Ameena Matthews

Daily Southtown (Sunday) - - NEWS - Lbowean @chicagotri­bune.com Twit­ter @lolly­bowean

South Deer­ing Matthews is widely known as a vi­o­lence in­ter­rupter, a street-wise, hip, ac­tivist who would step in just be­fore a con­fronta­tion was about to es­ca­late.

The daugh­ter of im­pris­oned for­mer gang leader Jeff Fort, Ameena Matthews said she didn’t en­vi­sion her­self in pol­i­tics. Then last year, she said it out loud: “I’m run­ning for Congress.”

“I just knew I was sick and tired of not feel­ing rep­re­sented in a district where I pay taxes, where my chil­dren go to school and where I went to

Rush said it is his ser­vice that stands out to his con­stituents.

“I’m strate­gi­cally po­si­tioned to make things hap­pen in Congress, in the na­tion, in my district, to try to (pro­vide) some of the vi­tal needs my con­stituents have,” said Rush, ex­plain­ing why he’s run­ning again. He said he has pro­posed leg­is­la­tion that would call for is­su­ing Tasers to po­lice so they don’t have to use their guns and to cre­ate green jobs in the en­ergy sec­tor. “Some of the stuff I’m do­ing right now are things we dreamed about do­ing in the ’60s.”

On a re­cent night in Hyde Park, the fresh-faced Em­mons and Gad sat on a panel next to Rush at a de­bate. Em­mons and Gad talked about stud­ies that re­veal the dis­par­i­ties and dis­in­vest­ment on the South Side and south sub­urbs, and the two pep­pered the au­di­ence with their cam­paign prom­ises that they sup­ported with sta­tis­tics and facts.

Em­mons talked about los­ing a col­lege class­mate to gun vi­o­lence, and Gad spoke about the dis­crim­i­na­tion she faced as a re­turn­ing ci­ti­zen af­ter her in­car­cer­a­tion.

But when it was time for Rush to speak up, he leaned on his work record and many life ex­pe­ri­ences to re­late to the au­di­ence. When one woman stood and asked about gun vi­o­lence, Rush told her he doesn’t talk about it of­ten but that he, too, lost a child to a shoot­ing.

And when one of his op­po­nents ques­tioned his long ab­sence from vot­ing, he pas­sion­ately ex­plained that he took an ex­tended leave be­cause of his health cri­sis and to care for his wife of 36 years who had taken ill.

“I was fighting for my life for a long pe­riod of time,” he said, draw­ing ap­plause and cheers. “I couldn’t fight can­cer and vote in the House at the same time.

“You might not have had tragedy in your life, but I have,” he said.

And at end of the night, af­ter his com­ments, Rush — who is also a trained preacher — got a stand­ing ova­tion.

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