All posts filed under: North Division

“Everything started closin’ down”

Jonathan Groves walks down West Locust Street, toward 19th, carrying a big, black garbage bag filled to the brim with clothes. Groves, who was born in Milwaukee, wears two large sweatshirts, one on top of the other, both draped over his slight frame. Hephatha Lutheran Church looms behind him. “I grew up on the north side of Milwaukee; King Drive, 7th and King Drive,” he says. “I had some good parents and went to school — didn’t graduate. Church, you know, um. Then, as I got older, drugs, alcohol. But thank god I ain’t on that no more.”

“It was just the way that it was”

Amos Paul Kennedy sits in Coffee Makes You Black, 2803 N. Teutonia Ave., in Milwaukee’s North Division neighborhood. Kennedy, a printer who has a work of the same name (“Coffee Makes You Black”), is visiting the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design (MIAD) as part of the school’s Creativity Series. But this isn’t his first time in the city. Kennedy’s family moved to Milwaukee — technically, Bayside — in 1995, his sons both attended Nicolet and he earned an MFA (Master of Fine Arts) from UW-Madison in 1997. For Amos, it was the beginning of a still-blossoming career in printing and a different way of living. But, it was also the beginning of the end of Kennedy’s family, as it had been. “Our values changed. I no longer needed to buy a new car every three years for a degree of satisfaction or as a status symbol,” he says. “I kind of gave up the middle class life.”

“I’m a better person today”

Art Brown walks down the middle of a trash-strewn alley south of Locust Street between 17th and 16th Streets. Brown just came from the corner store on Locust; with concern and disapproval in his voice, he gives a warning to the young men hanging around the spot. “If I come up in the store, you don’t know me, how you wanna ask me do I wanna buy some weed or some drugs? What the fuck wrong with you?” he says. “You don’t know if I’m the police; you don’t even know me! You know, you’re puttin’ your future in the justice department — that’s where your future gonna be at.”

“There ain’t nothin’ out here in the streets”

Lennis L. McDuffie smokes a square on the steps of an apartment building at the corner of 14th and Burleigh. The 63-year old stands out in his oversized coat, faux fur-lined hood and flat-brimmed hat. But, despite his city-like sense of style, McDuffie’s heart is in the Arkansas woods where he spent his early years. “I went down there every summer,” says McDuffie of his grandmother’s place, about 50 miles outside El Dorado, a city of almost 19,000, where he was born. “They would have to pry me outta there.”