Alejandro Narvaez has always bounced around — whether it’s where he’s lived, what he’s done or what’s been thrown his way — but, for him, change has always been a positive.
After spending his last four days in jail, Gavin Groce reflects on his past and where he wants to go from here.
Torre Johnson talks about growing up on Milwaukee’s North Side, the importance of building Black ownership and spaces in Milwaukee and what it will take for people to come together around that goal.
Violet Young walks briskly down North Richards Street dressed almost entirely in purple, a plastic bag in each hand. Exuberant and cheerful, even the below-freezing temperatures can’t dampen her spirits. “You should see what it looks like in summer,” she says, gesturing to a nearby corner park with fruit trees and a small shelter. “It’s beautiful.”
Jose Vasquez, a former gang member, talks about the emptiness he felt as a young person, his personal journey of change and why he has dedicated his life to working with youth who are experiencing many of the same challenges he did.
Joseph Fornicola stands outside his home, shirtless, smoking a cigarette near the corner of South 9th Place and West Dakota Street on Milwaukee’s south side. Fornicola has a tough look about him, a feeling aided by the many tattoos that adorn his upper body. Then again, he’s spent his whole life on the South Side, most of it around gangs and drugs. “It became a part of my daily life,” says Fornicola of the gang life. “Till I grew up and realized that’s childish. Had to [outgrow] it, but, for a while, you know, growin’ up, you’re impressionable.”
Willie Louis Speed Jr. walks down a quiet street in the Martin Drive neighborhood, tucked away just south of West Vliet Street. Speed’s life, up until now, has been anything but that. “I was born in Tunica, Mississippi,” he says. “I’m actually from Chicago. I came up here.”
Sean Yarber stands in front of 1739 N. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr., a men’s clothing store, smoke in hand. Yarber, who’s originally from the Windy City, ended up coming to Milwaukee with his mother when he was about 10 years old. “She was havin’ a hard time down there in Chicago, you know, so, she felt like there was opportunity up here so…I came with her – I had no choice.”
Greg Greer grew up on 9th and Keefe. The 50-year-old Greer, who now lives near Teutonia and Villard, had a lot to say about neighborhoods, gangs and the cycle of violence. Greer points down the block. “Been living in that same building over there 20-some years and, I mean, I’ve done seen this [neighborhood] just fall apart,” he said.