With the city currently in the throes of local awards fever, Milwaukee Record presents The Randoms, a series of highly specific and delightfully arbitrary “best of” awards that do away with pesky voting and feigned attempts at impartiality. Throughout the week, we’ll be recognizing the people, organizations, and places that help elevate life in Milwaukee. This week is sponsored by Boone & Crockett, 2016’s Best Bar With A Taco Truck Out Back (Bay View).
It’s one thing to type sentences like “Milwaukee is a divided city,” and it’s another to diligently work so that sentences like that don’t have to be typed again. Since 2004, TRUE Skool has been doing the latter, making Milwaukee a less divided place by using music—hip-hop, specifically—to “engage youth in social justice, leadership and workforce development.” All that while being headquartered (since 2014) in the Shops of Grand Avenue basement, of all places.
But maybe that underground location is fitting, because TRUE Skool is a truly grassroots, organic organization. The non-profit after-school program is aimed at young people between the ages of 14 and 19, and includes music, art, and dance classes. Picking up where many defunct public school arts programs have left off, TRUE Skool utilizes fellow members of the community and arts and music scenes to reach out to its audience. From the organization’s website:
By using the urban arts as the “hook” to engage youth, we aim to create positive social change by addressing issues such as unemployment amongst teens and young adults, wellness and self-care, racial disparities in the educational institutions and juvenile justice systems, and segregation in Milwaukee. Through a wide range of after-school and summer activities, such as community service projects, art, music and dance classes, developing workshops to peer educate, and business classes, youth then become the experts on these topics and begin to develop creative responses and solutions. Impactful programming leads to developing a diverse, creative and well-trained pool of candidates for employment opportunities and developing social entrepreneurs to make a positive social impact through their work. In addition to developing skills in the urban arts, and an understanding of social justice and business through our workshop series, our curriculum also focuses on developing the socio-emotional health and wellness of our participants.
It’s not hard to see the group’s influence on Milwaukee, either: Drop by a downtown Night Market or a summer festival and you’ll likely bump into a TRUE Skool DJ or breakdance demo. Tune into WMSE or Radio Milwaukee and you’ll likely hear TRUE Skool students performing live. Read a clueless press release from a clueless Milwaukee alderman and you’ll likely bump into TRUE Skool yet again.