UPDATE: Tonight, February 14th, Frontline (on your local PBS station) is airing a special about ‘The Interrupters’. I hope you’ll watch it or record it to watch later.
One night, while driving in my car, I tuned into National Public Radio’s Fresh Air. Terry Gross was interviewing Steve James and Ameena Matthews about the documentary film titled “The Interrupters”.
Directed and photographed by Steve James, and produced by Alex Kotlowitz and Steve James, “the documentary tells the moving and surprising story of three dedicated individuals who try to protect their Chicago communities from the violence they themselves once employed. These “violence interrupters” (their job title) – who have credibility on the street because of their own personal histories – intervene in conflicts before the incidents explode into violence. Their work and their insights are informed by their own journeys, which, as each of them point out, defy easy characterization.” [The Interrupters’ Press Kit.]
Though I heard this particular radio program days ago, the story is in my heart and on my mind.
The film focuses on the works of three people within The Violence Interrupters Project, Ameena Matthews, Cobe Williams and Eddie Bocanegra. All three individuals are determined to protect their Chicago communities from the same kind of violence in which they once engaged.
Here is the trailer for the film The Interrupters:
Quite powerful, right?
I have a tendency to come across as an overly simplistic person. Who knows, perhaps I am overly simplistic. Still, my simplistic nature energizes me to the point that I believe – genuinely – I can make a difference. I’m not worried about the details. For once, I will not allow myself to over-think the action. I will just act.
Yes, well, sometimes when I’ve acted – I’ve hit the wall. Hard. Call me insane, because I will get right back up and try again.
We all have a gift. By that I mean, I believe all of us have experienced something negative in life, which enables us to relate to others who have experienced or are experiencing a similar negative thing.
Whether you have experienced violence, addiction, depression, sickness, etc., you are not alone. There are others out there, who have experienced something along the same lines.
The Violence Interrupters experienced violence. They witnessed death, drugs, pain and sorrow. In an effort to redeem themselves and save the lives of others, these incredible people are stepping up and interrupting their community. They literally walk into the middle of a fight and interrupt the battle.
I do not have the experience that comes from living in the inner-city. I am unable to relate to gangs, drugs and street violence.
This does not mean I am not able to interrupt. All of us have the ability to interrupt. All of us have the ability to be an Interrupter. You just need to step up, speak, listen and be transparent. Having walked in a pair of shoes similar to the person struggling is priceless. You are a valuable resource for them.
You can help, if only by listening.
You can help, if only to show the person the other side is attainable.
Will the person who is struggling be receptive to your help? Maybe not. But, how do you know, until you try? You don’t need to overtake the person, just relate to the person using your own similar experience.
Remember how you felt when you were caught up in your own private mess? How deep down inside, you wanted someone to see you, but you didn’t want to ask to be seen. You wanted someone to help you, but you didn’t want to ask for help.
You were scared, and the fear paralyzed you.
Plus, there were all the steps you would need to take to get better – make changes – get help – oh, so many steps; so many hoops to jump; oh, so very complicated. As the list of complications piled up in your mind, you started to shut down. Your energy was zapped before you had a chance to tap into it. If only ….
If only someone could relate. If only someone got it. If only someone could interrupt your spiral…
Someone needs you to interrupt. Do it. Don’t overtake – just relate.