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Positive Narrative Change Campaign

The Department of Black & Latino Male Achievement was launched in the fall of 2017. The department works to specifically address the glaring disparities in academic and life outcomes for young men and boys of color, and implement programs that improve their lives and outcomes.

Our vision is that Black & Latino boys and young men will possess an affirmed sense of identity, dignity, and self-confidence, and will have the necessary tools to triumphantly navigate college, career, and life. We are committed to ensure that our Black and Latino boys are being supported and lifted to reach their fullest potential and excellence. We believe all Black and Latino boys are capable of academic success and will achieve at a high level of excellence.

One of the key strategies for the department is to re-imagine Black and Latino boys within the school district. Our objective is to ensure that they are seen as assets that bring brilliance, creativity, and greatness to the Milwaukee community, which should not be overlooked or underappreciated.

We are excited about our collaboration with Art Start and Turnaround Arts to create The Art Start Portrait Project because it broadens perspectives and shows people how some of our young men really embody what it means to be great, and to seek greatness.





Launched in 2014, #SeeMeBecause is Art Start's campaign to start a dialogue about what it means to be seen. In 2018, the campaign highlighted Black and Latino young men within Milwaukee Public Schools and how they ask to be seen.

#SeeMeBecause - Amir#SeeMeBecause - Davon

#SeeMeBecause - Dejon#SeeMeBecause - Desmond

#SeeMeBecause - Devonta#SeeMeBecause - Javon

#SeeMeBecause - Latrelle#SeeMeBecause - Rene


Amir Ducksworth, Photo by Natalie Brasington, 2018

At first - I wouldn't say my history doesn't matter, but I really didn't focus on it like that. I just focused on my future, not my history until, here in Roosevelt, Mr. Suggs teaches about our history and he'll show how it - help our future. So, that's why I just, like, started going with it. He  teaches us all about our history and basically was - he, like, another father to me.

What I'm trying to say is, like, if I don't know my history, like, how I'm going to know my future basically? Colin Kaepernick inspires me because he doesn't - beacuse - how he took his knee. I just feel, like, free. Like, other kids stand and I just don't. I don't know how to explain it, but I just feel free, you know?

I want to spread the message to all Black people to know, like, we are more than just what people say we are. I'm not just going to say white people. I want people to know that us Black people, we can be more than just murderers, killers, thieves, and, like, just rappers. We could be whatever we want. And I want to sreapd that message somehow.


Art Start Video Bio - Amir (MASTER) from Art Start Org on Vimeo.



Davon Finch, Photo by Zachary Maxwell Stertz, 2018

My most memorable [moment] would be probably my mom passing and how it affected my life. A lot of the decisions that happened and a lot of the things that went on in my life - that really affected a lot of it.

The thing that's stood out the most to me in my life would be the things that help me turn around: the people around me, the things I pay attention to, the people that I listen to. They really help me benefit from the stuff that I do. If it put myself in a bad spot, then that's going to make me go down the wrong path. So if I keep myself around the right people - like I have been doing - then I'm just going to keep doing what I'm doing.

My sister was really strict on me and she told me - coming into high school - I was going to have to turn it around. She put her foot down and she made me - that's what made me really start doing better.

My sister or my grandpa or my sister's boyfriend or anybody, really - they always tell me that they're really proud of me for the turnaround that I made. My older brother - he's eigthen and in college - he texts me all the time and tells me to keep up the good work and all that, and I really look up to him a lot.

The older guys that were in the hood, they encourage you to stay in school and stuff. They don't want you to be like them, they don't encourage you to go jump in no gang and do what they did growing up as a kid. Really, stuff like that. They point you in a different direction; it kind of helps when you really pay attention and listen to what they're saying to you, because that's not really a life that you want to get into.

Growing up, I obviously moved around a lot. Even before my mom was passed, we stayed in one house to begin with: that was the house that had burned down. And once that house burned down, we were homeless. We didn't really have nowhere to go until my grandma found a house. We moved in. It wasn't really a home: it was a house.  We couldn't even use our back yard, people - it just really wasn't good. It wasn't a good neighborhood. We ended up moving. My other grandma was moving out of a house, so we were moving into that one as they were moving out. When we moved in there, that really felt like home 0 that was the hose on Buffum. I loved that house. And then we moved out of there - and there was another house, actually, that I skipped before. The one that my grandma originally found after the house burned down was on Fratney, and we ended up having bed bugs, so we had to move into the other house where we couldn't use the back yard. And that's when we found Buffum. And then we stayed down the road, my grandma started getting sick. This was my great grandma, but the way. She started getting sick, and she got dementia. After like eight months - six months of her having dementia, she passed. So she's been passed for like eight months now, I want to say. Close to a year. And then, after she passed, my sister had the house for like, a year - no, not like a year. Maybe like six months. And then we moved into our new house on 32nd, and we've been living there since the start of my eight grade year.

Footbal is really my passion. I really love playing football. When I came into high school, playing football - it just opens up a whole new me. I just love the sport.

[I'm] Someone who works hard at what he wants and is very confident in himself. I'm a person that would do anything for anybody that he loves.


Art Start Video Bio - Davon (MASTER) from Art Start Org on Vimeo.



Desmond Shuler, Photo by Sara Stathas, 2018

Gary [Indiana] is a place where I can go and call home, but it's also a place where you don't really want to be because it's really - we call it Scary Gary.

Well, on the good tip, it's people who care about you. You have people in the streets who see you down, they help you up. They lift you up. And, like, one thing that I love about Gary is the home baseball games because it brings everybody together, no matter if you're a drug dealer, a killer, or just some random person out here.

Well, me wanting to be a lawyer, I would go back home to go to school. So, I would probably go to Notre Dame (University of Notre Dame, Indiana)...I a defense lawyer for all the males who are going through these trials and they're being committed to a crime that they didn't commit. And that might help them thing, if I'm being accused of this, then let me show them I can do different. That second chance could save a life. And that life could save another.

Brotherhood is so important to me because us as brothers, young black males, we've got to look out for each other. They already stereotype us as not being able to make it. But the more we stand up for one another and we look out for one another, we can always succeed and show people wrong. We can defeat the stereotypes and the hypocrites who talk down on us and try and instill in our head that we aren't going to ever be nothing.


Art Start Video Bio - Desmond (MASTER) from Art Start Org on Vimeo.



Devonta Hymes, Photo by Paul Gilmore, 2018

It's like when it's time for me to do something, I just look at the people who have - how can I say it? - who have hope in me. Who want to see me succeed. I don't even look at the negatives no more. I'm mature. I'm grown up now, so it's time for me to stop looking at the wrong things and look at all the right things.

Me? I don't care about money. If I get money, I want to give it back. Probably not to exactly you, but I'm going to give it back to my community. I don't want to be selfish. I want to see everybody doing something positive and not just fifty people out of seven-million or seven-billion.

You have to listen to the youth. To tell the truth, I think children, youth - they smarter than adults. Even if you done got your degrees and stuff, I just think they smarter than them. Because as years go by, who does everybody really look at? Everybody starts looking at the youth.

I just want to see a difference in the world. I'm tired of people saying "community" as in, like, a block. Just seven houses on each side. But "community" - I'm ready for everybody to stop saying it like it's seven, fourteen houses on a block. I'm ready for everybody to think about everybody - the whole world.


Art Start Video Bio - Devonta (MASTER) from Art Start Org on Vimeo.



Dejon Moore, Photo by Justice De Los Santos, 2018

I'm an artist. So regardless of wherever I go, I know I'm going to be doing art. I'm a writer. I like to write. I love writing books and stories and telling people stories. That's a passion for me.

I would definitely say my parents are a big reason that I am who I am today. And, just, them always keeping me in check and setting me on the right path. 

My parents have instilled a lot of morals within me. They always built character within me, and many times they - every now and then, as much as they keep me on the right track, they let me make my own decisions and figure out some things for myself.

I think a lot of people view people of color especially - it's just biased because it's like what you see on the news, and what you see on Facebook and the internet - once you drill it in somebody's head, it's hard for them to know anything different. It's like learning. When you learn something, you don't just, like, read something one time. It's constantly put into yout thoughts. And when you do that in a negative way, then the negativity is learned. When people have that type of bias about people of color - no matter what race it is: Latino, Black, Asian, whatever - it's just always going to be negative. And a lot of times that's even how people of color perceive themselves. They see themselves in a negative way. Some Black kids don't even like to be around other Black kids because of the simple fact that they think they're going to start trouble or - it's some negative idea about them.


Art Start Video Bio - DJ (MASTER) from Art Start Org on Vimeo.



Javon Finch, Photo by Zachary Maxwell Stertz, 2018

I'm intellingent. I'm smart. I'm from Indiana. I like to draw. I really want to learn animation. When I look at this picture I think about how amazing I am.


Art Start Video Bio - Javon (MASTER) from Art Start Org on Vimeo.



Jayden Newble, Photo by Sara Stathas, 2018

This movie on Netflix, it was, like, 2014 when I watched it, I think. It was called "Gifted Hands," and it was about a Black brain surgeon that's - that helped people, the brains, like, Siamese twins or whatever. He separated them and I want to be that person that helps people, that they won't - like, help them so they could be a better person or something like that.

And I just fell in love with it. And, like, fell right over [phonetic] the movie and I just - instantly - told my mom, "I want to be a brain surgeon."

Because in movies, in regular movies, we really don't see an African American helping - well, not necessarily helping but, like, you know, working hard, like, going into it and helping people's lives. And we really don't that in all type - and, like, movies. So, that's what - it, like, stuck out to me.

I'm a family guy. I'm like, a family person. I like - love to hang around family.

I want to be the best parent to my kids and want them, you know, to say, "Oh, he was the best parent." But, like, not the best because nobody could be the best. But, you know, a good parent to my kids and be a photgrapher and able to take care of my children.

I'd just make the world a better place so people will be safe walking down the street at, like, eight p.m. or by themselves, walking the dog or something like that. I just want people to be safe because it's, like, why [phonetic] - it's, like, you're not even safe in your own city that you were born and raised in. So, I would zap the world to make it more safe.


Art Start Video Bio - Jayden (MASTER) from Art Start Org on Vimeo.



Kevin Thomas, Photo by Nick Collura, 2018

I like to draw. It helps me express myself.


Art Start Video Bio - Kevin (MASTER) from Art Start Org on Vimeo.



Ladavion Weston, Photo by Natalie Brasington, 2018

I sing in front of people a lot, but all I do is thinkg about my brothers. They're not with me. They're in foster care.

The biggest place I've sung is The BMO Harris Center [BMO Harris Bradley Center]. I sung at - I think it was a talent show. I was singing Whitney Houston - and what song? "I Will Always Love You." I did win third place, but it was fifty people there so it was good to get third place.

I didn't know I could [sing]. My voice started to develop at, like, around eleven. I was like, "Oh, I be killing it." My momma used to be like, "Stop that noise!" Then I started hearing myself, I'm like, "Oh, I sound good." Then that's when I start in the shower, like, [singing/humming].

I try to stay in art schools because when I was in these regular community schools, it was not for me. I stay in trouble because I got a slick mouth. At the art school, they keep me occupied with orchestra - because I play the cello - and with drama, singing, all that stuff. So, like, I don't have to worry about stuff like that. But they still got academics - that I'm passing. But, yeah [sharp exhale].

That helped me when I was in foster care, too. I just [makes sharp noise], let's get this over with. When I'd just listen to my music, I'd sing with it [hums], and it helped me.

Something about music, all types of music. I like all types of music. It just makes me zone out and I'm focused to stuff. When I sing with it - me and my sisters had a whole jamming session yesterday. We was just laying down, and that's when she just started singing and I started singing with her. Then we standing up. I'm just singing, killing it. And they like, "Keep that noise down." But we just - music have us positive all the time. Positive energy. GVO, good vibes only.

I try to stay positive. I try my best to, like, not forget about my three little brothers. However old I get, I will never, ever forget them. Even though they probably - that's a big probably - have forgotten me, I will never forget them.

[In the future] I see myself with my brothers, of course. Having a job that's got something to do with music, or be a lawyer - with my whole family together. I'mma make sure of that. Making sure everything's good. Kosher. Try my best. I know I'm one person, but one man can change the world.

Going off of my personal background. It's probably other kids that want to see their brothers and sisters, but can't due to the bureau, the government, transportation, the CPS [Child Protective Services]. I think if I have a program which has permission from all the people - the governments, the high-standing people - and I can take those people to see their family. And not just the transportation, but help their parents get their house in order, get them housed, get them clothes for the kids, so they can be able to get they kids back to the house. We can supervise it if it's something wrong, but I'm sure, even if they mom or dad have disabilities, they still wan to see they child. Help the parents get they stuff in order. So, like, the government can say they're fit; they're fit for their kids. So, they can go back home and I'll be like, "I did that." That's also a good feeling.

I live in the hood, on 23rd and Burleigh. It's a lot of shootings. The place I was with for foster care, it was more peacefuller, but it didn't feel peaceful to me because I'm not where I want to be. Even though I'm in the hood and it's a lot of shootings, killings - when I'm with my parents and family, I feel safe. But my community, even though they be shooting the kids - I try to stay away, but, like, we be singing on the block, be killing it. It'll be me, my sisters, a boy across the street. We call ourselves Young and Gifted, and we just sing. Nobody give us money because [grunts], but we just sing. And we'll just - everybody'll just stop and, like, "Good job!" And we just kill it. But that's - that's like the good side of the community, but at night, it's a different story.

I just want [people] to see me - for them to know that I'm more than where - I'm more than just where I live and the expectation they they expect from a young Black male in the hood. I want them to know it's more than just gangs and shootings and all that. It's - cello, singing. I want them to know that it's - I'm more complex that what a lot of people expect. And I think some people - like the teachers - they thought of me as being bad because of my history. So they got low standards of me. So when they start seeing my test scores and all that, and seeing me at all these performances, they're like, "Oh, Ladavion? What? I can't believe." [Laughs].

Don't underestimate me.


Art Start Video Bio - Ladavion (MASTER) from Art Start Org on Vimeo.



Latrelle Johnson, Photo by David Johnson, 2018

What I would like to see different is when the people outside standing, standing begging for change. I know you shouldn't give it to them, but you also shouldn't just look at them and be like, "Oh, he a bum. He shouldn't get nothing." I know some people take it and drink, that's why everytime I see somebody, I don't give them the money. I go in there - go in there, give them a soda or juice or something everytime I see them. I don't give them the money - well, I will give them some money, like some change. But I also - especially if it's hot outside - I make sure I'll got get them something to drink. Ask them what they like to drink. Give them a soda or something, you know? Or an Arizona. That's just me, but everybody not like that.

I don't know. I just - I just hate seeing me people, just, looking like that. Like, when I get older, I just want to change that in the world. And people just not helping. Just looking at them like they always - it's some people like that, but everybody don't just take that money and drink. Some people really need it. And then when it's kids out there, of course I'm giving some everytime. I don't want no - especially no Black kids on the street begging for change, and nobody ain't helping them. I'm going to give them something, make sure he's straight. Especially if I got it.

It makes me feel like [pause]. I don't really feel nothing. It's just, like, I think I'm doing what I was - what I came here to do. I think I came to help.

I think Jesus sent me here to do that.


Art Start Video Bio - Latrelle (MASTER) from Art Start Org on Vimeo.



Rene Mejia-Townsend, Photo by Nick Collura, 2018

I want them to see me as a good person who, if somebody needs to talk to about anything, they can just come up to me and talk to me. Like I said, I like to help people. I just want to be able to be there for someone if they need someone to talk to, because you know not a lot of people always have someone to talk to. I guess I want people to see me as somebody who is easy to come up to talk to or easy just to come up to and be like, "Hey, what's your name, blah blah blah." Because, like I said, I've been told before, people sometimes are nervous to come up and talk to me for anything. I guess it would probably be that.

What stands out about you?

Probably my artwork. I would say my art, because I started drawing when I was like seven or eight, and then started getting really serious about it when I turned twelve or thirteen. I feel like as I've gotten older - and me going to The Arts [Milwaukee High School of the Arts] - my art skills have gotten better and better, especially when I'm drawing people or animals and stuff. Or basically anything - because there was a point in time where, if I went to draw something, and I tried to draw it, I couldn't. Now, I basically can. It may not be super realistic, but I can still get the grasp of what I was trying to draw. So, I feel like my art is what it is.

I feel like with me having kids - specifically a boy - would be to [pause]. I don't know, I just want somebody where - I don't know, I've heard when you've had a kid, it does something. Something amazing happens the first time you have a kid. I don't know what that is because I've never had a kid before, but I heard it's something super, super special. And your whole world changes. I think that's just really impactful, and I want to be able to experience it for myself and see what they're really talking about. I can kind of get an idea, but I feel like you're not really going to know until you actually experience it for yourself.

But my little brother, me and him just have this really strong bond. In the photoshoot, he had him come in, and he had me - my arm - on his chest and him looking up at me. So you can see him, but you couldn't see me. But in the backdrop, it's like me doing all these different things all composed into one thing. With him putting my artwork, somehow.


Art Start Video Bio - Rene (MASTER) from Art Start Org on Vimeo.



Sencere McDowell, Photo by David Johnson, 2018

Everybody, no matter what skin you - everybody going to need help. Can't nobody do something on their own. Everybody going to need a helping hand to lean on. It's impossible for somebody just to do everything on their own. They got to have some type of assistance or somebody got to help them out. If it wasn't for Shaq [Shaquille R. O'Neal], I don't think Kobe would have had his rings. That's how the world basically goes around. You help this person to help this person to help that person out. Having a support system is always good, for anybody. So -

I got to go get it because I got to eat. I got to live. I'm going to be a man. I got to be a man. I got to start paying bills, in a little while. It's just - right now, I'm just learning right now. I'm just writing notes down and learning everything I need to know for me to be more successful in life. I don't want to be on the streets - that's the motivatin, of me not to be on the streets. So I just feel like I got to take off, so - so - is all it is. I made my decision. It was Fisk University, in Memphis, Tennessee. So that's where I'll be headed to after I graduate to study [sports] marketing. I like counting money and I like the game. So it's just two combined into one. I'm pretty much too behind the scenes. You see the athlete, I'm behind the scene. I'm handling they money. I'm making sure they're all right, before they step on the court. So that's all.

I got a family. I got sisters and brothers looking up to me. So they see me doing it, it's going to run in their bloodline to do the same thing. because it's - that's how I was raised, off of just helping everybody else and make sure not myself is good but make sure they're good to. But if it take off like I want to, I'm going to get into something else. Like I love fashion. I love to dress people. I think I'm kind of good at it. It go far. It go pretty far for me. I don't know if I want to change my - I was just thinking about that. I don't know. But I still - because fashion, to me - I could dress anybody. You show me how you dress, we can just go pick out some things. We'll put it together. We'll make some magic. That's just how I am. I don't like seeing people uncoordinated you know? I'll always put my two cents in, to something, especially when it comes down to dressing. That's just how I am. That's just another talent, that was just blessed down upon me. And I thank the man upstairs for doing that. Because I'll be dripping sauce sometime, as they tell me - I drip sauce.


Art Start Video Bio - Sencere (MASTER) from Art Start Org on Vimeo.





Image from The 2018 Art Start Portrait Project opening exhibition during 2018 Boys and Men of Color Week.

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Phone: 414-475-8842 


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Phone: 414-475-8248

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Phone: 414-475-8631

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