"Milwaukee; I want to stay and try to provide opportunities for the young people."
Photos by Megan Monday
Tyrone | Milwaukee, WI
"I'm second generation in Wisconsin. My mother was born in Arkansas, my dad was born in Mississippi, and they moved up here to go to college. I grew up on 47th and Center. That's where I was raised my whole life, the north side of Milwaukee.
I went to MSOE for college. I like the size of Milwaukee. It's not too big, it's not too small, and I’ve had a lot of unique opportunities here.
Milwaukee definitely has its challenges and its issues that have been documented many times, and there is always a debate with Milwaukee people: should you stay or should you go? For me, I feel like I want to stay and try to provide opportunities for young people that may not have it. You know what I mean? That is one challenge I like to take on. To make sure there are opportunities for the young people."
"My mom was a speech pathologist for Milwaukee Public Schools and then she became a special ed supervisor, so I always saw her working with youth and giving back. My sister is a teacher. My dad was also heavily involved in the community, working with different organizations. So from a young age I saw my family involved.
When I was in high school I was always really good at computers. I was kind of a nerd. I just always was messing around with computers, the games and all that. Even before I was in high school, I remember being in elementary school playing Number Munchers, like, 'Oh, I like this. I kind of want to make this when I'm older.' That's when I decided: let me try and go to MSOE. After school, I got accepted into the Edison Engineering Program at GE Healthcare. I was a firm-ware engineer and they had a yearly volunteer day. That was the funnest day of the year for me. I was like, man, I really enjoy organizing these books at this school. It was kind of fun, or just painting this wall. I really specifically remember there was this kid at the school and he said, 'When are you guys coming back?' I didn't have a good answer for him. I thought, 'Man, I need to do this more often. I have to find a way.'"
"I was always into music. My parents listened to old soul, funk, and all that stuff. One day at work a friend of mine was like, 'Man, Tyrone, they've got this crazy deal on turn-tables at the music store. We should go check it out.' A quick stop-in turned into two hours playing around, and I was hooked. I started practicing all day, every day. I had a few friends that were DJs that heard I was getting into it and said, ‘Oh, come over to my house. We'll show you some stuff.’
I was always really good at math, and had my engineering background, so I started picturing songs as math: numbers and all that, rhythms. I started putting those numbers with the songs, using them to mix songs together. Math and music, it made me feel like I was at home. I was practicing all day and all night and trying to figure this stuff out. Then I slowly started to DJ events within my comfort zone. I was practicing and meeting more and more DJs. Lots of things started to fall into place. I was just trying to go to open each door and see what happened. Luckily, a lot of really cool and interesting doors opened for me. I was able to transition from my engineering job to being a DJ and having more time to get involved in my passions, music and working with youth."
“There’s this kid I mentored, Luke. Luke was part of the first DJ class I taught. He was getting into some trouble with the law back then. Within the first few moments of meeting him and seeing his skill-set as a DJ at such a young age, I was like, ‘All right. Yeah. This guy is the truth.’ So I wanted to introduce him to everyone. I was like, ‘You have to meet Cut-up, you have to meet YB.’ He was like, ‘Oh, man, I didn't know all these people were accessible.’ He thought the DJs he heard about were just so far away from him. Then he just started doing his own gigs and really making a name for himself. The opportunities started pouring in for him. You know, he just got his own studio space now, so it's really cool to see him grow.
He went from getting arrested every weekend to now doing his own thing, maturing, taking steps to become better. He's a great example of giving a kid an ear, what can happen.
I see his family all the time, we hang out on the regular. Every time I see his dad he's always like, ‘Thank you. Thank you for being there.’"
"It’s amazing to witness these kids transform just because they had somebody listening to them. Literally, most of the time all it is is that we sat together and they got everything off their chest. I’ll say, ‘All right. Do you think you should do something better?’ ‘Yeah. I should.’ 'Okay.' And then they did something better. That's all it took.
Obviously a lot of stuff needs to change. There's need for a lot of different kinds of support, but for real, just have a conversation and talk and just get to understand what these kids go through. This is tough.
This is tough in a lot of these areas. If they have somebody they know, that they can rely on that's not going to judge them for who they are or what they want to do or what their family has been through, what they've been through, stuff will change immensely, and rapidly.
A lot of people have preconceived notions about what's going on in Milwaukee or what these kids are doing. I would just ask people to meet ten black and brown teenagers in the city and talk to them and see what their needs are and understand what's going on. After that conversation, I think people would have a really different understanding. We just need to be able to relate to each others lives. The struggles that you've been through. We've all been through things, you know?"
-Tyrone | Milwaukee, WI