Editor’s note: This article is the last in a three-day series about violence prevention in Milwaukee. Part One addressed the federal ReCAST grant to the Office of Violence Prevention and Part Two looked at the city’s violence prevention efforts.
Kneeling at his godson’s gravesite in Graceland Cemetery in Milwaukee, Muhibb Dyer, 42, laid out a shirt that said, “In Loving Memory of Preston Blackmer.”
Dyer’s godson was murdered at the age of 16 on April 25, 2005. Dyer said Preston Blackmer, who was known to sell drugs, was shot in his side while sitting in his car. Blackmer later died at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.
“Sometimes I look at this shirt and I look at his eyes. His eyes are piercing, and I wonder, what was he thinking? Did he see it coming? Did he have a feeling? Sometimes they say when you die, you have a feeling it’s going to happen, but he just looks innocent. He looks like a young kid, maybe who thought that he had his life before him.”
Dyer and Kwabena Antoine Nixon co-founded Flood the Hood with Dreams/I Will Not Die Young because they were tired of seeing many children of color in the central city dying at a young age. They wanted to help children realize they have a potential for a full, happy life.
Dyer takes his godson’s shirt wherever he goes, including places he speaks. He shares the story of Blackmer as a way of letting other young black men know they don’t have to end up like he did.
Dyer said repetition is a powerful teacher, and typically children living in the central city see repeated incidents of death.
“(Blackmer) may have looked out his window and saw a shrine on the corner, of somebody who was shot in his neighborhood, which is a constant reminder that he may not live to be 21,” Dyer said.
One of the main questions Dyer has for the young men he speaks to is, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Dyer forces all of them to answer.
In addition to speaking, Dyer also performs poetry he has written. He said he uses the shirt with the face of his godson emblazoned on it as a prop.
Dyer estimated that he has spoken to a quarter of a million people and he’s been to 30 different states in the last 12 years. When he speaks, he tells children in schools, universities, detention facilities, neighborhoods and anywhere he can find them that they should have a dream and there is a greater purpose to life than getting involved in drugs and violence.
Dyer grew up in ZIP code 53206. He said somebody has to stand for the children in neighborhoods like his, and somebody has to tell their story.
The name, “Flood the Hood with Dreams” came to be because Dyer and Nixon believed children from places like 53206, which has the most incarcerations in the country, deserve a dream. “There are no throw-away children in this country,” Dyer said.
Dyer lives for his godson, and boys and girls like him. He said when he went to Blackmer’s funeral, he made a promise to Blackmer to reach millions with his story. Dyer said this way, Blackmer can do more in his death than he did in his life.