From the South Side of Chicago
Dr. Ameena Matthews has dedicated her life to advocating and fighting for social change in our communities. Born on Chicago’s South Side, Dr. Ameena also spent a great deal of time with family in Jackson, Mississippi. Every summer, she would go down to live where her great grandmother picked cotton and cleaned homes. As a young girl, she remembers buses that wouldn’t let her ride them to the white neighborhoods and kids whose parents wouldn’t like her playing with their kids. “You’re going to have to beat them with your mind,” she told herself.
Dr. Ameena witnessed the devastating impact violence had on the place she called home. Her father, Jeff Fort, first went to prison in 1969 when she was a baby. After that, she was raised by her single mom and her grandmother. “I thought I was the only one,” Ameena recalls, “who grew up like that – with an incarcerated father.” It wasn’t until later, when Ameena became involved in community work in Chicago, that she realized many other women shared her story. She also came to understand just how damaging incarceration was to families.