Saturday’s screening of The Interrupters at the Chicago Cultural Center was packed to the gills with 300 people in attendance. The event honored six great Chicago women who work as mentors to young people facing violence and hardships in their neighborhoods, helping them to navigate the difficult terrain of the transition to adulthood. The screening was hosted by Alison Cuddy, host of Eight Forty-Eight on Chicago Public Radio and co-presented by WBEZ, WTTW Channel 11, ITVS, Chicago Foundation for Women, Kartemquin Films, and the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events.
After the film, interrupter Ameena Matthews received a rousing ovation as she came down the aisle to accept her gift, followed by the other honorees: Niambi Jaha-Echols, founder of Camp Butterfly, a summer resident camp experience designed to transform and empower young girls of African descent; Shira Hassan, adult mentor at Young Women’s Empowerment Project, a youth-run member based social justice organizing project led by and for young women, girls, and transgender youth of color with current or former experience in the sex trade and street economy; Jacinda Bullie and Jaquanda Villegas, founders of Kuumba Lynx, a youth hip-hop program that fosters an increase in a participant’s self discovery, self-confidence, expands their world view, and leaves them inspired to continue using art as a means of personal and social expression and community activism; and Mariame Kaba, founder of Project NIA, which offers a new way of thinking about crime and violence through the principles of participatory community justice.
Each guest received a gift bag that included an honorarium from Independent Television Service (ITVS), great films from Kartemquin Films and WTTW, ITVS Community Classroom DVDs for use in their work, and gift items from WBEZ, WTTW, and ITVS. Each honoree spoke about how they connect what we see in The Interrupters with the work they do. Ameena then challenged the audience, asking for their ideas and input on solutions and what we can each do now to change a life and interrupt the cycle of violence.
The discussion showed that no matter how personal the story, great documentaries can act as important catalysts for change when we can use the stories to look at the broader issues and discuss them in an open forum.