Twelve gun-homicides since Aug. 30, all but one on the city’s North and Northwest Sides, have left residents traumatized, attendees at a community forum said last week.
Teens from across the city and staffers from the Milwaukee Health Department Office of Violence Prevention spoke during a news conference and community forum, "Speak Out Against Violence In Our City." The event took place at the Ma’ruf Center for Youth Innovation, 2110 W. Hampton Ave.
Some of the comments made by youth leaders
Zion Rogers, Rufus King High School:
"I love nature but lately I haven’t enjoyed it as much because I’m afraid (when I’m outside), something will happen to me. Many of my friends have the same fear."
Rogers announced that the teens are working with 414LIFE and other youth organizations to establish a youth violence interruption coalition that will work to de-escalate and mediate conflicts in their schools.
Jynise Foley, Rufus King High School:
"I was walking in the park with my best friend when a group of boys tried to talk to us. We ignored them, but they continued to follow us. Women shouldn’t have to feel like they can’t safely walk around in their neighborhoods."
Naomi Elim, North Division High School:
"We’re here fighting for our rights to feel safe walking down the street. Gun violence affects me and my parents."
"Another woman has been killed. Do you know what a mother goes through when her daughter is killed? I demand that you put the guns down. I am sick and tired."
DeAngelo Lee, Milwaukee Marshall High School:
"There were three deaths yesterday and today. It’s getting out of hand. I’m a teenager and I like to have fun. My mother shouldn’t have to worry about getting a call saying I’ve been in a fatal car accident or caught in gunfire."
Amaii Collins, Rufus King High School:
"There was a homicide on Sunday (Sept. 22) … Both the murderer and the victim were my co-workers. The murderer was my supervisor."
Community advocate Erica Mitchell offers her thoughts about solutions to violence in the city.
Comments on solutions to violence from community attendees
Erica Mitchell works with youths and is a personal trainer, community advocate and motivational speaker:
"I fear for my children and grandchildren. I look at myself, at the pain I inflicted because of my anger. We need to control our emotions. We need to control our attitudes. We need peace. Our children need us. You can be so traumatized that you’re acting like your 1-year-old children. It starts with you. If you don’t control yourself, prison will control you."
Eric Lucas, a 16-year-old Urban Underground participant:
"A lot of teenagers, we don’t know how to express ourselves. Parents don’t have time to listen to us. Mental health is a big issue. Suicide is a big issue. My best friend killed herself when I was 13, and it was the same day I was put into foster care."
"When parents exert their power over their children, (their children) get angry … There’s a big disconnect with the old kids and the young kids. We need to learn to talk to each other. All that yelling just goes in one ear and out the other."
Ray Mendoza, a 414Life violence interrupter:
"We talk about loyalty. Be loyal to yourself. Forget about everything else. If you’re not loyal to yourself, it’s impossible to be loyal to your family. You don’t have to be what others want you to be. You can be successful and it’s free. All it costs is energy and time. I’m talking to the youth 21 and under. By the time 414Life comes in it’s too damn late."
Nazir Al-Mujaahid, director of outreach, Ma’ruf Youth Innovation Center:
"We all suffer pain, the pain of discipline or the the pain of regret. I suggest teaching how to think by forming a book club and discussing "The Autobiography of Malcolm X" or "The New Jim Crow." We should be having intellectual debates."
Jesse Rosales, director, Ma’ruf Youth Innovation Center:
"We need to challenge MPS to make school more challenging for our kids. A lot of kids suffer trauma. They need art, music and gym. We need male volunteers. Put pressure on the city to support youth mentoring organizations."
Karen Baker, a mother, pastor’s wife and MPS teacher, who grew up on North 46th and West Center streets:
"My students come in eating Red Hots and drinking soda. They fall asleep in class, and I’m trying to inspire them. They’re not eating right. They’re not going to bed. Their brother died. Their dad just beat up their momma. We have to teach them how to de-escalate situations. We have to teach them emotional control."
Kimani Black, recently released after spending six years in a maximum-security facility:
"We need people from the streets to talk to the kids in the streets."
Bramouse Muhammad, director of education, Clara Mohammed School:
"Our children need organizations in our schools and positive examples of black men in their classrooms. We have to go out and meet with our young men and give them the opportunity to get involved. There are a lot of organizations in Milwaukee doing a lot of work, but they are not getting properly funded. We need our city or state government to provide funding. Follow the money. Where is it going?"
Organizations and programs that help
Here is a list of resources to help kids stay engaged and safe.
Andrea Waxman is a staff reporter at the Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service. A professional writer, she is completing a graduate certificate in Digital Storytelling at Marquette University's Diederich College of Communication. Previously, she worked as a reporter and editor for a community newspaper and taught English and Japanese in several area middle and high schools.
Waxman has lived in Milwaukee since 1981, but spent most of her early years living in Tokyo, where her father was stationed at the American embassy. She returned to Japan in 1986 and again in 1993 when her husband was there as a Fulbright scholar.
In her free time, Waxman enjoys theater, movies, music, ethnic food, cities, travel, reading - especially the news of the day - and all kinds of people. She is interested in working for social justice and contributing to the vitality of the city.