Why every city resident must see Chicago film, "The Interrupters"

Why every city resident must see Chicago film, "The Interrupters"

Many of us spent our weekend relaxing–playing with our kids, walking our dogs or maybe running a few errands. Maybe you lit up the grill and made some hamburgers or shish kabobs.

While we spent our days off kicking back, violence was exploding in our city. Seven people were killed and 22 wounded across the city this weekend, the majority on the South and West sides. It’s almost too easy to give the totals. It’s much harder to read each one.


Marquis Strong, 26, was shot in the chest in the Woodlawn neighborhood at 11:54 p.m. and was later pronounced dead at the hospital.

A 15-year-old boy was shot and killed in Peterson Park at 4:32 p.m. His friend was also wounded.


An Austin woman, Robin Winston, 53, was shot and killed at 6:20 p.m.

Floyd Peterson, 32,  was shot in the Park Manor neighborhood at 8 p.m. He died later at the hospital.

Sean Avery, 22, died after being shot  10:48 p.m. in the Stony Island Park Neighborhood. A man with him was also wounded.

At 8 p.m. in Humboldt Park,  a man in his 30s was shot and wounded.

Cynthia Barnes, 39, was pushed from a third-floor window in Gage Park after neighbors heard man and woman arguing. She did not survive.

A man was shot in the arm in Washington Park at 12:30 a.m.

Twenty minutes later, three people were wounded in the same neighborhood in a drive-by shooting.

At 1:15 a.m., two men, 26 and 30, were shot by a male gunman in Gage Park.

At 2 a.m., two women were shot and wounded in North Lawndale.


Beto Rodriguez, 28, was found dead in Back of the Yards, shot at 3:oo a.m.

A 19-year-old man was shot in the leg in Washington Park at 12:30 a.m.

At 2:25 a.m, three men were arrested after a standoff with police in which one drew a gun. Police fired at the man, but he was not hit.

At 1 a.m. in Albany Park, two men, 30 and 21 were shot in a vehicle.

At 1:27 a.m., another man was shot in the head in Morgan Park.

At 1:33 a.m., a 17-year-old man was shot in the leg in Austin.

At 2:15 a.m., a 20-year-old man was shot in the arm in West Englewood.

A 16-year-old boy was shot in the face in Washington Park at 3:00 a.m.

At 5 a.m. Sunday, 25-year-old man was shot in the leg in West Pullman.

In Hermosa at 5 a.m.,  24-year-old man was shot in the leg.

In Austin, 2 men were shot when another man pulled out a gun in an argument at 5:30 a.m.

LePaul Williams, 35, shot Brian Stalling, 23, on the Far South Side at 1:00 a.m.

Are you still with me after all that? Thanks. I know it’s not easy to read. But for many people in our city, it’s not just something they read in the paper. It’s real life. There’s a movie coming out, The Interrupters, which shows us this life in detail, chronicling a year of heroic efforts by the organization, CeaseFire, to quell violence in the city. Take a look:

On Friday, I was with a group of young people who are learning about blogging and journalism at their community center in Austin. We were running through an exercise, writing a quick news story like we were covering the Chicago police. They were flush with details. They decided it was a police shooting, killing Pedro, a 21-year old man, at an intersection not to far from where we were meeting. Pedro, they said, ran when he saw the police because he had a dime bag of weed. Police then shot him in the back.

Having sat through this exercise with groups of teens who can’t come up with one single detail for a story, I said, “Wow, you guys are really creative.”

A young man looked at me and said, “Lady, we’re not creative. This is real life.”

There’s a dividing line in Chicago, between those of us who live this arena of daily violence and those of us who watch like spectators.

If you live in the midst of this cycle of violence, you need to see the creative work that violence interrupters at CeaseFire are doing. If you, like me, live outside of it, you need to see what is really going on in our city.

Kartemquin films’ The Interrupters needs to be seen by every single person who lives in Chicago.  Please–if the list at the top of this post disturbs you, go see this movie. And then tell your friends. The closing song of the movie, also in the trailer, pleads, “Please, don’t give up on me.” We can’t give up on our city, on our people. As tough as it is, we’ve got to turn our faces towards it and really see what’s going on if anything is going to be done.

Photo courtesy of Kartemquin Films

© Community Renewal Society 2011


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  • I disagree with you about those who live in violent communities needing to see this movie. I say that because I'm one of them. While I respect the efforts of Ceasefire, we all must admit that more must be done.

    Gang mediation is one thing; Gang rehabilitation is another. It takes more than just interrupting a fight to change things. You have to change the mindset of the violent folks. Unfortunately, we have a system of institutionalized racism, poverty, and injustice that makes such a goal a difficult one to reach.

    For one thing, we have to put more money into strengthening families instead of giving 50,000 dollar a year salaries to folks who are just breaking up fights. You'd save so much more money if you worked on the problem at the front end than the back end. We have to make sure parents can have part-time jobs while they finish their education. We want parents to work from home or have flexible hours at work so they can keep an eye on their children. That's not the whole solution but it's a start.

    We can't keep throwing money at the problem. Because if we do that, the money goes quickly but the problem remains. I'd prefer for the problem to go and the money to stay.

    Great post, though.

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