Rufus Sampson talks about the importance of mindset, taking care of the future and being willing to sacrifice.
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.”
Terryon Mckinnie shoots a basketball on an empty court in Tiefenthaler Park in Milwaukee’s Midtown neighborhood while a group of men and boys play a hustle on the court beside him. Mckinnie says he would rather practice than join in — there are too many people and Mckinnie, who has a slight frame, doesn’t want to get hurt. But none of that keeps him from dreaming big. “When I see Kobe Bryant and LeBron James play, I want to play,” he says. “It’s my favorite sport.”
Dave Wroten lounges against a concrete sidewalk border on West Chambers Street in the waning hours of Juneteenth Day. The 54-year-old Wroten remembers a time when things in Milwaukee, where he was “born and raised,” were different. Wroten grew up on 10th and Locust. “It was beautiful,” he says. “That’s when black people actually had black establishments and, you know, you neighbor was your lawyer … That’s when black people knew black people.”
LeVar Burton walks on stage to a packed house in the Pfister Hotel’s Grand Ballroom – he’s the featured speaker at Sharp Literacy’s A Novel Event, a fundraiser for the organization whose mission is to address urban literacy, “by inspiring engagement in reading, writing and research.” Burton begins by talking about his mother. “My mother is my hero. When I talk about role models in my life – and I have had many – I always go, first, to my mom,” he said. “See, Erma Jean didn’t play when it came to raising her kids.”