By Nyesha Stone
A time for celebration, laughter and don’t forget the music. Dontre Day is a time to remember the life of Dontre Hamilton, and to also bring the community together.
Dontre was shot dead three years ago by a former Milwaukee Police officer. Although the family may still mourn his death, they continue to fight for justice of all families who have been in similar predicaments. “Dontre was about love, so that’s what we do,” said Dontre’s brother, Dameion Perkins.
Dontre Day is important because it’s a day for the community to stand out and stand up for themselves and others.
The event started at 1 p.m. and it only took 33 minutes for the church’s space to be filled with people. April 30th, of every year, the Hamilton family and members of the community connect. The Hamilton family wanted to express to the community that they were not alone.
Last year, Dontre Day was held at Red Arrow Park. Due to weather conditions this year’s celebration was held at All People’s Church.
“They’re an important part of the congregation here… and Milwaukee,” said Rev. Steve Jerbi of All People’s Church. “The faith community needs to uplift the message, black lives matter.” Rev. Steve felt it was his duty to help the Hamilton family in any way he could. He wanted the community to know that “tragedy is not going to weaken us.”
“Today I hope people have conversations about what they’re doing in the community,” said Nate Hamilton, Dontre Hamilton’s brother.
Nate sees Dontre Day as a space full of people that genuinely care about each other.
It may be a day of celebration, but that didn’t stop tears from building up in Maria Hamilton’s eyes. She lost her son to a violent crime, and she spends her days fighting for justice. “We don’t deserve the treatment we’ve been receiving in this city,” said Hamilton.
She sees Dontre Day as a day of unity.
“As long as we’re united, there’s hope for change,” said Hamilton.
And that’s the real goal—to unite Milwaukee and create a change, a change for all. The event was filled with tons of entertainment—live DJ, BBQ, speakers, activities for children and more. Whenever the energy seemed to reach a low, the DJ would turn up the music which queued the crowd to dance. Perkins even stopped his speech to get the crowd to chant: “Who’s day? Dontre Day!”
The Hamilton family put on a show. Praise dancers, poetry readings and a trumpet solo took over the upstairs, while the children occupied the basement. Jump ropes, popcorn, drawings and free face painting were being offered to the children. Jessica Carlson, executive director of Milwaukee Public Theatre, couldn’t turn down an opportunity like this one. She volunteered and helped with the face painting activity.
“I think it’s important for us to fight for equality and justice,” said Carlson. “… anything helps.”
The Hamilton will continue celebrating who Dontre was and how he helped his family bring the community together.