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Activist Angela Davis Addresses Gun Violence in Chicago

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Another panel member, Mariame Kaba, assailed police harassment of young people “under the guise of ending gun violence,” abuses which she said have been especially bad this summer. Kaba is founding director of Project NIA, an advocacy, education and capacity-building center with the long-term goal of ending youth incarceration. There can’t be a discussion of gun control without looking at the “structural violence of police, drones and disinvestment” said Kaba to the evening’s most rousing applause.

Also evoking strong applause was “violence interrupter” Ameena Matthews who appears in The Interrupters, a film about Chicago’s CeaseFire anti-violence group, which won a best documentary Spirit Award last year and appeared on Frontline. “I want to stop the transition of violence from one person to another,” said Mathews. “I want to get them before they cross the line and go to the institution where my dad has been for the last 30 years.” Mathews’ father, Jeff Fort, is one of Chicago’s most well-known Chicago gang leaders, credited with forming the Blackstone Rangers in 1959.

Panel member Ryan Lugalia-Hollon with the YMCA Youth Safety and Violence Prevention Initiative agreed that more prisons and guns are not the solution. We need to address drug addiction, gun addiction and the “the breakdown of our community fabric,” he said. It is not acceptable for young people to be on a “path to prison” and it is not acceptable that they think of their “brothers as enemies to kill.”