More than 300 youths and community members were invited to see “The Interrupters,” a documentary film that follows three “violence interrupters” into the “war zones” of Chicago. The interrupters, who were once convicted criminals, work with troubled youth and repeat offenders to change their lives for the better.
“Our main motto is ‘reduce the shooting and killing,’ ” said Ricardo “Cobe” Williams, one of the featured violence interrupters in the film.
Sponsored by the city’s Neighborhood Improvement Development Corp. (NIDC) and Harley-Davidson Motor Co., “The Interrupters” was shown twice at the Times Theater, 5906 W. Vliet St.
The documentary made its Milwaukee debut at the city’s annual film festival in September, and was brought back in November by University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee at the Union Theater. David Weber, community outreach liaison at NIDC, heard about the film and wanted to share the story of CeaseFire Chicago’s violence interrupters.
“I thought it would be inspiring to show [it to] the youth our department worked with over the summer,” said Weber, “as well as to adults in our neighborhoods.”
Members of a half dozen youth organizations attended the first screening. Audience members on the second night included Mayor Tom Barrett and aldermen Michael Murphy, 10th District, and Ashanti Hamilton, 1st District, along with members of several neighborhood associations.
“I liked the film because it gave the kids’ point of view,” said Carlton Dwindt, 17, a member of North Division Boys and Girls Club. “That’s what the adults miss. I don’t think kids really choose to be out here on the streets, but sometimes that’s what you got to do to survive, and if that’s all you know, you can’t stop it.”
Williams, who hosted the talkback after the film, said it feels good to do the work he does because for so long he was part of the problem in his community. Williams added that it’s important not to give up on people.
“They might not be ready to make that change in their life,” he said as he recalled his own childhood, when his mother was on drugs and his father was absent. “You never know what people are going through.”
CeaseFire was founded in 2000, and the program model has been replicated in New York, Oakland, Phoenix, Philadelphia and Baltimore. The organization is working on starting a program in New Orleans, according to Williams.
“One thing’s for sure, violence is everywhere; it’s not just in Chicago,” he added.