Well over 100 young people filled the site of the Our Next Generation Neighborhood Center at N. 34th Street and W. Lisbon Ave., on Wednesday, June 4, to echo a common message: “Put the Guns Down.”
This combined effort of Westside Academy II and Serve-2-Unite was designed by the teenagers themselves, according to Jennifer Koss, a 7th and 8th grade teacher at the Academy. They distributed more than 2,000 flyers going door-to-door throughout the neighborhood, stood along Lisbon Avenue to hold up signs advertising the event and distributed information and peace bracelets to participants.
Enthusiasm among the teens was clearly evident as folks from the neighborhood (mainly under eighteen years of age) entered the structure.
Television crews from two Milwaukee stations (Channels 6 and 12) set up cameras and interviewed the young people, along with a few adults. At least one radio station was present to do interviews.
The degree to which gun violence affects the neighborhoods was demonstrated when one of the presenters asked those in the audience to stand if they witnessed various forms of violence, saw guns, had friends with guns and similar questions. For most of the questions a majority stood, in some cases a good 90 percent stood, an indication of how great the gun violence has been in the neighborhood.
A discussion on possible solutions followed, with the youth gathering in small groups to share ideas and solutions. “They`re going to get the chance to present them to the adults and say ‘this is what we think should happen,’” Koss said.
The program received funds from the Coming Together Partnership to Prevent Gun Violence to cover costs of giveaways and other materials.