Overview: Lewis Lee struggled to stay out of prison when he was a young man, and then to find life purpose once he did. Now, he’s a community leader, facilitator and mentor, a voice for social justice, and the Milwaukee-based curator of the Shared Studios Portal in the neighborhood where he came up. The 53206, where Lewis still lives, is the zip code with the highest incarceration rate of black men in America. Lewis is working to change that.

He shares his story of using technology to negotiate gang peace and creative collaboration to maintain it, of working with the city’s leadership on a fatherhood initiative, and building police-community relations. These things and more in this episode of the Humanitou Podcast.

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Shared Studios: sharedstudios.com

Case Study: Milwaukee_Portal

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Provided by: Lewis Lee

Intro/Outro Music

“Tupac Lives” by John Bartmann | freemusicarchive.org

*Full transcript coming.


Welcome to Humanitou. I’m Adam Williams, creator and host of this podcast series about humanness and creativity.

Today, I’m talking with Lewis Lee, a community facilitator and mentor, a voice for social justice, and the Milwaukee-based curator of the Shared Studios Portal.

Lewis came up, and still lives in, the 53206. That’s the zip code in the Amani neighborhood of Milwaukee that has been noted, in part, for having the highest incarceration rate of black men in America, as high as 62 percent.

It also has been noted for some tremendous positives, like through work that Lewis is doing. He talks with me here about some of those efforts and accomplishments, like negotiating gang peace using technology, and maintaining it using creativity.

Lewis is a mentor in a music studio that gives teens opportunities to step into a safe zone, where they can co-create, develop skills and get things off their chests in constructive ways.

In this conversation, we also talk about Lewis’ role as curator of a Shared Studios Portal, connecting people from his community, who might otherwise never talk with someone outside their neighborhood, with people who live around the world and otherwise are unlikely to ever talk with someone in the 53206. People in, say, Iraq or Puerto Rico, or Kenya or The Netherlands, or any of many cities in the U.S., like Baltimore or Colorado Springs.

Lewis and I talk about the power of honest dialogue in breaking down cultural barriers and misperceptions, like racial stereotypes. We talk about the friendship that he now has with a 90+ year old woman who is a Holocaust survivor, and how she and Lewis now co-lead discussions for others to untangle stereotypes long held between Jewish and black folks.

We also get into Lewis’ own youth in the 53206. Like how, many years ago, he struggled to stay out of prison, and then to find purpose in life once he did. 

We talk about the profound ways that his brother’s death to gun violence changed Lewis’ life, and the successes that he now enjoys as a father to his three kids, who all have grown into successful, throwing adults.

Here is my conversation with Lewis Lee.

Listen on Apple, Spotify, Pandora, Stitcher, YouTube, Google or another podcast player.