Keon Hamler, who overcame a challenging childhood, is still searching for his place in the world.
Raised by entrepreneurial parents who pushed her to follow in their footsteps, Lori Hill has forged a path of her own.
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.”
Amy Tim stands in front of a stoop in Harambee with a couple of her kids nearby. Tim, who grew up on Milwaukee’s northwest side, has been in-between two worlds for as long as she can remember. “I struggled … growin’ up because my mother was African-American and I’m bi-racial,” she says. “Bein’ a bi-racial child, it was hard for me.” Amy calls it “difficult” and “complicated” growing up in Black neighborhoods with her mother. “I’ve never been accepted by either black or white people,” she says. For a long time, Tim let that get to her. Eventually, though, she decided she had to do something to make the situation better. “I just had to endure the pain myself,” says Amy. “I just had to be like, ‘Okay, I gotta live with it.’ I can’t change it.” “You have to accept who you are to … grow and become the person you want to [be],” she says.“You can’t worry about what other people think.” Community-focused. Community-funded. Become a member today. While she was still in …
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.”
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.”
Marcell Turner walks briskly down a stretch of 37th Street, just north of Vliet in Washington Park. Turner, who sports a University of Wisconsin jacket and backwards hat, has roots in the neighborhood. “Look at our streets — it’s dirty, raggedy, trashy — look how people are treated,” he says. “I just want peace in the world. I want everybody to feel free in the world; I don’t want nobody to feel like they gotta be controlled by someone.”
Maikou Xiong (shee-ong) leans against her small, black sedan in the parking lot of the Washington Park Senior Center smoking a long-burning cigarette. Xiong, whose family is Hmong, has lived in Milwaukee all of her life, and she doesn’t plan on going anywhere. “There have been rough times,” she says, adding that her family has stuck together, and is always there for each other. “I’m really grateful to have a family like that — really, really grateful. To have a family that always appreciates little things.”
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.”
Alexander James walks briskly down North Avenue on an early Saturday afternoon. James has somewhere to be, today, but it’s easy to get the feeling there wouldn’t be much slowing him down, no matter what. James, who grew up in the foster system, says he “bounced around, moved around a lot” as a kid. “Those are the cards I was dealt — my mother, she wasn’t able to take care of us,” he says.