Students at Christ the King Jesuit College Prep recently spoke with some cast members of the Interrupters documentary and other CeaseFire workers about what they can do to stop violence in their communities.
Principal Temple Payne said at the afternoon discussion, held Jan. 21 to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr., that the school, 5088 W. Jackson Blvd., plans to create a violence prevention project on the West Side.
Tio Hardiman, CeaseFire Illinois director and creator of the Violence 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 some members of the public after a screening of the Interrupters.
“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, he said.
“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 with CeaseFire Austin said it’s OK to disagree with people, but it’s not OK to turn to violence.
Green, who grew up in Austin just up the street from Christ the King, said he’s “seen a lot of people in this neighborhood come up that 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,” Green said. “Only thing you have to do is stay focused.”
One audience member asked the school’s student body president, Sharieff Robinson, a senior who sat on stage with the other panelists, if the student government would consider working to prevent bullying as part of the school’s plan to combat violence.
“We have no problem cooperating with that,” Robinson said. “What a good point, bullying. We face that every day. We face that in school. We face that on the streets. We face that at home.”
One student said during the questions and answers that the community needs more parents willing to help the youth in the area.
And another student said, “young black men are lost.”
“We need some guidance,” the student said. “We need somewhere to go to change our life.”
Green, Hardiman and other CeaseFire members agreed it’s also up to parents and community leaders to be positive role models for the youth, but 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 journeys home. We want you all to know that you all are the future, and everything that’s out here you all can have.”
Hardiman encouraged the students to call someone at CeaseFire if they think someone they know may be in trouble that way CeaseFire “can get on the front-end of it.”
“People may not shoot if they have the right person to talk with them,” he said. “Sometimes young people get caught into a conflict at the moment, and people are not thinking right, and you need people to help you think.”