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.
Leonard Gage Jr. has lived through challenges some could not even imagine. In the process, he learned from past failures and found a reason for hope.
Carolyn Bradford walks down an empty 42nd Street at dusk. Bradford’s gregarious personality complements her ostentatious appearance — patterned glasses, a leopard-print jacket and dangly earrings decorate a personality defined by exuberance. “My childhood was great,” she says. “Bein’ a military brat, it was great. Until I got older, and then my parents got divorced when I was young. Now, they’re both deceased.
Jack Daniel Reese sits with his friend at a picnic table in Jackson Park, not far from Forest Home Avenue. Reese’s unbuttoned jean shirt, greying hair, hard, weathered look and a long scar on his left cheek give a little hint to where he’s been. “My buddy … he makes sure I get outside just to talk,” he says. “He’s knowledgeable and he’s [a] very kind person. He respects me and I respect him — he’s like a brother, you know?”
Jamahl Turner sits in the attic of a towering duplex on 57th and Lloyd in Washington Heights. The large, open area has been transformed into what doubles as a recording studio and bona fide hangout spot. Turner — known by many as “Pharaoh Mac,” “King Pharaoh,” or simply, “Pharaoh” — is one half of local hip-hop group Pharaoh Mac & DMT. For him, music, and hip-hop in particular, is a way to express himself, an escape, a way to communicate on a deeper level, to be truly heard. “If you think about it, music … is a universal language,” he says. “How you speak and what you speak of is what people can relate to. And, hip-hop, in a sense has become the more dominant music now. Everybody listens to it so everybody can relate.”
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.”
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.”
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.