“The President’s Perspective”
By Alderman Ashanti Hamilton
Common Council President City of Milwaukee
On Wednesday, I attended an incredible event in my District. A group of young students from across the City came together at the Ma’Ruf Community Center to talk about the epidemic of violence in our community. As they spoke, an underlying message came through loud and clear. The youth in this community know they deserve better. They know that they deserve to be excited for a future that is not put in jeopardy by violence. And they know that waiting is not an option.
This press conference was a phenomenal display of the power of collective voice. Their message was clear, unified, and deeply personal. But it was not just a statement of the problem. After expressing their assessment of the issue, they put together a plan. In a number of high schools across the City, conflict mediation and interruption groups will be trained and deployed to reduce violence among other youth. With the assistance of 414Life and the Office of Violence Prevention, this program can be a real tangible success in the fight for peace in Milwaukee. I am proud of the creativity and solution-oriented thinking that youth put into this action plan; however, we have a responsibility as adults to support and match this effort. In addition to their stories and plans, they also issued a call to action for the adults in our community. If we really believe that the youth are our future like we say we do, it is our responsibility to make sure that our youth have a future. It is time to do right by our next generation.
Everything said on Wednesday was spot on. The violence in our community is senseless. Anger and heightened emotions are a part of every life. They are not reasons to take one. When we look around and see people dying because of loose cigarettes, traffic incidents, and stray bullets, it is hard not to feel heartbroken. As the young people said, when someone pulls the trigger they are taking a mother away from her child, a daughter away from her parents, a sister away from her siblings. This cannot be Milwaukee’s modus operandi. We must refuse to let this be normal in our City. If we really want fully actualize the power in our communities, we have to be unified in our fight for justice.
The solutions to the issue of violence in our community are not easy, but they are doable. Public Safety is not just law enforcement. It takes a comprehensive boost in our community to alleviate the conditions that lead to violence. The Office of Violence Prevention and 414Life are a great start toward a prevention approach, but it is not the end of the road. We have to provide culturally relevant and comprehensive treatment for people who are suffering under the weight of mental illness and anxiety. Economic resurgence is an important piece to this as well. Opportunities for meaningful employment where people feel valued and supported can lead to a more stable and productive life. Healing is needed in our community.
It is a tall order to address all of these issues, but the reality is that we can do it if we work together. We have organizations that provide effective programs and services to individuals and families who need support. With the right leadership, we can create an infrastructure that makes these opportunities more accessible to the residents who need them the most. However, there is also a systemic aspect to this work. As the City of Milwaukee (in addition to the State and Federal Government), we can do business around Public Safety differently. In the upcoming budget, we will have some major decisions to make around keeping our residents safe and the Council has an opportunity to tailor an approach to these challenges in a much more innovative way.
Wednesday our youth challenged us to answer their call for guidance and to take responsibility for the circumstances we find ourselves in as a city. This requires that we be all-in on this fight and commit ourselves to playing the role that we need to play in order to see this through. In the weeks and months ahead, I look forward to working with organizations, businesses, and community members to find the right solutions to this critical problem. Thank you to all of the youth for using your power and your voice. I am beyond proud of the movement that is brewing in our young community.
Milwaukee needs you, and you are answering that call in a major way.