Students at Christ the King Jesuit College Prep spoke with some cast members of The Interrupters documentary and other CeaseFire workers on Jan. 21, about what they can do to stop violence in their communities.
The 2011 film features CeaseFire and its Violence Interrupter Initiative on Chicago's South Side. Christ the King, 5088 W. Jackson, hosted a screening of the film, followed by an audience Q&A with a panel featuring CeaseFire members and CTK students.
Principal Temple Payne, speaking at the Martin Luther King Jr. commemorative event, said her school plans to create its own violence prevention project on the West Side
CeaseFire Illinois Director Tio Hardiman, who created the Interrupter Initiative, said the most important way for the students to combat violence and help people in the community is to stay focused in school.
"This is not a joke," Hardiman told the students and audience members after a screening of the film at the school. "The violence is real serious, but try to raise the bar and take your life to a higher level by taking advantage of the educational system at Christ the King."
Hardiman offered another piece of advice: try not to get caught up with a negative crowd.
"You have to be careful when you have a conversation with people, because everybody has a crazy cousin, right?" he said. "So you get into an argument with somebody. They may not do (anything) to you, but they're going to tell their crazy cousin, and next thing you know you've got 10 guys waiting on you after school."
Derrick Green of CeaseFire Austin said it's OK to disagree with people, but it's not OK to turn to violence. Growing up in Austin, just up the street from where Christ the King is located, Green recalled that a lot of people in the neighborhood didn't make it.
"I was one guy to come up with the rest of these guys up here to make something of myself, which I know you all can do too, because I see a lot of promise and future out here," he said. "Only thing you have to do is stay focused."
One audience member asked the school's student body president, senior Sharieff Robinson, if preventing bullying was something student government considered working on to combat violence.
"We have no problem cooperating with that. What a good point, bullying," Robinson said. "We face that every day. We face that in school. We face that on the streets. We face that at home."
One student said that the community needs more parents willing to help the youth in the area. Another student said, "young black men are lost."
"We need some guidance," the student said. "We need somewhere to go to change our life."
It's also up to parents and community leaders to be positive role models for the youth, Green, Hardiman and other CeaseFire members said. But, they said, it ultimately comes down to each individual.
"There's a lot of things going on in the area," Green said. "There's a lot of things going on on the journey's home. We want you all to know that you all are the future, and everything that's out here you all can have."