In our new weekly feature 12 Rounds, leaders will answer 12 questions — some light, some heavy — from our Publisher and CEO Henry Sanders to help the community understand them, what they do, and why. Today: Heal the Hood founder Ajamou Butler.
Ajamou Butler, affectionately known as Brother Heal the Hood, is a staple in the Milwaukee community as the founder of Heal the Hood, a community organization. Each summer, through events, mentorship and public gatherings, Heal the Hood encourages neighbors to come together and promote peace and safety in Milwaukee. Butler hosts block parties, youth events, and community dialogues. Butler is also an educator, business owner and spoken word artist using his artistry to propel his mission. Butler grew up in several underserved neighborhoods in Milwaukee and considers himself to be from every corner of the city. He was named one of Wisconsin’s most influential Black leaders in 2017 and has been a panelist at every Wisconsin Leadership Summit. He was the recipient of the Wisconsin Leadership Community Choice Award for Social Justice Leader of the Year in 2019.
1. What advice would you give someone who is a person of color not from Wisconsin who is thinking about moving to Milwaukee?
Make sure you understand several components of living in MKE as a person of color. 1) Understand the educational gap between people of color and people of non color. 2) Look into the economic ups and downs in the city. Check the job market and terms in business ownership. 3) Make sure you look into the racial history of MKE and our hyper segregation. Lastly, Look into the housing market and housing crisis. If you can survive and thrive in MKE, surely, you can survive and thrive anywhere.
2. Name three songs that accurately reflect how you’re feeling.
bigger picture – Lil Baby
Vampire – 2 chainz
Sky is the limit – Biggie Smalls
3. If you could go back in time to any point of life to tell yourself something, what age would you go back to and what would you tell yourself?
I would go back to 17 years old when I first put a knife to my skin. I would tell myself to take a moment, breathe, take a walk, talk to a therapist but by any means, don’t self-harm.
4. What did you learn about yourself in 2020?
I Can’t be stopped! I always knew that I was quite determined and ambitious. But 2020 showed me I have some FIRE in my belly that fuels me forward NO MATTER WHAT.
5. At this point of your life do you feel you have found your purpose? If so, how did you figure out your purpose?
YES!!!!! I figured out my purpose once I began to publicly speak my story of triumph and trials, healing and hurt, failures and successes. I saw how it helped others find their passion and purpose and it made me go harder!
6. There is a lot of division around the issues of race in politics. What can we do to lessen those divisions?
*sad face emoji* I have no idea! This country is rooted in division so deeply. I don’t know what it would take, I don’t know if America has redemption for a racially united future.
7. You recently wrote books for children. Why did you focus on children?
“It’s better to build boys than to rebuild men.”
8. Your organization is called Heal the Hood. What are the top three things that can heal the hood?
1) Financial Education. 2) Social Emotional HEALING work/Building healthy relationships with others. 3) Health and Wellness, Mental health too!
9. Jeezy or Gucci Mane?
Both influenced me heavily as a teen. I still listen to both of their old and new music. But Big Guwap/Gucci really awakens the street in me lol.
10. Your hat game is nice. What makes you like hats so much?
My crowns are dope because they accent my outfits. I like to dress fly but the majority of my clothing, hats included, are from thrift stores or local stores.
11. Where is the one place you would want to travel that you haven’t had the opportunity?
In 2020, I had a trip planned to Belize City, Belize. 2021, I’m absolutely going to go!
12. Being from Milwaukee, what’s your perception of Madison?
Madison is a far cry from MKE. Madison, from my eyes, sees educational disparities…but not like MKE. Madison may see police brutality, but not like MKE. When Wisconsin is discussed, MKE is like a whole different part of the map. We are not seen and valued as other cities like Madison.