Though her life has been defined by hardship, Mary Puchek hasn’t allowed that to affect the way she treats others.
As a youngster, Jimmy Johnson made some bad decisions. Now, he’s forging forward, determined to make a better life for himself.
Daniel Kwasigroch, who lost his mother at a young age, has struggled with addiction for much of his life. Now, with the help of another woman in his life, he’s working toward a better future.
Reunitie Harmon walks down a quiet 24th Street in Park West. Harmon’s casual appearance is consistent with the quiet confidence she projects. “I tell people: unless you hear my story, you’ll never know my struggles — that’s my thing. ‘Cause I never wear it on my face — I always wear a smile — so unless you see my struggles or you hear about it, you’ll never know about what I’m going through.”
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.”
Omar Gayle stands on the porch of a home near the corner of 42nd Street and Auer Avenue. Gayle’s flat-brimmed baseball cap and multi-colored tee pop with fashion, but can’t explain his journey, or where he started from. “I’m a Jamaican,” he says. “It’s a humble beginnin’. We learn to appreciate people and life. I learned to make use of what we got.”
Brian crouches in his yard, gloves on, peering through his glasses at the undesirables inhabiting the small strip of dirt that surrounds his house in Southgate; a basket of already liberated weeds and brush sit next to him on the ground. As of this mid-Spring day, no flowers have bloomed yet. Brian has lived in the Milwaukee area for almost 40 years, but he was born and grew up in Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin. “Good place, like any small town, to raise a family,” he says. “But, uh … I’m glad I don’t live there anymore because there’s a lot of — at least when I grew up — there was a lot of prejudiced people.”
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.”