People, Thurston Woods

“I used to drift a lot”

Reuben Coleman grew up in Cleveland, Mississippi, during the 60s in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement. “There were the riots going on and the marching and all that old type of stuff.”

But it didn’t take long until Coleman decided to move on. At 19 he left his hometown with a taste for adventure, making stops in California, Florida, Tennessee, Oklahoma and Texas before ending up in Wisconsin. 

“It was beautiful because, you know, I met different people and I had a lot of people laughing and I was going to different jobs making, you know, $500 here, $400 there, then I’d jump back on the bus and I’d go to another state and I’d do the same thing all over again…I enjoyed myself.”

That all changed when he came to Milwaukee. Coleman, who, by his own admission is a “jack of all trades” – he’s done factory work, roofing, landscaping and more – met the woman who would become his fiancé and decided to settle down.

“One thing led to another…I’ve been here ever since.”

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Coleman said, when he got here in 1983, Milwaukee wasn’t a half-bad place to put down roots. “Milwaukee was nice, man. Grass looked greener, wasn’t no garbage all on the streets or nothing like that – everything was clean.”

Now, Coleman, who had been working in printing for some years, claims disability as the result of a workplace accident. His focus, these days, is on helping to raise his only grandson, Josiah, whose father was hit by a car and killed before he was born.

“So, I took Josiah under my wing and I’m raising him myself, showing him how to be a man and stuff like that,” he says.

“It means a great deal to me… And he’s going to school, you know; he’s doing good for himself.”

What kinds of things is he teaching Josiah? “You know, how to love. Most important thing I’m teaching him is who Christ is…and that Christ is the only one who can be able to help you do whatever you’ve got to do.”


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