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Documentary inspires Albany SNUG

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Albany/HV: Documentary inspires Albany SNUG
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Did you know the idea for Albany's anti violence program SNUG was born on the streets of Chicago? Well, organizers say, proof is in the documentary screened Thursday at UAlbany where one of the film's stars made a guest appearance. Our Erin Vannella reports.

ALBANY, N.Y. -- "The screening is important because it educates in a way that we can't," said SNUG program director Jamel Muhammad. "The people get to see some of the real live scenarios that we have to deal with."

Albany watches "The Interrupters," a nationally acclaimed documentary out of Chicago, the subjects of which have inspired organized anti-violence efforts on Capital District streets.

"They're out there working with the young population that no one really wants to deal with," said Muhammad.

"My story of redemption is powerful, amazing and well needed," said Violence Interrupter Ameena Matthews. "Everybody has one if they want it."

Ameena Matthews stars in the film and attended the screening at UAlbany Thursday. A former drug-ring enforcer, she and two other self-titled "CeaseFire violence interrupters" are shadowed in the film as they work to end the plague of urban violence in their city.

"I may have looked at it like and say, that sucks, why, how come, why me?" said Matthews. "But why not me? I'm glad it happened. I'm just grateful that my time on this earth wasn't up before I made it to this point so I can continue to be effective to our young guys and girls."

Where active, "CeaseFire Interrupters" say they have inspired a significant drop in shooting and killings. And the group's founding principle, to intervene in and prevent violence, is what Albany SNUG creators say inspired them.

"Not just corporate the business, the political, but the neighbors in the neighborhood to show and say that there's other things we can do," said Muhammad. "Let's not give up hope. Let's do what we can."

Violence doesn't have to be the answer on the streets of Chicago or Albany, said Matthews. There's help. Ask for it.

"It's not what you do, it's how you do it that you can get resources and that you can get help," said Matthews. "And there are people here to help you do what you want to do, reach the goals that you need to reach."

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