Hear me… Milwaukee is too hot this Summer. Boys in white t-shirts hang on street corners flirting with anxious girls in lime green tube tops stretched too tight Desperate for attention Boys wear white t-shirts cause it looks cool Girls wear halter tops and capris stretched so tight my woman spirit knows they must threaten to suffocate future new life. Oppressing wombs that will hold the young ones that will need to hold up me and you when we are broken and on our way to another place. And a few years ago my “I know everything” year-old self shook my head. Shame Shame! Why they momma let them wear that out of the house. My Momma would have stomped a mud hole in my behind. Why them boys on the corner with nothing to do? What are they doing just hanging like that? Get in the house before the streetlight goes out. But we are here now. Milwaukee is too hot this summer. And our black and brown youth are taking the blame for all the heat. And all boys in white tees with their pants hanging low are not in a gang and all girls in bubble gum pink Paris Hilton skirts are not freshman prostitutes. Some come into youth centers to shoot hoops and shoot the breeze and blast recycled canvases into art of urgent expression. Some have guns. Some don’t. Some have rage. Some don’t. Some sell drugs to eat. Some are on drugs. Most aren’t. Some sell dope to live “the life.” Most don’t sell drugs. They sit across from me and look into my eyes and tell me who they are and who they need me to be…for them. They keep it real. And their message has always been articulate. Ageism. We just don’t listen. Some girls walk the street to eat. Some don’t. Most girls walk back and forth Up and down the avenue in summer for recreation. They are going to places to laugh and be fifteen. Predators drive by anxious to devour our future sheroes and Hoodmommas. I know this because so often men drive through this hood and when they see me they wink and nod for me to “spend” some time. All black-skinned thin girls are not on crack. People sit leisurely in the middle of the sidewalk at bistro tables and black and brown boys and girls have to walk through and around. Feeling foreign and invisible moving through one too many people that are afraid to smile and say “Hi”. They might be looking for trouble. Most likely they’re on their way to somewhere. It has been a bloody summer. I’ve heard it all from adults. The fabric of our families has broken down. There aren’t enough jobs. There is nothing for these “kids” to do. They lack moral fiber. They were doomed the day our ancestors where thrown on these shores. The church needs to take back the community. Too many children are being raised by children. The policy makers have forgotten them. Dead black and brown boys look good on tv and tell you and me to fear the ones that are still walking around. 75 homicides it is still only July. Natural thing to say first thing in the morning…did anybody get killed last night? I can’t think straight. There is so much hard work that better get done in this city. I accept no borders. My life is bigger than my neighborhood and the value on life in every neighborhood in this city creates my quality of life on Booth Street. I do not have time to debate the sources, reasons or excuses for the bloodshed and hopelessness that is plaguing this city. The hardest thing to do with this state of emergency is to listen to young people and guide them in advocating for peace, unity and justice. The hardest task, but it is the challenge we all need to meet. Listen. Trust. Allow. The first thing you will hear…it is not all of us. This month’s column… poem whatever label it needs…was inspired by the conversations I’ve had these past two months with an amazing circle of teens, parents, youth development professionals and a “few” neighborhood residents. The Youth Leadership Circle is a grassroots organization that has been formed out of the Summer of Peace Initiative based on a need for “real conversations” between youth, teens, young adults and older adults seeking to “hear” one another. Teens from all across the city have been meeting weekly to discuss the most urgent issues facing them. It is their forum. Adults are encouraged to attend these meetings that include honest, raw dialogue and bridging activities. The YLC successfully planned the 3rd Annual Summer of Peace Citywide Youth Rally. To learn more about this important circle call: Tanya Cromartie-Twaddle, YLC Director 414-218-8380.