This Thanksgiving, we asked our fellow Idealist staff members to reflect on a person or organization they’re grateful for. We’re posting their stories this week.
We’d love to hear what’s stuffing you with thankfulness this holiday season, too—drop us a line in the comments.
Ameena Matthews and I have nothing in common.
She is the daughter of a notorious Chicago gang leader, and former gang member herself, who is now an on-the-ground violence interrupter, getting in the middle of gang activity and breaking up negative energy before anything worse can begin. (I, on the other hand, grew up in suburban New Jersey and sit at a desk all day.)
Still, I like to think of her as my Tyler Durden: she can do anything, living without fear and emboldened by a sense of true righteousness. She is also a prominent part of a movement that has nothing to do with my lived experience but everything to do with my life’s work: making the world a better place.
For Ameena and the rest of the violence interrupters working with Cure Violence, they take the cache they earned on tough streets all around the country and use it to show gang members a way out.
In the documentary film The Interrupters, where I first learned of Ameena, she seems to be the only female interrupter. There’s one particularly tense sequence in the days following the shooting of a young man.
At first, Ameena is surrounded by this group of guys who you can tell start off not wanting to give her space or respect. But by the end, their silence is palpable—as is the respect she commands—and you know she’s the right person for this job, to be working hard to change hearts and minds.
As she continues to win acclaim for being a warrior and a powerful, enigmatic woman, I couldn’t be happier that more and more people will begin to know the name Ameena Matthews.
Inspired to help stop violence in your community? Search Idealist for over 4,000 ways to get started.
Emily Hashimoto is an account manager at Idealist.
When I was a resident assistant at Portland State University, I would always see a lot of homeless youth hopping between dorm rooms. That’s because the students would go outside to smoke, get to talking with them, and invite them up.
I wanted to help the homeless kids, but I had to be concerned first and foremost with the residents. In my role, the best I could do was tell them about Outside In while helping them out of the building.
I’m grateful for Outside In, and for all their partners that help “homeless youth and other marginalized people move towards improved health and self-sufficiency.”
They provide tons of resources spanning housing, educational programs, and medical services. They even facilitate a large syringe exchange, tattoo removal, and a doggie day care job-training program.
I feel for everyone who’s been homeless, but there’s something about youth being homeless that makes me especially sad about their wasted potential. And it’s an issue that’s not going away.
Want to support homeless youth where you live? Idealist has over 7,700 ideas to get you going.
Derek Hurley is a software engineer at Idealist.