This Black History Month, we honor the GAME CHANGERS: Everyday heroes whose actions make life better for the people around them. SEE ALL OUR GAME CHANGERS HERE.
Millicent “Mama” Hill
Place of Residence: Los Angeles
Why she is a local hero: Hill opened her home as a safe haven to the kids of South Los Angeles, offering mentoring, tutoring, and gang intervention.
After a 40-year career of teaching students, Hill knew she wasn’t finished. She couldn’t stop thinking about all of the kids she’d lost to gang violence. By her count, that number was at a jaw-dropping 2,000. That’s when she vowed to help more kids than she had lost through her organization, Mama Hill’s Help.
Hill offers tutoring, pregnancy prevention, and gang intervention.
“I had a 4-year-old who came to the house for the first time with his mom. His sisters were in the program, and he was throwing up gang signs. I said, You know what? You leave him with me. We got him straightened out,” Hill told TakePart.
The kids that Hill works with come from difficult circumstances. They come from struggling single parent homes, where parents have drug addiction and gang membership is the norm. Some have parents in prison and relatives who have been murdered.
Many take a daily risk by coming to her program, because they have to pass through several gang territories on their way there. But once they arrive, they are rewarded. Hill leads field trips and counsels. She is a one-stop shop for kids who want to do better. Her home is considered a gang-free safe haven. Every year, she helps 125 families.
“We have to protect these innocent children who have no voices,” said Hill. “If the money were being spent where it’s really needed, I wouldn’t still be feeding people every week and helping them get clothes and gas money.”
Hill, who participated in the Civil Rights Movement, also realizes that one of her biggest fights is helping the parents of the kids that she works with. Hill helps parents to improve their parenting and get their own lives on track.
“Parents do a lot of damage because they don’t know it’s a trickle-down thing. This is how they were taught, so they’re doing the same thing. Our greatest enemy is poverty and ignorance,” Hill told TakePart.
The results so far have been good. Kids’ grades are going up, and they are graduating from high school. They are starting to believe they can create a better future. They are affecting their peers in a positive way.
Hill is so appreciated in her community, that when Hill almost lost her home to foreclosure after bad refinancing, friends, neighbors, and politicians rallied around her until a solution was found that allowed her to stay in her home. Now Hill has also joined the fight to protect people’s homes.
While Hill believes that she has surpassed her goal of helping more kids than she lost to gang violence, after more than a decade at work, this doesn’t mean she plans on stopping anytime soon.
“I provide a refuge so children can shine,” Hill said last year.