Katiana Krawchenko / WUFT-FM
After the national attention garnered by a racially charged You Tube video by two Gainesville High School students, bullying has become a quest of many who look to put an end to it. Ameena Matthews, a member of Chicago Cease Fire, which aims to stop violence before it begins, took a trip to the Gainesville area to meet with community members to discuss efforts to stop bullying and violence in the county. She’s traveled to various facilities around Gainesville including the juvenile detention center. Florida’s 89.1, WUFT-FM’s Katiana Krawchenko joined Matthews at the Northwest Gainesville Boys and Girls Club today.
Just prior to arriving in Gainesville, Chicago Cease Fire Violence Interrupter Ameena Matthews talked with Florida’s 89.1, WUFT-FM’s Donna Green-Townsend:
Leaders at the Boys and Girls Club in Gainesville say the lighthearted sound of children’s play at the center does not adequately reflect the trouble many of them face. That’s why Ameena Matthews talked to a group of children at the center today. The Chicago native was brought to Gainesville by the River Phoenix Center for Peace-Building and is a Senior Violence Interrupter at Chicago Cease Fire. It’s a group which aims to interrupt homicides and gang violence before they escalate into dangerous crims. Matthews believes that message needs to start when children are young, so she sat with the children in a circle on this afternoon, discussing ways communication can target violence before it even starts.
Matthews has been in the children’s shoes. She is a former gang member and traveled down a dangerous road before she started teaching about violence to children. And bullying was a big part of it. She told them of a scary experience she had as a child.
Ameena Matthews described how violence spreads, like a disease, and that the virus needs to be halted before it spreads. Matthews’ work with Chicago Cease Fire was featured in a documentary called “The Interrupters.” That video will be shown tonight at 6:30 at the PK Yonge Performing Arts Center. It is also sponsored by GPD Chief Tony Jones, Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell, the Juvenile Justice Council, the Black On Black Crime Task Force and the River Phonenix Center For Peacebuilding. There will be a question and answer session after the screening.