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Milwaukee kicks off Peace Week ahead of summer

Events include community resource fair, kickball game with police, live music

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A leader smiles and gives a high five while sitting at a table playing games with students.
Youth leader Angela Allgood, center, gives a high five while playing Connect 4 with students Wednesday, July 12, 2023, at Bay View High School in Milwaukee, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

A week of events focused on creating peace and unity across the city of Milwaukee is underway.

The city’s second Milwaukee Peace Week is aimed at fostering “dialogue, understanding, and collaboration among residents of all backgrounds,” according to a statement.

Some of the events in Milwaukee this week include a kickball game and music and food with local police, a resource fair and block party with Heal the Hood MKE, as well as an announcement about a new Resident Safety Council.

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A planned kickoff event on Monday, which would have included a community walk through, was rescheduled because of rain.

Jessica Butler is a coordinator with Heal the Hood MKE, which is hosting the resource fair on Saturday. The Milwaukee Office of Community Wellness and Safety, Milwaukee County Department of Health and Human Services and Neu-Life Community Development, a nonprofit with educational and recreational opportunities for the community, will all be at the event.

“We want to be able to jump-start the summertime in Milwaukee on a very positive and peaceful note,” Butler said.

Butler said the resource fair will also include free haircuts, live music from local artists and a youth DJ.

“It acts as an opportunity to connect the residents in the community to resources and then also provides the opportunity to offer healing through community interaction,” Butler said.

“Just as police have their roles, so do the folks who work directly in the community everyday. So we all are part or a larger ecosystem and we need all parts of the ecosystem to work together in our respective lanes to make sure that Milwaukee is safe,” she added.

Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson wasn’t available for an interview, but spoke about Peace Week with WISN-12 Monday afternoon.

“It’s important, I think, in this community that we really focus in on, not just peace, but also unifying our city,” Johnson said during the interview.

The city started the Milwaukee Peace Week initiative last year with a neighborhood walk, gun violence summit, faith-based panel discussion, resource fair and a wristband giveaway for school children who participated in other events throughout the city during the summer.

The week of events comes ahead of the summer months — a time when violence often increases across the city. It also comes weeks before school lets out for many children across Milwaukee.

Johnson said Milwaukee is “resource rich” and there are several opportunities for kids during the summer.

“Peace Week is going to be the bridge to help young people in this community and their families to understand that those things exist so we can have a safe and peaceful summer for everyone,” Johnson said.

Homicides are down 25 percent this year compared to last year, and 55 percent compared to two years ago, according to data from the Milwaukee Police Department. Nonfatal shootings are also down, which is something Milwaukee leaders have attributed to community outreach and partnerships they say are working to help lower the rate of gun violence in the city.

Even so, studies have shown violent crime often increases when the temperature rises in the summer. A 2022 study also found there’s a higher risk of violent shootings in hotter weather. Last summer, several children were shot in Milwaukee over the course of a few weeks in July and August.

City leaders have been working to get the city’s youth off the streets and into programming and events during the summer months for years. Last year, that included the Safer City MKE initiative, where children were able to go on camping trips, tours of the city, take art classes and participate in a mental health boot camp.

The city also had a program run by the Milwaukee Recreation Department to keep children off the streets from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. five days a week during the summer.

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