QuestNation Goes Mainstream
“I told him I forgave him,” said co-founder of Mothers Against Gun Violence, Debra Fifer.
Fifer’s only son, Kirk Bickham, Jr. and two of his friends, Deshawn Windbush and Carl Hall, were killed outside a local Milwaukee bar, Elvin’s Ice House, in September 2003 following an altercation inside the bar.
The tragic loss and need for change influenced Fifer to create the organization, Mothers Against Gun Violence, in order to “push for equality and legislation to prevent gun violence” especially against stolen firearms seeing as though the firearm that took her son’s life was stolen.
“When I read the report from the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms), I became angry and thought, ‘If that gun had been reported stolen [by the owner], then it wouldn’t have ended up in the hands of a felon,’” Fifer said. “So I had to invent something that would push local legislation.”
Fifer’s efforts to implement security and safety in the community specifically among young people are much similar to those of the local radio podcast, QuestNation, though their strategies may differ.
What is QuestNation?
QuestNation, which started as simply Quest before making connections nationwide and becoming a major form of communication, was founded by a Milwaukee native, Roy Washington, in 2010. At the time, Washington was a school safety for Milwaukee Public Schools and a basketball coach. The podcast began as a means to display “behind the scenes” footage from different basketball games as well as the actual games during the team’s undefeated season.
Washington said that the players were allowed to go back and see the footage weekly. Some moments would even bring laughter. “I did it like a reality show,” he said. “That was a fun thing for them.”
The podcast was influenced by two of Washington’s most valuable players, Brison Taylor and Marcus Smith. “Those boys grew to young men that year,” he said. “We taught them a lot more than just basketball.”
After growing up in the streets and participating in gangs, Washington said that he wanted to help younger people to prevent them from making similar mistakes.
“I’ve seen drug use and all types of evils,” he said. “I was just following my friends even though I had a family and a meal waiting at home.” In contrast, Washington said that a lot of his friends lacked the family structure that he had.
Since, he has become a mentor for several young adults in the Milwaukee area including upcoming rap artist, Chico Manolo. Washington met Manolo in 2013 after Manolo performed on stage at a kids talent show. Manolo said that Washington offered to work with him after hearing his music.
“I would say that Roy is ambitious, diverse and prophetic,” Manolo said. He also announced that QuestNation even awarded him Artist of the Year for 2017.
In addition, Washington has also been a huge motivator and mentor to one of his favorite former students, Domanique Clinton. Clinton graduated from Madison High School nearly five years ago; however, Washington said that they’ve kept in contact, and he believes that he was also one of her favorite staff members.
“Mr.Washington is such a positive and motivational person,” Clinton said. “There’s so many great things that I could say about him. He just motivates me to do better because he’s so dedicated to whatever he does, and I love that about him! I’m definitely thankful that God put him in my life.”
It wasn’t until September 2015 that Washington took QuestNation to another level, and the radio podcast adopted a new role: to aid in getting out the stories of young people in the community. In particular, the podcast initially focused on local music artists since Washington was once an artist himself, having one of his last songs “Inspiration” (which was recorded with Washington’s friend, James Lewis “Midwest James”) played on a major steppers documentary, The Perspectives on Steppin in 2006.
After working in Milwaukee Public Schools for 10 years, Washington said that a lot of the young people he’d taught lacked support. Therefore, he wanted to create a platform that provided not only support but also exposure to those who possessed musical abilities but may not have had much recognition thus far.
“I would like to enrich people [through my platform],” Washington said. Anyone who “has something to say” is a priority to Washington. “If it’s positive, I’m going to cover it,” he said.
Washington’s radio podcast has gained much success and allowed him to meet and network with many different people all over the world, including Fifer.
Washington (QuestNation) Meets Fifer (Mothers Against Gun Violence)
Fifer and Washington met last spring at a Black Girls Rock event. After meeting, they exchanged information and months later began developing a pitch to start their own radio show to “discuss ongoing topics, highlight local entertainment and bring awareness to local issues such as gun violence.”
Fifer said that she is most excited to work alongside Washington and learn about the production of radio.
She said that she really admired how “open and receptive” Washington was [when they met], and that convinced her immediately that he was someone she wanted to work with.
“For me, it was like an opportunity to learn something I did not have experience with and help get my message out,” she said. “ It was a perfect fit.”
Prior to starting Mothers Against Gun Violence in 2003, Fifer was the city and statewide president of Million Mom March. She was also awarded the Unsung Hero Award in 2005 by the Congressional Black Caucus on national television for her diligence and hard work on behalf of her community.
Fifer’s accolades and experiences made Washington just as eager to work with her especially after learning about her dedication and motivation behind the cause. “I seen a lot of young people that I know get killed too early, so her message is one that needs to be spread abroad,” he said.
The suspect who killed Fifer’s son, Jaki Marion, was found guilty of three counts of first-degree intentional homicide. He’s currently serving three consecutive life sentences.
Though justice in some way has been served for Fifer’s son and his friends, she said that she wants to continue pushing legislation and advocating for other mothers who have lost a child due to gun violence in a more “controlled manner.”
With both of their platforms combined, Fifer and Washington would like to implement change in some way, and they are hoping that having their own radio show will give them the ability to do so.
QuestNation & Fifer Go Mainstream
One of the most well known philosophies is, “If you want something bad enough, then you have to go out and get it,” and that’s exactly what Fifer and Washington did.
The duo contacted the radio station, WGLB, nearly a month ago to pitch their ideas and possibly purchase air time.
“We reached out to them, and they accepted,” Fifer said.
Though Washington started QuestNation as a foundation solely for underground music artist, Washington said that he has since “broadened its horizons” and covered many different stories (i.e. A Haunting in Portland and Sabotaged with Mrs. Ginny Townsend.) In addition, he and Fifer plan to tell the stories of many others on their new radio show.
They will broadcast live on WGLB (96.1 FM/1560 AM) from 3 PM until 4 PM starting Feb 23. Following the first show, they will broadcast every second and fourth Friday. QuestNation will also be starting an upcoming reality series with Archbishop James Cloud in the near future.
After being asked where he wanted QuestNation to be in the next five to 10 years, Washington said he wanted to be a “major player.”
“I can vision some people accepting Grammys and having ties with us somehow, and they’ll be giving shout outs to us,” he said.
Despite the fact that Washington founded QuestNation, he said that QuestNation is “us.”
“We’re all in this together. If you have a dream or goal, you can reach it, and QuestNation is here to help you reach it.”
Roy Washington of QuestNation would like to give a special shout out to the legends from Milwaukee such as Eric Benet, Tina Moore, Coo Coo Cal, Ray Nitti, Baby Drew, G Womack and Tank among others.
“The shout out flows from the best legends to the future ones like Chico Manolo, Mz. Pretty MystiQue, Mocha T, Damo Payne, Lucy Lu, Young Bully, Jayvyn, Munch Lauren, Kelly Kellz, Stacy Weathers, D Rock and others. I really look forward to the possibilities of this new year. Together we can effect change and make a big difference during a time where the discouraged look for heroes. May God give us the charity and wisdom to be as such.”