Lee Daniels success story as told to John Thomas (Groupon staff writer)
These days, technology can solve a lot of thorny issues. Unfortunately, as Lee Daniel, a violence interrupter with Cure Violence, discovered, technology can also cause some potentially deadly problems.
Daniel has worked as a violence interrupter for three years. “My job entails helping cure and curb violence in Chicago by meeting and dealing with high-risk individuals,” he explains, “showing them that there is a better life out there instead of shooting and killing each other.
“I was incarcerated for a few years. And upon being released, I was told about Cease Fire, and I figured that’s what I wanted to do with my life. To try and help the community uplift itself and talk to the young kids, the young men and women out there, and help them achieve their goals in life.”
Daniel is particularly proud of one mediation he was involved in that helped keep his community safe and avoid possible bloodshed. He and several other violence interrupters became aware that two groups were battling each other almost constantly. “The two groups were at each other wherever they saw each other,” he says. “They would ram each others cars or if one group caught another group at a car wash, they would beat up the other members. Even at neighborhood basketball games they would have fights.”
So Daniel and several other violence interrupters began networking with members of each group and interviewing people who lived in the neighborhood in an attempt to start a mediation. “We eventually got in touch with six or seven guys from each group and they met us at our Cease Fire office and we mediated the conflict.”
During the mediation they discovered there was a high-tech reason for the tension between the two groups. One group was posting pictures of themselves on social media wearing T-shirts featuring faces of people from the other group with the words “Rest in Peace.”
“But the guys weren’t deceased,” Daniel explains. “It was like a threat. And everywhere they saw each other they were at each other because they felt real disrespected.
“But we helped them to talk it out. We helped them see what was at the end of this conflict — you were either going to be dead or going to jail for a time or even going to jail for the rest of their life. And we talked to them about that because that’s not a place for anyone. No one I know or no one that they know wants to be locked up, whether it’s in juvie or whether it’s in the big house, as we call it.
“That was a successful mediation. The conflict was resolved, and a couple of those guys went on to college.”
Without the help of the violence interrupters mediation efforts, Daniel believes the situation would have eventually gotten out of control. “If we hadn’t networked it like we had, yes it would have erupted into gun violence and somebody would have actually lost their life.”