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.