People, Williamsburg Heights

“We made it work”

Wearing a bubblegum colored zip-up jacket, a black polo with a small McDonald’s logo and the matching visor in hand, Keiarra Travis frequently glances down West Vienna Avenue looking for her ride to work.

This neighborhood, a neat triangle situated between MLK Drive, Port Washington Road and Capitol Drive, has been the only home she’s ever known.

“It’s not really that bad,” Travis shrugs. “I mean you got ups and downs in the neighborhood, people shooting, but it’s not that bad. We stay to ourselves.”

Keiarra was born in Chicago, but when she and her sister were six months old, her mother left them in their grandma’s care.

“She couldn’t take care of us,” she says of her mother. “She had six kids and it was a lot.”

In the end, Travis says her mother made the right decision. The girls made friends and food was on the table every night. According to Keiarra, she led a “regular life.”

“I wasn’t scarred,” she says. “I am not even mad about it, I am actually happy she did what she did.”

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When Keiarra was 12, her mother returned to Milwaukee to reunite with her daughters. They all eventually moved in together down the street from her grandma’s old house.

These days, some nieces and nephews live with them, too; over the years, Travis and her mother developed what she calls a “good connection.”

“I tell her everything, boyfriend problems and all that,” she smiles. “It’s not like I grew up hating her, because I knew of her situation.

“Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do to make things work.”

Travis, 17, who attends Vincent High School, is saving money for a car and making a decent living for herself and her family. She doesn’t want much more than that.

“I am not really trying to be famous or anything,” she says. “As long as I make enough money for myself and to take care of others … I will be straight for the rest of my life.”

Keiarra’s ride slowly pulls up to the curb beside her. The engine sputters to a halt as her friend announces that she’s going to be late. With a laugh, Travis gets in, slamming the door shut. The car’s engine springs back to life with a loud rumble as the vehicle disappears down the otherwise quiet street.⬩

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