Early on, Steve Hampton’s lifestyle was harming others and himself. While serving a 10-year prison sentence, he found a reason for hope.
Earl Butler hasn’t always had it easy, but he’s been able to build something he can leave behind.
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.”
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.”
M.D. Dangerfield Jr. sits in a yard near 2nd and Nash in Williamsburg Heights. A small, portable grill is filled to the brim with meats; children play on the sidewalk nearby. Dangerfield — draped in a white, tank top undershirt and a towel that hangs from his shoulder — looks on. “I’ve been around here ‘bout a good six, seven years. It’s a big difference from where I’ve been,” says Dangerfield, who was born and spent most of his early childhood in Chicago. “It’s more peaceful.”
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.”
Annie Davis sits in a swath of shade on the lowly set sill of a window near the corner of 41st and North gazing out into the sunlight while she waits. The 61-year-old Davis grew up in Greenwood, Miss., the daughter of a sharecropper. Life was not easy. “We didn’t have no money so we had to help our mother, you know. We had to chop cotton, pick cotton … so I didn’t get a chance to go to school,” says Davis. “My mother, she grew up doin’ the same thing, almost like slavery.”
This story is part of a series focusing on the 30th Street Industrial & Economic Corridor. Robert Stewart stands outside his garage on a dead-end street in Franklin Heights. Steward says he ended up in Milwaukee because of family and the chance to get a good job. “I kind of followed my mother here – she lived up here; I was livin’ in Missouri. [The city] seemed like it had good opportunities back then.”
Douglas Moore tends Baylor’s Watermelons stand on the corner of Capitol and Sherman in Roosevelt Grove. “After I retired I just left home one day to go and get a watermelon and ended up working selling watermelon,” said Moore. The way he ended up doing what he’s doing might sound like chance – it was anything but.