Radio Milwaukee was on site at the Heal the Hood Block party in July and spoke with dozens of attendees, organizers and community groups where were there. In this segment, we hear from 414 Life Director Derrick Rogers about how his organization is actively working to prevent violence in Milwaukee.
Listen to the audio story or read the transcript below.
“Particularly from the Black and Brown communities, there’s even embedded in our DNA, a sense of connectedness, a sense of interdependence. And when that’s fractured, everybody’s less healthy.”
Derrick Rogers is the director of 414 Life. It’s a public-private partnership between the City of Milwaukee, The Medical College of Wisconsin, and many other community partners. In 2017, it developed a Blueprint for Peace, a “comprehensive and community driven agenda for addressing the complex factors that drive violence in Milwaukee,” according to a press release.
Since then, Derrick and his team have been showing up at community events to spread the word, like today, at the Heal the Hood Block Party on 9th and Ring. They’re trying to talk to people who may be aware of or caught up in violence.
“I have a team of individuals that came from this. They were some of the ‘destroyers’ at one time out here in the community, and now they’re on the other side in a very redemptive fashion. So they have an ability to analyze and detect potential violence. Get in front of it, deescalate some of the situations that are going on out here working with high risk individuals who have the potential for committing acts of violence,” Rogers says.
Derrick and I talk around the corner from his table at Heal the Hood. You could still hear the vocals provided by Ms. Lotus Fankh on stage. I was struck by the contrast here. The richness of the block party and the artist’s performance, but also the weight of this conversation with Eric, literally life and death happening at the same moment.
“A lot of trauma. The people have been hurt. We have a community that is in a very anxious. A lot of anxiety, dread and despair is beginning to become the norm,” Rogers says. “There’s a lot of retaliatory violence that goes on the community, and because of the networks, we’re able to get in touch with people and at the very least try to get in front of the next act of violence that may occur.”
That’s why you’ll see the 414 Life team out and about at community events, because the more people they can connect with in person, the more chances they’ll have to recognize violence before it happens.
“People are ready to do something, they’re ready to change some things. I don’t think it’s all just a fad. I think deep in people’s hearts and consciousness, they’re ready for change,” Rogers says.
The next Heal the Hood Block Party is set for Aug. 28 from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Running Rebels Community Organization. The theme will be “back to school” and will offer free school supplies and backpacks, plus music by Homer Blow.
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