Summer is swiftly approaching, and in Milwaukee, warm weather typically means increased fear about violent crime. That being said, Milwaukee has deemed the month of May as violence prevention month. Community leaders are looking for ways to head off problems.
The corner of 27th and Atkinson is a busy intersection. Even at 8 a.m., there is a ton of vehicles passing through, and there’s also handful of men hanging in out in front of a corner store.
“The unemployment rate here is nearing 55 percent," Alderman Ashanti Hamilton says. The city has identified this area as a promise zone ahead of summer, which he explains means the neighborhood will receive extra attention and funding.
“Right now, we’re filling these public spaces with a lot of public activity. It’s going to be a garden a block away from here, there’s going to be a number of activities in the park that’s right behind us (Garden Homes park),... one of the church’s here, right around the corner, is actually applying to be a work site for this neighborhood,” Hamilton says.
One goal is to find jobs for the youth here, Hamilton says. “Taking care of this neighborhood this summer. We want them to know that there’s an opportunity for them to work, there’s an opportunity for them to make some money and there’s an opportunity for them to have a positive impact in this neighborhood."
Hamilton says the jobs will range from cleaning up neighborhoods to rehabbing houses, to youth reaching out to other youth with positive messages. The money is coming from the city’s promise initiative.
Just a couple hours after I met Hamilton in his district, he appeared at a violence prevention event at city hall. “We know that with our collective effort that we are going to be successful. It is not an option,” he says.
The event unveiled a song that brought a number of Milwaukee artists together to encourage people to think before they act. It was all organized by activist Tracey Dent.
“This is just one initiative to help and try to reduce the violence in our city. It’s to try to change the mindset of some of these people out here to think twice before they cause any harm to anyone. And one great influence is through music,” Dent says.
Dent says they hope to get the song into the rotation at urban stations in Milwaukee. The artists range in age from 13 to 50 and cross many ethnicities.
Viluge Ntabala was featured on the song. She's a junior at the Milwaukee High School for the Arts. Ntabala is originally from the Congo but has lived in Milwaukee for five years. She says her parents moved here to escape violence, but instead, she recounts a time when her older sister was almost shot while in their home on Milwaukee’s north side.
“We were just in the living room chatting with each other and all of a sudden, we just heard gun shots. So I ran around, I told my siblings like get to the floor or something and then I tried to close the door and then went upstairs to see if everybody’s okay and we got like 10 bullets on the second floor. And my sister was right there and she was holding her ears and I was like oh my God, what happened. Like the bullet passed right past her ear. That’s how scary it was,” Ntabala says.
Ntabala says her family recently relocated to Milwaukee’s east side hoping to find a safer neighborhood. She says she’s fearful, yet hopeful that she’ll get to relax this summer instead of worrying about something bad happening.
“School is over, you’re trying to relax with your family and not think about all this violent stuff but stay positive. But when that positivity is not around, it is scary,” Ntabala says.