Boys & Girls Club exec Deonte Lewis, on Milwaukee's hope, community and "Big Homies"

WHO: Deonte Lewis, 32, grew up in the 53206 ZIP code. Now, as an associate director of community relations at the Boys & Girls Club, he’s looking to help young people who are facing the same temptations he survived in his youth.

At work one day, a young person approached me to talk about a shooting in his neighborhood, and how hearing the gunshots affected him. He was acting like it had already been normalized for him, saying stuff like “It happens” and “We just have to move on.”

I had to let him know that that is not normal. That’s not the way life is intended. That’s not normal everywhere.

I dealt with that too, growing up at the corner of 16th and Center Street. There were complications there, complex situations. And there was a lot of love and community there. There was hope.

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A lot of the people who were looking out for me had been written off by society as felons and “troublemakers.”

But we kids called them our “Big Homies.” They were the uncles and big bros who steered us in the right way. They were the guys who promised us new shoes if we kept our grades up. And they lived across the street from the grandmothers who made sure us kids were fed after a day of bike riding up and down the street.

That’s why I love Milwaukee: There are good people and good influences everywhere. That even in the so-called “rough neighborhoods,” hope and trust and love still abound in the future generations.

Deonte Lewis, as told to Adam Rogan

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Did you like this story? Check out our previous Why I Love Milwaukee stories.

“Why I Love Milwaukee: Hope, Trust and Love” appears in the March 2019 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

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