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Stories about kids, guns and how to stop the violence. Precious Lives, created by 371 Productions, is a 2-year, 100-part weekly radio series about gun violence and young people in the Milwaukee area. The series applies a public health lens to each story to help listeners understand the full scope of the problem: who are the victims and the shooters; how are the weapons obtained; and what can we change about the environment that contributes to violence in Milwaukee?

Young Performers Share Messages, Feelings Through 'Precious Lives: The Live Show'

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Rachel Morello
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Cast members answer questions during a live Q&A after 'Precious Lives: The Live Show' Wednesday night.
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Credit Titus Wamai
Timberley Brown on-stage sharing her story.

On Wednesday night, the voices behind WUWM’s collaborative series Precious Lives took to the stage at the Pabst Theater. Precious Lives: The Live Show featured two dozen kids and adults from the Milwaukee area whose lives have been affected by gun violence. For most of the young people involved, this was the first time they shared their stories onstage in front of a large audience.

As soon as the roar of applause died down at the theater, Timberley Brown walked offstage with a big smile on her face. The 16-year-old had shared a very personal story about losing a cousin to gun violence.

Yet Timberley says Wednesday night wasn’t about her.

“I have a message that I really have to spread. I really need to let these people know that, you [are] not by yourself,” Brown says. “I need to let these people know that, your story might match my story. So this is my time to tell it the correct way.”

Brown says she hopes the audience left the show with the conviction that Milwaukee needs change.

“They’re not by themselves if they want to make a change. Even if you haven’t experienced gun violence, you know that you can help,” she adds.

For 13-year-old Zanaria Banks, telling the story of her baby brother who was shot and killed a little less than two years ago was something she needed to do for herself

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Credit Rachel Morello
Among some of the youngest performers were 14-year-old Warren Griffin-Yates (far left) and 13-year-old Zanaria Banks (far right).

“It really hit me really hard, but getting it out with Precious Lives really helped me,” Banks says. ”I needed to tell my story, because if I didn’t, I knew that I was going to continue to cry at night in my room.”

Nerves were common among cast members. But not for 14-year-old Warren Griffin-Yates. He says he was just excited.

“It was so dope having everyone onstage. It was phenomenal!” he exclaims. “I got the feels, if you know what I mean!”

“I think we really might have really made a change or something! Just seeing so many people here listening to us, is really exhilarating.”

Rather than telling a personal story, Warren focused on a message he says is critical to the discussion about preventing gun violence.

“I said several times, ‘do you,’ which means be yourself,” he explains. “I personally feel as though how people get caught up in a lot of gun violence and gangs and all that stuff is by being someone they’re not. So that’s why it’s so important to be yourself and don’t let people change you -- or society for that matter -- into something that they want you to be. Be who you are, and no one else. It’s that simple.” 

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Credit Titus Wamai
Shamira Mcghee sharing a story about how her uncle was shot 8 times and survived.

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