On Thursday, April 30, the family of Dontre Hamilton will observe the one-year anniversary of his fatal shooting by Milwaukee police officer Christopher Manney with a march and rally at Red Arrow Park. One day earlier, a group of Midwest rappers—including Milwaukee’s Sam Ahmed, a.k.a. WebsterX—will convene for a Hamilton-related benefit show at The Jazz Gallery Center For The Arts. The show’s goal: to raise funds for Million Moms March On Washington, an event organized by Dontre Hamilton’s mother, Maria, and her Mothers For Justice United group.
Wednesday’s benefit show was born out of a phone call between Ahmed and fellow rapper Milo, soon after the police shooting of an unarmed South Carolina black man, Walter Scott. “Milo repeatedly asked me, ‘What are we going to do about this? You’re a huge leader in Milwaukee, what do we do?’” Ahmed recalls. “Following that, we were trying to figure out ways that we could throw an event and give that money to something progressive. The only thing was, we had no idea what to give that money to. Even at our level, I think some folks still don’t know how to solve some problems.
“Then it dawned on me: Dontre Hamilton’s death is approaching its one-year anniversary,” Ahmed continues. “Right then and there I took it upon myself to reach out to a family member and to see if they wanted to organize an event.”
After a few days with no response from the Hamilton family, Jenna Knapp, an artist and activist involved with the Coalition For Justice, contacted Ahmed. “She saw a message I sent Dontre’s brother, Nate Hamilton, and thought the event was a genius idea,” Ahmed says. “She recommended we give the money to Dontre’s mother’s organization Mothers For Justice United in their effort to travel down to Washington D.C. with other victims’ mothers to march and build change.”
Along with a WebsterX set, the show will feature performances from other politically minded rappers from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and beyond. “CRASHprez is a very active hip-hop artist from Maryland who goes to school at UW-Madison and even wrote an article on Tony Robinson for VICE.” Ahmed says. “We also decided to bring in Metasota from Minneapolis, who is another political and protest-active rapper in the area, along with Zed Kenzo, who is a strong female black presence and who has ties to the Hamilton family. *hitmayng is a DJ in Madison who is best friends with CRASH and also very active in the community.”
For Michael Penn II, a.k.a. CRASHprez, Wednesday’s show is an opportunity to us his art in the service of a greater cause—a cause that hits close to home. “It’s something that I find myself deeply and personally invested in now more than ever, because people who look like me are consistently targeted and are consistently casualties,” he explains “It’s difficult to navigate how one’s art can help and assist in real world tragedies in a tangible sense. I’ve seen people who would use these moments of death and plight and sorrow as opportunities to promote themselves. Hey, pay attention to this thing I just dropped. Hey, pay attention to my mix tape. It’s a very fine line to walk. So one of our intentions going into this was that it wouldn’t be an emphasis on our art.”
“We tried to make this thing less about the artists playing, and more about the cause behind it,” Ahmed says. “That’s why we’ll have guest speakers from the Hamilton family as well as performances by TRUE Skool, Inc. It’s mainly to show the public that yes, they should get involved.”
The Million Minds For Million Moms benefit show will take place Wednesday, April 29 at The Jazz Gallery Center For The Arts at 7 p.m. Admission is $7. A march and rally marking the one-year anniversary of Dontre Hamilton’s death is scheduled for Thursday, April 30 at Red Arrow Park at 5:30 p.m. The Million Moms March on Washington will take place Saturday, May 9; transportation can be secured by registering online.