On September 24th, 2009, a gang-related fight erupted on the school grounds of Christian Fenger Academy High School on Chicago’s South Side. The video footage is difficult to watch. Young teenage men beating each other using fists, feet, and wooden railroad ties. In the midst of it all, an innocent bystander, 16-year old Derrion Albert, was struck in the head by a 2-by-4, punched in the face, and attacked by a group of five men. Though you hear a girl in the video plead “Derrion, get up!”, he never does.
What can we do to solve this problem of violence amongst youth? Though intervention strategies exist, youth violence is continuing to be an alarming issue, and one that plagues the streets of Chicago. There are no surefire methods to solving the problem, but there are less formal, unorthodox approaches. CeaseFire, for example, is a Chicago-based organization that educates their community members on gang violence. However, they are unique because they actually go into the streets to disband fights and diffuse the temper of those looking to fight or retaliate. By using personal experience and speaking in a non-condescending, relatable way, CeaseFire “interrupters” both eliminate conflict and change behaviors. We need more organizations like CeaseFire. Yes, we need those that are educated on issues with youth and gang violence, but we also need those who lived it and can share their experiences. Intervention strategies go beyond creating programs focused more on outputs and outcomes. It is learning to relate and interact with youth on a one-on-one level in hopes to change their behavior, way of thinking, and ultimately, their life path.