Ameena Mathews has the toughest and riskiest job by any standards. She is a Violence Interrupter specialist, that’s right, she intercepts and mediates conflicts in tough Chicago neighborhoods before they escalate into more serious violence, such as homicide. She works for the Ceasefire initiative, a Chicago Project for Violence Prevention at the University of Illinois at the Chicago School of Public Health.
The daughter of Jeff Fort, one of the largest gang leaders in the history of Chicago outside of Al-Capone, and a former gang member herself, she is no stranger to violence, having lived it. She is now determined to break the mindset that violence is the only way to resolve issues, hence her work with high risk youth; youth who deal in drugs and gangs, and who see violence as a normal way of life. Because of her passion for the welfare of the community and her ability to communicate with young people, she is able to get in places where even men cannot get in. As a result of the respect she has earned from the community, she has been effective in mediating numerous conflicts and organized peace summits.
She also works with Al Hafeez Initiative which is a grassroots organization that helps find resources for boys and girls to utilize in after school programs.
In 2011 she became a subject of an award-winning documentary, ‘The Interrupters,’ which showcased Ameena and three other Violence Interrupters working with the community to break the cycle of violence and teach the community how to deal with issues in a non-violent way. The documentary is worth your time, you can watch it by clicking on this link.
You can also watch Ameena Mathews receiving a BET Black Girls Rock award
and Ameena being interviewed by Stephen Colbert
Ameena Mathews has taught us that no matter what your past, you can turn your life around and give it a purpose. Here’s to a very brave Muslim woman.
Peace and blessings