By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published May 28, 2014 at 12:27 PM

Last week 10-year-old Sierra Guyton was shot while she played in the schoolyard at Clarke Street School. That, along with many other incidents, has fueled a group of middle school students at MPS’ Westside Academy II, to organize an event to speak out against violence.

Put the Guns Down is slated for Wednesday, June 4, from 5 to 7 p.m. at Our Next Generation, 3421 W. Lisbon Ave. All are welcome to attend and admission is free. There will be free food, raffle prizes and free Put the Guns Down bracelets.

A poster for the event reads, "Attention teens -- are you sick of the gun violence in your neighborhood? Take a stand with other teens in your community. Meet with other teens from across the city to discuss the issue of gun violence and come up with solutions to improve our community."

I learned about the event via Jennifer Koss, a teacher at Westside Academy II. On Facebook, Koss told friends, "As we know, the violence is getting out of control in Milwaukee. There were seven people shot last night, including two on the block my school is located on. My Serve 2 Unite students are fed up with the violence and want to do something about it. They are hosting a youth anti-gun violence summit."

Serve 2 Unite is a non-profit group founded by Arno Michaelis and Pardeep Kaleka (son of temple president Satwant Singh Kaleka, who was killed in the Sikh Temple shooting in August 2012.

"Serve 2 Unite emerged in a spirit of defiance," reads the group’s web site. "The hate behind the murders was met with an ongoing practice of fearless, creative, compassion. Rooted in the Sikh principle of service to others, and relentless optimism in the face of adversity, Serve 2 Unite today engages young people of all backgrounds to value humanity and the aspiration of living a genuine, honest life as a peacemaker."

Serve 2 Unite works with students at MPS’ Washington High School, Hampton Elementary, Fernwood Montessori, Audubon, Westside II and NOVA Academy, and Escuela Verde.

In a press release for the Put the Guns Down summit, Koss wrote, "So often we focus on the negative things that the youth of our city are doing. Now is the chance for us to recognize the positive work that many youth throughout the city are doing. Many of these students face violence on a daily basis (houses getting shot up, having guns pulled out on them,being shot at, losing family members to gun violence, etc.), and want to see change in our community. That change starts with highlighting the youth who are working hard as leaders in their neighborhood."

The students hope to draw at least 100 teens from across the city to the summit.

They are still seeking raffle prizes and adult facilitators for the June 4 event. If you can help, please email Jennifer Koss.


Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.