It's hard to track down Ameena Matthews. She's constantly on call, always ready to keep conflicts in the city's most dangerous neighborhoods from escalating to homicide. But she wasn't always the one breaking up the fights and trying to keep the peace — Matthews will tell you herself, she didn't think she'd live to see 25, as most of her youth was wrapped up in life on the streets.
Two gang members were charged with murder Monday in the death of a 15-year-old honor student who was shot near the Chicago home of President Barack Obama just days after she performed during his inauguration festivities in Washington, authorities said.
It's been a bloody year in the nation's third-largest city. A spike in murders and shootings — much of it gang-related — shocked Chicagoans, spurred new crime-fighting strategies and left indelible images.
Chicago has produced marquee artists in the past—the Windy City is, after all, the home of Kanye, Common and Lupe Fiasco, to name a few. But Chicago has typically been associated with rap's conscious styles. In other words, Chicago has never had its street moment—until now.
John Fountain, a longtime Chicago journalist, has lived through and reported on the city's gang violence and crime. He says the faith community remains a vital part of the black community. “In some ways,” he explained, “it is an overweight, cumbersome, sleeping giant that needs to get fit…and return to the business of doing good work.”