By Jenny Triplett – Prisonworld Magazine
Ameena Fort-Matthews is a violence interrupter for CeaseFire, a not-for profit program in Chicago that views violence as a disease that spreads throughout the community and needs to be â€œinterruptedâ€ to stop the cycle.No stranger to the streets, Fort-Matthews grew up in Chicago, and is the daughter of infamous Chicago mob boss Jeff Fort. She said by the time she was a teenager, she was hustling with a gang of guys.
â€œThereâ€™s guys and girls, and I was one of them, that felt like in order to protect your neighborhood itâ€™s just like, hell, weâ€™re in Afghanistan and our streets is a war zone and that we got to protect it,â€ she said. â€œThatâ€™s what these young guys and girls are feelingâ€¦that they are protecting whatever it is at they are protecting.â€
CeaseFire has been operating in Chicago for 15 years. With the assistance of former gang members and street hustlers like Fort-Matthews, the group aims to stop the spread of gun violence using mediation techniques. Their work was highlighted in the documentary The Interrupters, which aired in Omaha last summer. It showed them stepping in to some dangerous situations â€“ talking down gang members and working with them to prevent retaliations.
â€œWhat Iâ€™m trying to get them to understand is that you donâ€™t have to kill anybody to resolve a conflict and to get them to change their mindset on how they think about violence,â€ she said.
CLICK HERE for more information on The Interrupters