Milwaukee Youth Nonprofit Running Rebels Promotes Positivity Through Music with Volume Three of “Uplifted Project”

Generational Healing Through Programming

The Running Rebels has mentored Milwaukee’s youth since 1980 when Victor Barnett founded the organization. Barnett began with basketball as a way to connect and bond with the city youth as a mentor. Since then, Running Rebels mentored over 2,500 youth annually, engaging with them through various programs such as its athletics program, The Violence-Free Zone, Higher Education Learning Program (H.E.L.P), and the Lady Rebels program. 

The organization provides necessary guidance and training to Milwaukee’s youth to help them towards a successful transition into adulthood. 

“I’m a person that walks every day living my dream,” said Barnett. “I dreamed of one day of being able to change the world as a 10 year-old-kid. As I turned 19 and started the Running Rebels, I dreamed of changing the lives of young people.”

A Local Album to Connect with Youth

Running Rebels finds creative and nontraditional ways to connect with the youth, and one of those ways is through the “Uplifted Project”, a music album featuring local artists. The first project came out in 2020 to help the community get through COVID-19 and the organization is on its third album.

“We[‘ve] always done music because it connects to our young people. It’s a way of connecting the dots or bridging the gap…Everyone old and young loves music,” said Barnett. “ We came up with the idea to work with our youth, our young adults, [and] even staff to make uplifting music.”

In March 2024, the third volume of Uplifted Project was released and it contains 10 tracks of music that speak on the highs and lows of life.

Behind the scenes of the “Good Vibes” music video. (Picture by Running Rebels)
Behind the scenes of the “Good Vibes” music video. (Picture by Running Rebels)

“To hear some positive music with positive messages, I think that’s so needed,” said Barnett. 

The Uplifted Project utilizes the community the Running Rebels has created in Milwaukee, with former students of the program helping along every step of the way including production videography, audio mixing, and video editing to create the songs and accompanying music videos. 

Music as Wellness

The Uplifted Project addresses the role of music and the organization’s belief that music helps people through rough points in their lives, ultimately aiding in the improvement of a person’s mental health. 

The songs on the album address topics such as mental health and trauma to allow listeners to be vulnerable with themselves and feel less alone in their struggles.

“We think these songs uplift the community, but it also uplifts that individual person that’s listening to it and an effort to get our young people and older generation to chanting some of these things, instead of the ‘world is a horrible place’, they’re chanting ‘good vibes’ or ‘my love for you’.”

Project Uplifted is available on all major platforms with hard copies being sold at Running Rebels East headquarters located at 225 W Capitol Dr. in Milwaukee. All proceeds from the album go to fund the organization’s annual H.E.L.P. scholarship

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