ON-Lion Letter
In September, hundreds of Milwaukeeans gathered in Sherman Park for the Second Annual 300+ Strong Rally to promote nonviolence and the strengthening of the community where protests took place last month following the shooting of Sylville Smith by a Milwaukee police officer.  

The rally celebrated the first anniversary of the 300+ Strong Movement, a coalition of grassroots organizations that share the common goals of lifting African-American children out of poverty and reducing violence.  Among the many groups associated with the coalition is Running Rebels, which offers a wide variety of mentoring programs, including A True Aftercare Program, the Milwaukee Violence Free Zone initiative, and the Job Prep Program.  Operation Dream is another affiliated organization; it provides a structured environment for at-risk youth and offers them opportunities to flourish by emphasizing the importance of academic achievement, employment, family, community, health, and fitness. 

While the efforts of many of these black-led organizations receive little attention from the media and often go unnoticed by local funders, this coalition, originally called "300 Strong," was created to foster collaboration and to facilitate the coordination of their efforts to reach out to Milwaukee's black youth.  The coalition began when its members identified 300 young African-Americans from Milwaukee's hardest-hit neighborhoods that they sought to mentor and support. This year, the coalition changed its name to "300+" in order to highlight its growing influence and scope.  According to Chad Wilson of the Milwaukee Fatherhood Initiative, "We're trying to get everybody of all ages and classes together and exchange ideas, and continue to construct instead of destroy. Just to be in an atmosphere where people are all positive, be able to grow and connect."

The celebration in Sherman Park included food, entertainment, and speeches offered by leading members of Milwaukee's political and religious communities.  "I think, right now, people are realizing you can’t do it without unity.  No one entity or organization is going to do it alone," said Victor Barnett, who co-founded and co-directs Running Rebels with his wife, Dawn Barnett.  "My hope is that we can connect the dots of our community, meaning that our organizations are working together more...  And what better example than to show the front-line work that's going on here that we're a part of."

The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee supports Running Rebels, Operation Dream, and the Milwaukee Fatherhood Initiative. 

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