Lakima Moore grew up in the Henry Horner Homes housing project on the west side of Chicago. Her mother was murdered when Moore was 9. Her father was jailed for defending himself, she said, and was absent since she was 6.
Now 25 and the mother of three young children, Moore, her fiancé Paul Johnson and other young parents on Milwaukee’s North Side are taking the initiative to work for a safer community and better lives for their children and other children in their neighborhood.
“We’ve got a lot of mothers out here losing their kids. We’ve got a lot of things out here that need to stop or we’re not going to have a future. That’s where we come in,” said Moore’s friend and fellow activist Jessica Wilson.
Both women are part of a circle that includes the owners of the locally owned hip-hop recording company Dun Did Dat. While reaching out to area residents to promote the company and its rapper artists, Wilson observed that people in the neighborhood need a lot more than music; they need help feeding their children and keeping them safe.
“We believe in giving back and we believe it’s important to come together and help each other or we won’t succeed,” Wilson said.
Wilson, an energetic 29-year-old mother of four, founded Team Dun Did Dat. Enlisting the financial help of the company whose name it shares, as well as the time, effort and passion of six other mothers in their 20s and 30s, the team is organizing fundraising programs, food drives, activities for children and social events to build community and encourage kids to stay in school.
What the team lacks in numbers its members make up for in enthusiasm and hard work. Last fall, they kicked off their activities with a neighborhood cleanup on 28th Street between Burleigh Street and North Avenue. “Our whole group, at least 35 kids and adults, including rappers and people we didn’t know, cleaned the neighborhood and people came from out their houses to help,” Wilson said.
In January the group collected 80 pounds of food for the Hunger Task Force. Since then, it has sponsored a “Feed the Kids” day in Carver Park and a flag football charity event to benefit Community Advocates. More than 40 adults and children attended the event in King Park, located south of the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center at 1531 W. Vliet St. They collected money from attendees including football players and raised $100, according to Moore.
Wilson, who works full time at a day care center, is on track to complete a degree in human services at Milwaukee Area Technical College in December. She is using the skills she learned at MATC to research, plan and promote Team Dun Did Dat’s events. She is also in the process of writing a business plan.
Her personal goal, she said, “is to open a transitional living home for troubled youth and pregnant teens [who] can’t go and work or go to school because they have nobody, no support system, to watch their children while they go take care of business.”