Despite growing up in a strict and narrow religious tradition, Brian Anders has pursued experiences to broaden his perspective and, in doing so, has learned to rely on himself.
Michael Stephens sits in a wheelchair near the corner of Achilles and Auer streets in Milwaukee’s Harambee neighborhood. These days, Stephens doesn’t have either of his legs, but that doesn’t seem to trouble him, too much. “[I] live day by day,” he says. “Whatever happens, good or bad, [I’ll] deal with it, like I’ve always done.”
David Cisney lounges on the stone steps of his home in Arlington Heights. He’s resting, taking a break from raking the yard. On this Saturday afternoon he’s getting some work done around the house because it’s the only day he doesn’t have a church-related activity planned. You won’t often find David sitting still. “I’ve lived a good life,” he says. “You know, when you live in the city, there’s always stuff to do and I can’t understand why the young people today have so many problems.”
Kevin Carlton stands just outside a cluttered garage south of National Avenue in an alley off of 47th Street. Carlton, who displays tattoos from under a cut-off white shirt, has only been in Milwaukee for two years, but it’s been a long road here. “I grew up in a rough family; my dad died when I was 2 — he got hit by a drunk driver on the freeway and mom raised five of us,” he says. “I was the youngest one out of the clan, so, I really didn’t have a chance to miss him. But, you know, earthquakes and the beaches — I love the beaches; that’s all I miss. California is full of people, too crowded.”
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.”
Richard Hodge stands on the corner of 24th and Burleigh, outside COA’s Goldin Center campus, on a sunny Friday afternoon. The bright greenish-yellow of his crossing guard uniform immediately catches the eye, a necessary characteristic in this line of work. He fist-bumps children on their way by, creating a sense of safety that extends past the uniform. For Hodge, this isn’t just another job. “The most important thing is the safety of the kids,” he says.
Mary Koerner looks down at her phone as she sits on a bench in front of Soup Bros. She’s just waiting for work to start. Koerner isn’t from Milwaukee, though. It’s just been the last of a couple different stops. But, she says, Syracuse, New York, where she grew up, isn’t that much different. What’s it like? “Like here. Cold, snowy, you know,” she says with a smile.
Art Guenther stands behind the bar at Just Art’s Saloon on South Second Street in Walker’s Point. Guenther, who grew up on 15th and Clarke, has owned the establishment for 34 years. He came back to Milwaukee in 1975 after spending four years in the Armed Forces and attending college in California – he’s been here ever since. “My mother died at 48, my brother, Ronnie, who’d served in ‘Nam in the Army, comes back, gets married – I was his best man – I went back out to California and he drowned in Lake Michigan,” says Guenther. “So, there were reasons to come back, family reasons.”
Reuben Coleman grew up in Cleveland, Mississippi, during the 60s in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement. “There were the riots going on and the marching and all that old type of stuff.” But it didn’t take long until Coleman decided to move on. At 19 he left his hometown with a taste for adventure, making stops in California, Florida, Tennessee, Oklahoma and Texas before ending up in Wisconsin.
Farence Rogers walks down Historic Mitchell Street on his way back home from El Rey Foods. Rogers has lived in Milwaukee almost all his life but he hasn’t just stuck to one part of the city – he’s lived on the north, west and south sides. “This city is not that big so why limit yourself?” says Rogers. “You’ve gotta be able to mingle with everybody.”