Tuesday, a crowd of about 100 people gathered at Red Arrow Park downtown to remember Dontre Hamilton, the 31-year-old man who was shot 14 times by a Milwaukee police officer in April. Hamilton’s family was also in attendance. The rally, held on the five-month anniversary of Hamilton’s death, was organized as a remembrance as well as a call-to-action for city and state officials, who have failed to make a charging decision regarding the case or to release a report by the Wisconsin Division of Criminal Investigation, which was completed more than a month ago, while awaiting the results of another, independent, investigation.
LeVar Burton walks on stage to a packed house in the Pfister Hotel’s Grand Ballroom – he’s the featured speaker at Sharp Literacy’s A Novel Event, a fundraiser for the organization whose mission is to address urban literacy, “by inspiring engagement in reading, writing and research.” Burton begins by talking about his mother. “My mother is my hero. When I talk about role models in my life – and I have had many – I always go, first, to my mom,” he said. “See, Erma Jean didn’t play when it came to raising her kids.”
Shirah Apple stands in the middle of a closed-off Kilbourn Avenue during Jazz in the Park. Apple was born in Milwaukee but she’s lived most of her life elsewhere. Her stepdad was in the Navy – as was she – and, because of that, she’s been all over, from Illinois to North Carolina to Japan and more. “You’re always meeting new people and always seeing new things and always adjusting and then there was the, ‘Oh, wow, it’s another change and I’m gonna say goodbye to this friend and maybe not see them again.’”
Philip Chinn stands with his pedicab near the corner of Jackson and Kilbourn during Jazz in the Park waiting for riders. Chinn grew up on the north side of Milwaukee near 55th and Mill Road before his family moved to Columbus, Ohio, when he was 8 years old. What does he remember from his time there? “Mostly, it was pretty chill. Our neighborhood was ‘bad’ but there wasn’t too many drugs, there, and there wasn’t a lot of shootings and stuff like that,” said Chinn. “It wasn’t the worst part of the north side, by any means.”
Lawrence stands on corner of Jackson and Juneau in Milwaukee’s East Town neighborhood asking passers-by for a dollar thirty-nine. He wants Buddy Bars, he explains; they’re like Nutty Bars but the generic kind. Lawrence is homeless but he doesn’t consider himself a “bum.” “Because of the kind of person I am, I’ll go up to somebody and talk to them and just tell them jokes or poems,” he said. “I want to bring something to the table besides just my appetite.”
Amber Villarreal has been a mom for as long as she can remember. Villarreal, who grew up in Bay View, often had the responsibility of caring for her brother, who’s 10 years younger. “He’s actually like more of a son than a brother,” she said.
Todd Bennett sits on a patch of grass on the corner of Kilbourn and Van Buren in East Town with Simmons, the pet lizard he’s owned for 12 years. The man who’s been called “The Lizard Cowboy of Brady Street” takes time to answer the many questions of passers by. If you ask, he’ll even let you take a picture with her.