A new documentary premiering this week in New York will feature Mothers Against Senseless Killing founder Tamar Manasseh as her anti-violence activism reaches from an Englewood intersection to a national level.
“They Ain’t Ready For Me,” directed by independent filmmaker Brad Rothschild, will premiere Thursday in New York, with a screening in Chicago being planned.
It follows Manasseh’s daily efforts at 75th Street and Stewart Avenue to reduce neighborhood gun violence, placing her efforts in the context of national conversations about gun violence, racial tensions and inequality.
Manasseh’s faith, a catalyst for her neighborhood activism, is also explored in the documentary.
“This film is not just about me as a black woman or a mother,” Manasseh said. “It’s also about me as a rabbinical student and how I use my brand of Judaism to fix the world.”
Manasseh explained that Judaism’s concept of Tikkun Olam, which means repairing the world, inspires her anti-violence efforts.
“Gun violence, poverty, homelessness, joblessness — all of these things are cracks that can be repaired,” Manasseh said.
Manasseh started occupying the corner of 75th and Stewart in 2015 after a young mother was shot and killed trying to break up a fight at the corner.
Frustrated with waiting for others to act, Manasseh began occupying the block daily, grilling meals, playing music, playing games and more with the community.
While violence on the block has decreased, it persists. Last summer, two mothers of the group were shot and killed late one Friday while occupying the intersection.
The documentary follows Manasseh over a two-year period as her group’s efforts have expanded to other Chicago neighborhoods and cities like Evansville, Indiana; Memphis, Tennessee; and on Staten Island in New York City.
Manasseh said she hopes the documentary will show people “the truth about Chicago.”
“There are so many misconceptions about gun violence here, as if people are animals, but we all want to be safe,” she said. “The fact is that there are some hidden pieces here that cause violence.”
The documentary will show how Chicago residents are organizing at a grassroots level to make their neighborhoods safer, Manasseh said.
She added that factors like homelessness, food insecurity, police brutality and a lack of quality schooling all contribute to Chicago’s gun violence. Neighborhoods need help addressing these issues to improve safety, she said.
“If you address any one of those issues, you won’t have the same level of gun violence,” Manasseh said. “Until we start addressing people’s basic needs, we haven’t created a situation where violence shouldn’t exist.”