The film is directed by Steve James, produced by Alex Kotlowitx and Steve James, and was released across the UK on 12 August 2011.
What struck me about the film was the following. It gave a stark portrait of communities in which young people expected to die of violence. Communities where grievances (eg arguments over a girl) were a justification for violence. Where death comes before dishonour. Where respect is paramount – earning it and having it. Where young people do not care about tomorrow – they cannot see beyond today. Where young people do not expect to live beyond 30 years of age. Where they have no future and no hope.
We need to give our young people hope and the chance of a better future. We need to give them jobs and a sense of self-worth. It is only by giving our young people education, employment and the hope of a better life, that we can break the destructive hold that gang leaders have on their peers and we can stop our young people being killed on the streets of London with guns and knives.
Cut and pasted from the briefing produced for the preview screening.
CeaseFire is an innovative organization. It was founded by an epidemiologist, Gary Slutkin, who has worked throughout America and the world, battling diseases such as cholera and AIDS. CeaseFire works on the principle that the spread of violence mimics that 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 and who describes the problem, simply, as “the madness”.
The Interrupters — who have credibility on the streets because of their own personal histories — intervene in conflicts before they explode into violence. The Interrupters have stories and histories of violence and gang activity. These “violence interrupters” (their job title) use their own personal experiences and street credibility to work in the communities, interjecting where violence is prone to erupting and working with families to stop the infection and spread. Their work and their insights are informed by their own journeys.
Chicago became a national symbol for gang violence in cities – it 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. Ceasefire and the Violence Interrupters program is operational in Chicago and is making a difference.
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