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WUWM's Teran Powell reports on race and ethnicity in southeastern Wisconsin.

Heal the Hood MKE celebrates a decade of community fellowship through its annual block party

9th annual Heal the Hood block party
Teran Powell
A youth dance team performs for the crowd at the 9th annual Heal the Hood block party.

Heal the Hood MKE has been a resource in the Milwaukee community for the past 10 years.

It manifests through block parties that offer food and entertainment, as well as health and housing resources, and programming for the community. And in schools through violence interruption, helping children build capacity for expressing themselves and more.

Heal the Hood founder Ajamou Butler says they’re projecting close to 2,000 people at Saturday’s block party at North 1st and Wright streets.

Butler says it’s a tremendous feeling to be celebrating this 10-year milestone. He says he's been reflecting on how many community organizations, grassroots and professional figures don't get the chance to say the same.

"I think about how many people who say they're about that life, you know, when it comes to community work and advocacy and youth development, but they fell off, right. So, in 10 years something inside of this Heal the Hood movement has sustained us. It has made people attracted to it. It has made people say, 'We want more of that, we wanna hear more about it, we wanna contribute to it, we wanna see how we can help to grow and expand Heal the Hood,' right. So, you know, that's one factor of it, looking at the effectiveness of the message from Heal the Hood, right, and the the real life sustainability of Heal the Hood."

Butler says he's also reflected on people he's lost along the way, including people who supported the Heal the Hood movement. "One thing that I think about is how many people I've lost along the way due to gun violence, knife violence, coronavirus, a car crash, you know overall sickness, be it cancer. I had a friend that had a blood clot travel and took her out the game ... so we're doing this one tomorrow for them. They poured unto Heal the Hood in various ways when it's like you know what they're not here to celebrate Heal the Hood with us but they're a reminder this thing is really real."

Butler's favorite part of the annual block parties is the fellowship that comes with it. It's welcoming to all people.

"At Heal the Hood we have such a unifying energy, right. So, if you are down for Black culture, if you are down for the advancement of little brown and Black boys and girls, you can be a part of Heal the Hood right," he shares.

Butler continues, "I don't care if you're a gangster or politician, right. I don't care if you're LGBTQ or a Muslim. I don't care if you’re Christian, yes, or a nonprofit grinder right. If you have a desire to see better for our babies, if you have a desire to see better for these ghettos in which we all come from and live in, you can be a part of Heal the Hood."

Butler likens the block parties to a family reunion.

While Heal the Hood offers so much to the community in the form of fellowship and resources, Butler says it's hard to describe what a fully healed hood looks like to him. He says there are many compounding factors at play all at once that keep Black and brown communities so disadvantaged. " ... We fight such a huge task in the ghettos — mental health, financial woes, educational disparities, political misrepresentation. The food we eat be killing us, Black on Black, white on Black, blue on Black. Racism, classism, sexism. So, when you talk about a healed hood, I really don't know what that looks like, I know it looks like sustainability.

He continues, "I know it looks like much better conflict resolution. I know it looks like fathers being fathers. We talkin’ about the nitty gritty. We ain't talkin' about having to, you know what I’m sayin, build a whole Picasso of newness and things. It’s everybody just returned to their righteous place, right. Mothers start loving on and nurturing these babies a little bit more. Let’s get these kids in order. There needs to be a transformation of education here in the city, and not even just here in the city, we talkin' about Black America 'cause it ain’t like the boundaries of the hood stop at the 414 area code."

Butler says healing the hood looks like many different things, but in the meantime, Heal the Hood MKE will continue to "heal the hearts, heal the homes, heal the hoods."

Do you have a question about race in Milwaukee that you'd like WUWM's Teran Powell to explore? Submit it below. 


Teran Powell joined WUWM in the fall of 2017 as the station’s very first Eric Von Broadcast Fellow. She became WUWM's race and ethnicity reporter in 2018.
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