By Shateria Wiley
Nautica Whitelow may be only 15 years old. She may have a lot of things going on at home, but she is a young lady dedicated to making a change to a local park.
Whitelow boldly stood up from the bleachers inside the gymnasium at the Sherman Park Boys and Girls Club in late June to address the crowd of community members, local youth and law enforcement officers. She stood out in the crowd as the first young person to speak. The flower crown-adorned girl emotionally explained the events she witnessed in the park involving youth and law enforcement that were being discussed and how she felt about them. She said that she wants better in her community and that she is ready for it to start with her.
In late June, several incidents took place at an inner city park called Sherman Park involving the youth and law enforcement. Whitelow started off explaining what actually happened based on her experience at Sherman Park and how she felt about it. She said she wants better in her community and for it to start with her.
Whitelow talked about how the officers abused their power over the young people, which she did not like at all, so she stood up to figure out how she could she make a change at the park with the youth and their interactions with the police.
“They’re supposed to be here to protect us and make us feel safe,” she said. “But how are you going to ask for a solution when we don’t even feel safe around the police?”
She explained how Sherman Park is a public park that anyone could come to. She then went on to say all the youth were having a good time playing with water balloons at Sherman Park when the police approached them and began to mess with them as if they were doing something wrong. Whitelow said she feels that once the police come trying to find a problem, the youth in the park get upset because there isn’t actually a problem. She said they feel as if that is an abuse of the authority’s power.
“These police don’t even take the time to build a relationship with the youth,” she said. “Rather, they’re just doing it for the media.’’ She does not feel the police are trying to reach out to the young people from their heart. They are doing it just to please the media.
She also talked about how the community volunteers have stepped up a lot to help improve the behavior of the youth at the park so that law enforcement would not have to be involved at all.
Whitelow herself plays a similar role. The 15-year-old is friends with nearly all of the young people who hang out at the park, and she is there almost every day. Whitelow described how she often acts as a peacemaker, breaking up fights and de-escalating conflicts before they become bigger. She said that it is people like her and the community volunteers who will be able to help the situation in the park by building real relationships.
Whitelow explained briefly how she manages to work to make a change in her community while she has crazy things going on in her life at home.
“After my daddy died, my whole world turned around.” Whitelow said. She explained that she feels like she needs to step up and do great things in life to make her family happy.
Whitelow said she actually feels like what she is doing is coming from the heart and is making others at the park step up because they see her being a role model.
“The park should be a place that people can go to stay out of trouble,” she said. “There could be so many other worse places they could go.”
By India Smith
Think of Milwaukee as a big brick wall. The adults in the city are the construction workers, laying down the foundation for the bricks to go onto. Us, the youth of Milwaukee, represent the bricks. In order to have a good, functioning wall, everybody must cooperate and respect each other’s roles. This is a very important value that I feel isn’t fully fulfilled by our modern society. This has been this way for some time now, and I feel it is time to be addressed and changed. The youth in Milwaukee are beautiful beings filled with intelligence, potential, and so much more. Our voices are powerful and innovative and should be cherished as we are the world’s future.
It is vital for more organizations to get together and get our youth’s voices heard. For example, Urban Underground is wonderful with getting the voices heard from a younger crowd. As mentioned earlier, they set the foundation for youth to go to different areas and speak upon community-related issues. One of the major sources of doing this is their 2016 Youth Rise Magazine project. The youth lead the stories, get the photos, promote it and much more.
The youth are not only often hushed of their opinions, but they are also commonly stereotyped and subject to racial profiling and discrimination. These problems mostly only happen to Milwaukee’s large group of African American youth. It’s as if the day you are born with brown skin you are targeted and set up for failure. An innocent black man wearing a simple hoodie can be unfairly categorized as a “thug” or a criminal by those in the community with lighter skin. They treat us as lesser and as if we are incapable when in fact it is the exact opposite. This is just a brief explanation of how our youth are treated, but I refuse to go on as I strive to end all stereotypes, statistics, and whatever else comes to my beautiful black brothers, sisters and I starting right now.