Leaders rise from aftermath of Sherman Park violence

Posted at 6:03 PM, Aug 17, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-17 19:05:31-04

MILWAUKEE -- In the aftermath of the weekend's violence in Sherman Park, we're finding leaders in every age group.  A 17-year-old is using social media to encourage his peers to do the right thing.

Kalan Haywood is the president of the City of Milwaukee Youth Council.  His words have been shared over and over, and he's hoping his message for peace is the loudest voice heard.

"I understand that screaming voice that yells from deep inside your gut that tells you that no one is listening," he wrote.

"A lot of people felt like they were silenced, they don’t have a voice, so they reacted in not the most positive manner," said Haywood.

Haywood believes young people who reacted in a violent manner didn't have all the facts, and that was a problem.

"Not knowing something frustrates everybody. So that plays a role in anger, the emotion, the adrenaline rush. It plays a key role in all of that," said Haywood.

What they knew was the Sylville Smith was dead, shot by a police officer.

“He’s so loved over here, and everybody knew him, just nobody expected him to be dead. Nobody expected him to be shot," said Drew Ellison, who lives near Sherman Park.

Outside Sherman Park Wednesday, young men called the riots a knee-jerk reaction to the death of someone they cared about.

“Yea they acted off pure instinct. Nobody really waited," said Ellison.

Haywood thinks so too. His letter charges Milwaukee's youth to "think before you act."

“Now you see the aftermath, we have to live everyday with the burned down buildings and the community’s broken. It’s hurt, it’s broken," said Haywood.

Haywood's hoping lawmakers will consider the opinions of young people.

“Any policy, any law, any legislation doesn’t work if the citizens it affects don’t agree," said Haywood.

If things are to change for the better, Todd Butts thinks something needs to be done about the incarceration rate of young black men, particularly those who have children.

“I just want to see a lot more father programs, where kids get to interact with their fathers because the fathers is the number one thing that’s missing from the household," said Butts.

The incarceration rate of African-American men in Milwaukee is among the highest in the nation, and the young men we talked to said that's a problem because you need fathers in the homes to make a difference. They hope to see some policy change to make that better.

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