and InterruptViolence.com for more information about this important grass-roots initiative.

Dajae Coleman Had a Reason to Live

Dajae Coleman Had a Reason to Live

MODEL STUDENT AND CITIZEN: Dajae Coleman, 14, was walking home from a party with friends when he was gunned down. Police say he was not the intended target. (Family photo)

Chicago-area residents were reminded once again of the senselessness of gang violence when 14-year-old high-school freshman Dajae Coleman was shot and killed as he walked home from a party with friends on Saturday night in Evanston, Illinois. It’s an all-too-familiar story: a “model citizen” and “well-mannered” young man’s life needlessly taken. (Police say he was not the shooter’s intended target.)

Making the story even more poignant was news today that Coleman’s school and family released an essay that he had written two days before his murder. Titled “My Belief Statement,” it’s a heartfelt expression of his love for his family and community. “My mom pushes me to do better, she always tells me to never settle,” Coleman wrote. “I think the kids that are on the street not doing anything with their lives don’t get the type of support they need from their family. They probably don’t have anyone to look up to.”

The tragic irony is that Coleman did have positive influences and a bright future. But in a culture of ever-increasing violence and disregard for life, that didn’t matter.

Still, people are finding hope in the life-affirming message that Dajae Coleman left behind. In a Chicago Tribune video, a visitor to the makeshift memorial site for Coleman described the young man’s essay as “prophetic, profound, and part of [Dajae’s] legacy.”

We can only hope that other young people — and adults — will read the essay and be inspired to pursue a more positive direction in life. Just like Dajae.

You can read Dajae’s essay here.

Ann Coulter: Civil Rights Should Only Be for Blacks

Ann Coulter: Civil Rights Should Only Be for Blacks

DEFENDING BLACKS?: Ann Coulter claims the Democratic party has made ‘civil rights’ about Hispanics, feminists, and gay rights rather than blacks. (Photo: Gage Skidmore/Wikipedia)

Interesting comments from conservative rabble-rouser Ann Coulter about blacks and civil rights this past Sunday on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos. According to Coulter, the Democratic party is dropping its concern about the civil rights of blacks (whom it presumably, according to Coulter, has in its pocket) to focus on Latinos and the gay community.

Though with Coulter every quote is equally explosive, here’s one of her more potent statements from yesterday:

“I think the way liberals have treated blacks like children and many of their policies have been harmful to blacks, at least they got the beneficiary group right. There is the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow laws. We don’t owe the homeless. We don’t owe feminists. We don’t owe women who are desirous of having abortions or gays who want to get married to one another. That’s what civil rights has become for much of the left.”

What do you think? Is Ann Coulter right? Have Democrats abandoned blacks for other interest groups? Is identity politics undermining the unity of the Democratic party? Should civil rights only be considered a “black” issue?