MILWAUKEE — A man who worked every day to bring peace to Milwaukee, was caught in a battle with some of his own inner demons. But very few people knew.
Hamid Abd-Al-Jabbar helped save lives with the city of Milwaukee’s Office of Violence Prevention and 414Life Program.
Desilynn and Hamid met when they were 15.
“I think his past caused a lot of shame and guilt for him,” Desilynn said.
She watched him fight for a better life, after spending more than half of his in prison.
Hamid was convicted of homicide when he was 19 but went on to change his life, working as a violence interrupter and peace advocate.
“He said he always wanted to be to people what he wanted for himself, so that’s where he became that hero for others,” Desilynn said. “He could remember when he wanted that person there to help and intervene, and no one was there.”
Witnessing Hamid push-through anxiety and depression over the years, inspired Desilynn to become a mental health and substance abuse counselor.
Making a life, steering others out of harm’s way, was a tribute to Hamid’s kindness and relatability.
“He would get a call and go regardless of where he was or what he was doing,” Desilynn said. “He would walk right into situations of trauma, pain, violence. He was literally trying to stop people from committing crimes or doing something they’d regret.” But witnessing that kind of strife on a daily basis took a toll. Hamid admitted to Desilynn that he had started using drugs again. He was ashamed and didn’t want anyone to know. He told Desilynn he’d stop.
Desilynn went with him to get help, and begged him to tell other family members and coworkers.
“I can remember him saying that if he told them, they’d think he couldn’t do the job,” Desilynn said. “I’d tell him that's not true. That they’d just want him to get better.”
Hamid was found dead from a drug overdose on February 11th. He was 51.
“I feel like I failed him,” Desilynn said.
Her own grieving process, shedding light on the mission she is committed to, in honor of Hamid.
“Even as I deal with my husband’s death, I find myself shying away from a therapist,” Desilynn said. “I shy away from that type of support, and I’m a mental health counselor. I know the importance of it, and I’m the first to admit that we still have this stigma that we have to get rid of.“
The stigma that we'll be judged for opening up about our emotional and mental health struggles. She’s trying to raise awareness about this, especially in underserved neighborhoods.
It’s part of her commitment to carry on the work of her husband, so he can save more lives.
“His work was purposeful, honest, sincere, and most of all, it was needed,” Desilynn said. “I know he wouldn’t want anyone else hiding their pain or shame. We can start by sharing our stories. I know I’m not the only one with struggles. I know Hamid wasn’t the only one. We need to talk about our mental health."