Ray Williams Jr. sits on his porch on the 3200 block of North 37th Street in a white, tank-top undershirt, holding a half burnt cigarette. The 49-year-old blues guitarist lounges in a chair as he recalls his playing days in Milwaukee.
“Hooligan’s, Murray’s Tap, Central Hall, Chancery Pub, Liquid Johnny’s. I done played with Billy Flynn, all them guys, you know, Eugene and the Soul Gang, Stokes and Eddie Butts, Jim Liban, Mississippi Cactus — that’s me, 38 years of it,” he says.
Continue reading ““The blues is a beautiful thing””
Joe Guentner leans against what might as well be a white picket fence in front of his home on South 21st Street. The 64-year-old Guentner, who was the oldest of eight, spent the majority of his childhood in Racine, where his mother was from.
“I lived on Lake Michigan … literally on the beach,” says Guentner of the place they lived in Racine. “We lived at that place for a number of years before we had to vacate and they tore it down.”
Continue reading ““I’m involved in ministry, and I did six years””
Calip Stephens sits on small pier in a hidden boat landing in Harbor View just off Lake Michigan on an early Friday morning. Stephens is up before the sunrise and, it seems, before the fish, as well; his two poles, two lines cast, heed no bites.
Stephens was born in 1950 in East Chicago, Indiana, about 15 miles outside Gary. Back then, he says, the fishing was a little easier. “Oh, it was boomin’, the livin’ was nice,” he says.
Continue reading ““The value of life means a lot to me””
Ronald Franks dances, unafraid of prying eyes, on the corner of 35th and Clarke, twirling what he refers to as his “adrenaline stick,” a flexible, four-foot-long cane with a tassel on top. Franks, who sports a double-breasted leather coat and leather fedora, is no amateur when it comes to strutting his stuff.
“I’m a dancin’ fool,” says Franks. “Dancin’ is what does it for me.”
Continue reading ““Just passin’ through””
Peter Jest grew up on the northwest side of Milwaukee in what he calls “just an average middle-class family.” When it comes to music, though, Jest, who owns Lower East Side staple Shank Hall and has been a promoter for more than 30 years, has been anything but average.
The way Jest tells it, it’s simple — he just grew up on music. “I guess you would call it classic rock now but it was contemporary rock back then.”
Continue reading ““I just really liked good music””
Ald. Ashanti Hamilton, activists and community partners gathered near 27th and Atkinson to announce the beginning of a “Safe Zones” initiative to address violence, neighborhood conditions and other issues within the black community in the city of Milwaukee.
The initiative, which employs the idea of H.O.O.D. ambassadors (Helping Others Obtain Direction), will launch four initial “Safe Zones” at 23rd and Brown, 1st and Keefe, 27th and Center and 52nd and Hampton. Partners are seeking funding through the federal “Promise Zones” program.
Continue reading “Black leaders announce beginning of “Safe Zones” initiative”
Charity Harvey unlocks her small studio at 231 E. Buffalo. She opens the door to a surprisingly spacious, pristine space. Walls hung with more-than-a-few full-length mirrors end at the finished wood floor, whose only interruption is a shiny fireman’s pole, skewering one side of the room, otherwise-empty except for a modest bookshelf and a handful of accoutrements.
A copy of The Unteathered Soul sits unassumingly on the shelf. She says the book, which focuses on “the inner journey,” has really helped her come to terms with some of the external challenges she’s had to face. “I used to not be able to talk about my mom without getting those really tight feelings in my chest and feeling like I wanted to cry … You know, even though you wouldn’t cry, [I’d] still feel that when I’d start talking about her.”
Continue reading ““I felt like something had been stolen from me””
Corey Kirkwood unlocks the door to Reformation Church of Holiness on a Saturday afternoon. The building, located on 21st and Chambers, is empty today but Kirkwood, who is a youth minister there, says Pastor Henry Kilpatrick allows him to use the space for meetings.
“He’s a very community-based person. A lot of people know him — he used to be a city bus driver for 30 years. He helps his community out in this area very well.”
Kirkwood, who graduated from Bay View High School, has been involved in community work his entire adult life working, first, as a teacher at Malcolm X Academy, then as a drill sergeant at Right Step Boot Camp Military School and, later, as a disciplinary administrator at Texas Bufkin Christian Academy.
Continue reading ““My mission is to bring the love back to the city””
LuAnn Will’s home at 2659 S. 15th St. sits in the middle of a long dead-end block in Milwaukee’s Polonia neighborhood, inconspicuous except for the bullet holes that litter the front porch and the “We Don’t Call 911” sign displayed in her front window. Will talks about her son, Joseph Lee Walker, as she shows where – porch, front hallway, bedroom – the dozen or so bullets left their mark, constant reminders of that night in early April when Walker was shot three times by Milwaukee Police.
Fearing for her life after being threatened by Walker in the midst of what she describes as a psychotic episode, Will was the one who, eventually, called police non-emergency. She only wanted her son, who’s suffered from addiction, depression and mental illness for most of his life, to get the help she’s adamant he needs. But Will could never have imagined what would happen next.
Continue reading ““I have no trust in the judicial system, at all””
Jennifer Garcia sits in the corner of her front porch on the 3300 block of South 15th Street, surrounded by family.
Garcia spent much of her childhood in St. Francis, a small municipality just south of Bay View, but has seen a lot of Milwaukee, also living in West Allis, on the north and east sides of the city and attending Hamilton High School on the south side. What’s her experience been like? “Diverse,” says Garcia. “Especially, now, having kids, I want them to be diverse so it’s not like they’re just secluded with one race.”
Continue reading ““Everything I have, I’ve done myself – and for my kids””