These days, Camiella Williams spends her time as a gun reform activist but her road to activism wasn’t easy. The 26-year-old Chicago-native grew up in a violent neighborhood where she bought her first gun in the sixth grade, for $25. From there she got involved with gang activity and entangled in a morbid web of death and violence until pregnancy motivated the then expecting mom to turn her life around.
“I’ve lost loved ones to gun violence, and I’ve seen violence. My home was shot up before. My neighbors upstairs were shot and killed. The blood was still on my porch,” she told MTV. “Seeing all this is what made me want to make a difference. I got tired of going to funerals. I got tired of crying and living in sorrow. That’s basically what it was: You go to a funeral every other week.”
Williams went to Father Michael Pfleger, a mainstay in Chicago’s anti-violence activism scene, to get started on her new life’s mission and went on to graduate from Prairie State College in Illinois. She currently works as a liaison with Rep. Robin Kelly (D-IL), as an anti-violence community activist, pushing for a solution to this epidemic from a holistic perspective. Her goal is to help people in violent and impoverished communities learn how to resolve conflicts without getting physical or using weapons, as well as treating many of the mental health issues—primarily depression—that said communities often face without resources for treatment.
“Gun violence needs to be made a public health issue. We also need to deal with the fact that when there are no resources in a community, that’s when people become violent,” she told MTV.
GET INVOLVED: Father Michael Pfleger’s Faith Community of St. Sabina catered toward anti-violence, aiding the elderly and a Christian school. Visit saintsabina.org to see how you can join the movement.
Address your issues by writing to Congresswoman Kelly, who can be reached at robinkelly.house.gov/contact.
Ameena Matthews revealed she didn’t think she’d live past the age of 17 during her recent Black Girls Rock victory speech, however the world is thankfully a better place because she made it through.
Matthews, also known as an “interrupter,” has dedicated her life to becoming a real life super hero who has made the streets of South Side Chicago a safer place to live.
Matthews has experience with both sides of street life. Her father, Jeff Fort, was one of the city’s most notorious gang leaders. She followed in his footsteps by becoming a drug ring enforcer but made a positive change in her life after having children and finding peace in Islam. Now she’s touching other lives with peace building work in Chicago.
For six years, Matthews has worked with the Chicago Project for Violence Prevention Ceasefire Program in the University of Illinois at Chicago’s School of Public Health to mediate conflict and stop the transmission of violence.
“I don’t feel like violence interruption is a job, I feel it’s my purpose. I didn’t know better so I didn’t do better coming up. “Once I learned better and started doing better, it was my call to duty to educate and reach out to my young brothers and sisters all over,” she told UIC in a Black History Month profile. “For my children to hear the news that a young person is missing or has been shot, and ask Umma (mom) aren’t you gonna do something? That makes me happy. My children look at me as a cool mom and are proud to be my children. My husband did not know what a violence interrupter’s job duties meant and how dangerous it was. He was and is still worried about his wife, but he is on board 100%. The love we have for one another makes us both understand each other’s life purpose is to be of service.”
GET INVOLVED: Visit Cure Violence to donate and help the cause.
FOLLOW AMEENA MATTHEWS ON TWITTER: @AmeenaMatthews