Milwaukee Strong: Get to Know Shonn Hinton & TRUE Skool 🎤 🎵

“You have to lift up the community,” exclaimed the ever positive and jolly Milwaukee musician, Shonn Hinton on our weekly Zoom with Rock the Green, “We need to show some love and empower our next generation. TRUE Skool does that, and I am so proud to perform for them.”

Hinton has had quite a summer, despite the pandemic, penning the tune, “Milwaukee Strong,” which features a plethora of Milwaukee’s creative artists contributing to music video, which has generated a lot of buzz both on 88.9 Radio Milwaukee as well as on social media and beyond.

“Milwaukee Strong came about so abruptly,” shared Hinton, “When my good friend and former Growing Nation studio engineer, Kevin Sucher (Executive Director, 88nine Radio Milwaukee), reached out to me in May to create a song that embodies our city, I was like, whoa! It started as a challenge from the Mayor of Louisville to other cities to create a song with a message about their city. I was just coming off of the new We Will Survive record that I did with our group, Shotgun, and I was like, dude, I hope I could nail this!’”

With nearly 4,000 views at the time of penning this blog, it seems like Hinton’s homage to Milwaukee is doing quite well. “I had a big fear of being able to do this well,” Hinton candidly admitted. “I wrote the hook first- ‘through the fire, through the rain, tomorrow will be a better day,’” Hinton shared, “It was like a love letter to the city… we’re all like a big family, being part of the Greater Milwaukee Community, and like any family we are going to have our differences. However, at the end of the day we’re still family, and that’s what ‘Milwaukee Strong’ is all about.”

The project started off as something small and quickly grew into something bigger than Hinton could imagine, with a who’s-who of Milwaukee’s creative scene joining forces to create the video of the song and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett even going so far as to declare July 24th, “Milwaukee Strong Day.”

“That just floored me,” admitted the very humble Hinton, “Having Mayor Barrett declare a day after my song stopped me dead in my tracks. I was overwhelmed with joy to be blessed to use my gifts to help the city that I love. I feel like my gift is helping connect us together.”

The spirit of connecting the community through arts is shared not only by Hinton and his peers, but by the TRUE Skool, a Milwaukee based organization helping to educate and unite youth through hip hop culture. “TRUE Skool starts with youth,” shared Shalina Ali, co-executive director, "We have teaching artists who are alums of TRUE Skool who share with our youth artists not only about their practice, knowledge and craft, but about the role of arts in entrepreneurship and generating sustainable income. More than half of our staff are adults who used to attend TRUE Skool, which really speaks to the power of the organization.” TRUE Skool co-executive director, Fidel Verdin, shared more about TRUE Skool’s role of supporting youth even amidst the COVID19 pandemic. “We quickly ramped up digital engagement. We realized that we need to help out with the emotional wellness of our participants and with ways to deal with anxiety and cope through all of this. Our ‘Art of Coping’ program has been essential for this, as arts are such a great way to aid in communication and expression.”

Fidel also shared about the TRUE Knowledge program, which also continues to be part of the organization’s online platform. “TRUE Knowledge helps students network and give them a space to talk about important topics. It helps them learn about the deep reach of the creative economy and helps create a pipeline for emerging artists to get paid opportunities to share their talents with the community.”