Pookie (pseudonym) walks briskly down W. Chambers St. at the south end of Clinton Rose Park as the sun begins to set on Juneteenth Day. A gaggle of Milwaukee police turn down a nearby alleyway but Pookie walks on, un-phased.
“Born and raised here, right here on the east side,” he says. “I didn’t have no momma — momma was a crackhead — so, you know what I’m sayin’, I sold drugs.”
Darlene Rogers gracefully covers a stretch of sidewalk pavement followed by a brightly colored, flowing dress, the Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. Juneteenth Day celebration behind her. Rogers who grew up in the neighborhood points down the block to the house where she lived.
“I haven’t been down here in a couple years so it was nice to come out and see familiar faces,” she says calling the occasion “an out-of-body experience.” “It’s like the cycle just keeps repeatin’ itself.”
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.”
Ken Brown II grew up the oldest of four on Milwaukee’s north side.
The 32-year-old who attended Washington and Milwaukee High School of the Arts was brought up in a house that emphasized heritage. “I was involved with a lot of drumming, a lot of African culture,” he said.
Brown, who’s been drumming since he was 4, said they always used to play at Milwaukee festivals like Juneteenth Day and African World Fest.