Early on, Steve Hampton’s lifestyle was harming others and himself. While serving a 10-year prison sentence, he found a reason for hope.
As a child, Martha Freeman fought for those who couldn’t fight for themselves. She has continued that fight, only in a different way.
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.
James King picks up trash from a strip of grass between the street and sidewalk on North 12th Street, an idle mower behind him. King, who grew up near 29th Street and Courtland Avenue, has always walked his own path, sought to define life by his own standards. “My father instilled in me … he always said, ‘James, no matter what you do, you be the best. I don’t care what it is, you be the best. If you be a drug dealer, you be the best drug dealer; If you be a doctor, you be the best doctor … If you gonna be a fool, you make damn sure you be the best damn fool,’” he says.
Vanessa Plant sits on a yellow, vintage sofa in the living room of her first-floor Riverwest apartment. Plant, whose multi-colored hair and bright, flowered chest tattoo give a bold first impression, has lived around the world but eventually came back to her childhood neighborhood to put down roots. “I was born on Pierce Street, in a home,” she says. “Homeschool and church, those were my things. I mean, I was 6 so I don’t remember a ton — mostly just from old home videos.”
A recent event at McGovern Park brought a crowd of 100 people together to pray for Milwaukee, but an invocation of homosexuality as a “plague” demonstrates the stigma that LGBT individuals still face within the church.
Ronnie hobbles down a lonely stretch of Oklahoma Avenue supporting himself with crutches. The 77-year-old wears a pair of old-fashioned Koss headphones over a baseball cap adorned with American flag pins, his scraggly brown hair peeking out from beneath. Ronnie is on his way to visit with his daughter and granddaughter. “That was my big thing — to get married and have children,” he says. At this point, they’re all he has left. “My son only lived to be 19,” Ronnie says. “He went into the army and he was stationed in Germany. He got killed, not like in combat or anything, but he was in an automobile accident when he was coming home from seeing his daughter who was born prematurely — she was in the hospital ‘cause she was only two pounds.”
Juan Malave stands near 35th and Auer, by a parking lot, paintbrush in hand. He’s working on a garage nearby. This is his life. “Yeah, every day, 365 days, you know; I’m working Monday, Saturday, every day. At 6 o’clock, till 8, 9 o’clock, you know,” he says. “I’m working for every guy, every man, you know, every people.”
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.”
Timothy Seeger greets “Mo,” a Muslim employee at Capitol Smoke Shop, 6924 W. Capitol Dr., with the customary greetings of “Allahu Akbar” (“God is greater”) and “As-salamu alaykum” (“peace be upon you”). Seeger, who’s there for two packs of Pyramid Blue King cigarettes, which he refers to as “modern-day peace pipes,” pays the bill of $11.50 in dollar bills and pennies. “When you think about it, there’s no fighting and no arguing when people are smoking cigarettes, for the most part,” says Seeger, who only began the habit three years ago, at 58. “They’re calm, relaxed; It’s like weed … but this is legal.”