At a showing the other night of the Interrupters, the documentary about CeaseFire and its work to stop killings in Chicago, the audience broke into loud applause when Cobe Williams came up to talk.
He is an Interrupter, and apparently a person of unusual humanity who faces the heart-breaking mayhem on some Chicago streets with the single-minded determination to stop it.
His is also a story of redemption after years of living amid the mayhem, a story not unlike many of the other Interrupters, and so you can understand the swell of admiration from the audience.
Read this column by Mary Schmich. She captures the documentary’s theme of humanity and hope so very well.
It’s theme in the movie and a theme of our We Are Not Alone/No Estamos Solos campaign.
But Williams and Alex Kotlowitz, the journalist who helped create the documentary, talked about the deeper roots of the mayhem that help ignite the violence.
Poverty and joblessness.
Poverty continues to claim more black youngsters, they said. And joblessness rules with a broad sweep over large parts of black and Latino Chicago.
Asked what is different today with crime in Chicago, as compared to 20 years ago when he began reporting on the problem, Kotlowitz spoke of the lethal randomness.
I wondered about a story that took a street or a neighborhood caught in this poverty, and which tracked the violence and which showed how the two stained lives over times. I wondered about finding someone now in prison, or just out of prison, or on their way to prison and asking them about whether the poverty touched them and how. I wondered about a chart that showed me exactly where the poverty has grown and then charted the flow of arrests and crimes.
I wondered about the kind of reporting that gives me more context and less drama.
I hope I will see something like these stories someday soon instead of the single-focused portrait of another victim of crime that seems simply to fall from the sky, striking innocents left and right.
What do you think?