M.D. Dangerfield Jr. sits in a yard near 2nd and Nash in Williamsburg Heights. A small, portable grill is filled to the brim with meats; children play on the sidewalk nearby. Dangerfield — draped in a white, tank top undershirt and a towel that hangs from his shoulder — looks on. “I’ve been around here ‘bout a good six, seven years. It’s a big difference from where I’ve been,” says Dangerfield, who was born and spent most of his early childhood in Chicago. “It’s more peaceful.”
Eric Jefferson walks down a lonely stretch of North Richards Street, just south of Capitol Drive, in Williamsburg Heights. The ends of his untucked, short-sleeved collared button-up flutter in the wind on a warm September day. “My mother … she moved here, I was probably one or two when she moved here because her father, my grandfather, lived here and he was a minister,” says Jefferson. “She moved here to get better jobs.”
Bessie Jeter leisurely drags on a cigarette while standing on the porch of her longtime home on the 3700 block of North 2nd Street. She wasn’t born in Milwaukee but she’s been here for more than forty years. “I was born in Mound Bayou, Mississippi,” she says. “It wasn’t bad. I grew up, I learned how to work hard, I picked and chopped cotton until I was 18 years of age and I left home when I graduated from high school.”
Norma Wheeler sits on the front port of her home in Williamsburg Heights. Wheeler raised all of her children in the house, located on a one-way strip of 2nd Street, where she’s lived for more than 50 years. “I’ve been livin’ in Milwaukee all of my adult life. I raised all of my kids here, in this particular house, and I get along with my neighbors pretty good,” she says.
Monica Jones walks, unassumingly, down the 3800 block of 3rd Street on her way back to the house she’s lived in since April. From the outside, the 18-year-old with bright red hair seems anything but reserved; still, at first, she avoids eye contact. “I’m kind of going through a tough time,” she says. “I lost two people two days ago. I’ve been losing a lot of people in Milwaukee, a lot of my family and stuff. It’s just a tough time for me, right now.”