Debra Gillispe is the founder of Mothers Against Gun Violence. She lost her son, Kirk Bikham Jr., to gun violence in the city in 2003.
Twenty years later, she’s still doing all she can to share support and resources for others going through the same thing.
Through a partnership between Mothers Against Gun Violence, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Carroll University and the Milwaukee County Transit System, interactive murals have gone up at two Milwaukee bus stops.
People can scan the QR codes on the bus stop mural. It takes them to a webpage where those impacted by gun violence across Wisconsin share their stories.
The bus stop murals are located at 12th and State Streets and 6th St. and Highland Ave. A third interactive mural is in the works.
“I see these stories and I’m just so honored that we were able to share their voices,” said Gillispe.
Gillispe said over the years, she’s noticed that gun violence has gotten worse in the city.
“I think it’s very important to show that gun violence isn’t just a Black or brown issue,” she said. “It’s a people issue. That’s why these voices represent our community.”
She said her faith and giving others a voice has helped in her own grief process.
“I’m just blessed that I healed because grief is unexpected,” said Gillispe. “God used it for good. He used it to elevate other survivors’ voices.”
The artist behind these murals is Natalie Derr, a local Milwaukee artist.
She listened to the personal interviews to gain a better understanding of each victim so that she could represent them accurately through the murals.
“The best reward has been talking and speaking to the people that have actually gone through this so I can get a better idea on how to create an artwork that really reflects that person,” said Derr.
She was connected with Gillispe through her former professor at UWM.
“Working with Debra has been such an honor and such a privilege,” said Derr. "She’s such a beacon in the community for all that she stands for and all of the people that she supports.”
Gillispe said these interactive murals are just one way to give survivors a voice and to inspire change in our communities one story at a time.
If you’ve been affected by gun violence and would like to share your story, you can reach out to the project, here.