Acclaimed documentary The Interrupters is shown in series of community events to engage communities impacted by violence

Acclaimed documentary The Interrupters is shown in series of community events to engage communities impacted by violence

The University of Chicago Medicine, Chicago Urban League partner to host the first of six screenings, community panel discussions Monday night

February 24, 2012

The University of Chicago Medicine is teaming up with the Chicago Urban League on Monday, February 27 to host a community panel discussion addressing violence in South Side communities. The event will begin with a screening of the award-winning documentary "The Interrupters," a chronicle of three frontline CeaseFire workers dedicated to curbing violent encounters in hard-hit Chicago neighborhoods. The screening from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Feb. 27, 2012, at the Chicago Urban League at 4510 S. Michigan Ave., will be the first of six events featuring the film in 2012.

The movie, directed by Oscar-nominated Steve James of "Hoop Dreams" and co-produced by Alex Kotlowitz, author of "There Are No Children Here," has been nominated for numerous awards and chosen as an official selection for the Sundance Film Festival. Panel discussions following each screening will be tailored to the audience and provide information on services offered by the host organizations and the University of Chicago Medicine to deal with the aftermath of violence.

This series of community events is part of the University of Chicago Medicine's anti-violence initiative, which includes a partnership with CeaseFire Chicago to sponsor a "Violence Interrupter." The University of Chicago Medicine also will provide $120,000 over three years to fund an Interrupter who will focus on monitoring, mediating and defusing disputes in neighborhoods that the medical campus serves.

Quin Golden, associate vice president for strategic affiliations and the Urban Health Initiative (UHI) at the University of Chicago Medicine, emphasized the importance working with community groups like CeaseFire to address gun violence as one of the most pressing health concerns in urban communities.

"We want more people to see violence for what it truly is – a chronic health issue threatening our communities," Golden said. "Prevention and intervention are critical. We are working to build close ties with community leaders, faith-based organizations, parents and schools to help prevent violence before it begins."

For 95 years the Chicago Urban League has supported African American communities through advocacy and programming focused on economic, educational and social empowerment. The Urban League is hosting the screening of "The Interrupters" as the final event in a film series honoring Black History Month.

"One of the greatest challenges to strengthening communities is the scourge of violence that has taken lives and created a culture of fear in many neighborhoods," said Andrea L. Zopp, president and CEO of the Chicago Urban League. "With strategic partners like the University of Chicago and CeaseFire, and through programming that touches at-risk youth, we will do everything we can to reduce and eliminate violence."

CeaseFire is a Chicago-based nonprofit organization that takes a public health approach to violence prevention by identifying communities at highest risk for violence, developing personal relationships with influential members of those communities and working to change behavior and norms before disputes escalate into violence. Founded by Executive Director Gary Slutkin in 1995, CeaseFire gained worldwide attention after the 2011 debut of "The Interrupters."

Tio Hardiman, director for CeaseFire Illinois, said he hopes to capitalize on support from the University of Chicago and continued interest in the film to advance CeaseFire's mission.

"Through this partnership, we'll touch someone we may not have reached," Hardiman said. "The screenings will lead to meaningful conversation, and I hope conversation will lead to action. The tragic shootings on the South and West sides just this week are more clear examples of the need to pull together every resource in communities grappling with violence to end the deadly cycle of aggression and revenge."

Monday evening's panel will be moderated by Andrea L. Zopp and will include the following participants:

  • Ameena Matthews, senior Violence Interrupter for CeaseFire. Matthews is one of the three Violence Interrupters featured in "The Interrupters," who recently appeared on The Colbert Report
  • Tio Hardiman, director of CeaseFire Illinois and creator of the Violence Interrupters Program
  • Eric E. Whitaker, MD MPH, associate dean for community-based research at the University of Chicago Medicine. Whitaker leads the University of Chicago Medicine's Urban Health Initiative, a long-term commitment to improving the health of South Side residents
  • Eric Wilkin, founder of Broken Winggz, a community activist group dedicated to providing support for paralyzed by gunshot wounds.

University of Chicago Medicine's anti-violence campaign is a key initiative along with UHI to improve access to quality care for the community through patient care, community-based research and medical education.

The anti-violence initiative also includes a commitment to train 27 percent of adult Emergency Department nurses as Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE) -- specially trained nurses who independently conduct forensic examinations with rape and sexual assault victims and can testify in court. The medical center treated 106 sexual assault victims in its adult and pediatric Emergency Departments during the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2011, more than any other Chicago hospital. It aims to have at least one Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner on call 24 hours a day by late 2012.