From growing up in one of Milwaukee’s most challenged neighborhoods to running a business of her own, Kathy Kingcaid has lived her life with no regrets.
Novion Bailey, who grew up without much money or his father, has had to create his own goals and vision for his life.
Lonnie Hughes stand just off the curb in front of his home in Sherman Park. He talks with a friend as he leans on the handle of a broom, his right hand covered by a tattered work glove. “When I moved to this neighborhood, it was a fantastic—well, it’s still a great neighborhood,” he says. “People agree, neighbors get along great.”
Jasen Komar walks west down Dakota Street toward South 13th in Milwaukee’s South Side Polonia neighborhood. Komar’s gait is brisk, and he walks with a smile on his face. “I feel like I’m the glue of my family, really.” he says. “You know, my family, we’re going through a lot ‘a things — we’ve been going through a lot ‘a things. I’m kind ‘a like the goofy one in the family, you know — I play too much, I’m outspoken sometimes.”
Bonnie Drew bends over to extract a weed from her garden, which covers almost the entire yard of her home in Enderis Park. Though, long ago, Drew picked up and left the northern Wisconsin town she was born in, there are still elements of that life she hasn’t been able to leave behind. “It was completely different,” she says. “I mean, it was a small community so, you know … everybody helped each other out. You don’t see that too much anymore.”
John Branham stands at the end of a long, shaded driveway near the corner of 52nd and Villard. Branham has overcome more than a few challenges in his time; it all goes back to the dinner-table conversations his parents would conduct every night, he says. Though they struggled as a family, it was always about looking forward, and the possibilities of tomorrow. “Now that I look back over my childhood, that’s what gave me strength — bein’ optimistic,” he says. “You know, because … a wall can be built but you can go around the wall, over the wall, [or] you walk through the wall.”
Diego Flores stands in front of his family home on the 3000 block of West Orchard Street in Milwaukee’s Burnham Park neighborhood. Flores, who has been in Milwaukee since he was a young child, says though the city has its challenges it has some bright spots, as well. “When you grow up in such a diverse community, you always meet different types of people. They’re not necessarily always gonna be good, so you’re not necessarily gonna be always makin’ the good decisions. I definitely [had] my troubles as a teenager — I committed some crimes,” he says, adding that it wasn’t anything serious. “I love Milwaukee. There’s honestly, like—there’s no other city I would rather live in right now.”
Shauratina Velez waits at the corner of 12th and Atkinson with her four-year-old daughter for the Route 19 bus. Velez, 22, was 17 and a junior at North Division High School when her daughter was born, and it’s been a tough road ever since. “I don’t have any help, I don’t have nobody to show me the way — you know what I’m sayin’? I don’t have nobody to teach me … I had to learn [more from sources other than] my family to know how to make a resume, how to talk to people. I’m still learnin’ to this day — I’m teachin’ myself.”
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.”
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.”