Vaun Mayes talks about growing up in the South, the importance of empathy and the forces — including racism, profiteering and crime — at work in Milwaukee.
Despite a daunting childhood experience, Denise Malone is turning over a new leaf.
Earl Butler hasn’t always had it easy, but he’s been able to build something he can leave behind.
As a youngster, Jimmy Johnson made some bad decisions. Now, he’s forging forward, determined to make a better life for himself.
Sharlen Moore talks about the importance of listening to our neighbors, challenging ourselves, investing in and supporting each other in order to improve our communities.
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”