Precious Lives

Stories about kids, guns and how to stop the violence.

Precious Lives, created by 371 Productions, is a 2-year, 100-part weekly radio series about gun violence and young people in the Milwaukee area. The series applies a public health lens to each story to help listeners understand the full scope of the problem: who are the victims and the shooters; how are the weapons obtained; and what can we change about the environment that contributes to violence in Milwaukee? Explore the impact of gun violence on the community at large.

Learn more at Preciouslivesproject.org and to get help / give help, resources are available here.

Join the conversation on Facebook, follow the hashtag #PreciousLives on Twitter and subscribe for the podcast on iTunes.

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Paul Kjelland

WUWM 89.7 FM - Milwaukee Public Radio and 371 Productions are pleased to announce Precious Lives: The Live Show. On Wednesday, June 15 at the Pabst Theater, Milwaukeeans heard each week on Precious Lives will take the stage and share stories of how gun violence has impacted their lives.

Michelle Maternowski

Torre Johnson, or ToeJoe as he is known on the streets, is a self-described former bad guy. But he is now reformed, working in the trenches with young people whose lives eerily resemble his some 30 to 40 years ago.

“When I went to jail I thought I was one of the toughest people, but then to be tough I had to humble myself,” Johnson says. “That’s the toughest thing in the world.”

And Johnson knows just how tough the world can be. He grew up on the streets of Milwaukee; admittedly, wreaking havoc in his neighborhood and beyond.

Rick Wood | Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

When a nine-year-old girl gets shot in the head while watching TV, where do we look for answers?

Do we expect the city government to offer solutions? Some people might not know that the City of Milwaukee has an Office of Violence Prevention ­or that they’re filling two new positions focused on engaging youth.

Reggie Moore is the new director of this Office. He says, “We don't need any more wake up calls. We need answers.”

But that the answers lie within the community, and it’s his job to help make them visible.

Family Photo

A nine-year-old Milwaukee girl was concerned enough about her safety that she recently asked a police captain on patrol, if officers could keep her safe. The captain had stopped to jump rope with the girl.

On Thursday night, she was struck by a bullet, while sitting in her living room near 15th and Meinecke, the result of a gun fight by people in the neighborhood. She remains in critical condition.

Police Chief Edward Flynn said, "Sadly, (the girl's question) was answered tonight."

Aisha Turner | Precious Lives

At the COA Goldin Center, there's now a portal that takes Milwaukeeans to Newark, New Jersey.

The portal is a gold shipping container equipped with high-speed, life-sized video conferencing. It uses technology to encourage intimate conversations with people across space.

Leaders here and in Newark are sharing experiences of, and trading solutions, to gun violence. An issue that weighs on both cities.

Emily Forman

Meet two Wisconsin moms who carry concealed guns. Kelli Petery lives in South Milwaukee with her husband and two kids, and has a Springfield SDX 9mm. Shamara Austin is a single parent in Milwaukee who has three children, and carries a 380 Ruger.

Their main motivation for carrying is the same: protecting their kids.

Michael Sears, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

A bulletin board in a Milwaukee middle school bears the city’s 2015 homicide statistics. 152 murder victims, ­ although a handful of those cases were later considered to be self ­defense homicides. Photos of some of the victims accompany the statistics. They are all black.

One educator has an explanation for this and uses the board to spark conversation with students about how present day gun deaths relate to centuries of oppression.

Corresponding Content:

Aisha Turner

Most homicide victims are African American men and boys. So how are young people supposed to feel entitled to their dreams when the odds are stacked against them?

Khalil Coleman, educator and community activist, teaches writing workshops at several Milwaukee Public Schools. He's brought into schools to help students find their voice.

Emily Forman

At a small, public charter high school in Milwaukee, students practice circle keeping. The restorative justice tool gives students ownership over their own healing process.

A lot of the students at The Alliance School have been affected by gun violence and this tool has been making a difference.

Emily Forman

24-year-old Isiah Johnson survived two shootings in one year. He asked his church, All Peoples Church, for help. Then the parishioners there formed a men’s group to help keep Isiah safe.

Since Precious Lives' first story on Isiah, the group has been meeting regularly. This week, Precious Lives producer Emily Forman checks in with him to see how it’s going.

Brad Lichtenstein | 371 Productions

The City of Milwaukee has a youth council. Young people ages 14 to ­18 are selected to represent each Aldermanic District.

Gun violence is one of the council’s top issues.

Michael Sears | Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

You might remember Nicole Sheldon from a previous Precious Lives episode. She was robbed at gunpoint in front of her home. Then had to leave her dream job as a Milwaukee County homicide prosecutor in order to heal.

Her husband Lance Johnson regularly encounters gun violence through his work as a Milwaukee firefighter. He been doing that for 14 years. And several times in their relationship, their work lives have collided.

COA Youth & Family Centers

One of Precious Lives' first interviews took place at the Holton Youth and Family Center. We set out to explore how gun violence impacts youth in Milwaukee and met many teens during Holton’s after school program who shared stories and insights. And although plenty of these teens have experienced violence firsthand, Holton always provided an alternative - a safe place to have fun.

Michael Sears, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Homicide prosecutors go to work and face grieving families. Often, before the weight of the loss has sunk in. After former homicide prosecutor Nicole Sheldon got robbed at gunpoint, the details of her cases reminded her of her own trauma.

Corresponding Content

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - Former prosecutor finding peace after trauma of her own robbery

Emily Forman

A student with a 4.0 grade average does not seem like a student in danger. But we’ve heard countless times ­ about how where you live determines risk.

Many of the teens who attend the United Community Center ­on Milwaukee’s south side live amidst pockets of gang activity.

Former gang member, Jose Vasquez teaches them how to help themselves and others by sharing his life experiences.

Jose Vasquez's Story

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