Devin and Tamio (Tu-miyo) sit on the steps of a home near the corner of 24th and Burleigh, a cigarette in each of the young men’s hands. The two, who have known each other since early childhood, appear unusually comfortable, almost unaware of the other’s presence. “Trust is everything,” Tamio says. “Whatever relationship you have — business, personal … it’s always trust. You don’t trust nobody, shit, ain’t no point in us bein’ around each other.”
Marion Long walks out of his yard, on the way to the Three Brothers Tobacco & Grocery at 44th and Burleigh streets. Amongst those coming and going from the corner store, Long stands out, exuding a quiet sort of confidence. “I’m a kind-hearted person,” he says, as he leans on the corner of the building. “This life is not made for me.” Marion was born in Milwaukee and grew up near 22nd and Walnut. “It was hard, but I got used to it quick,” he says. “When I walked to the park I had to go through Cherry (Street), and there was, like, bullies over there. I was young so they [would bully] me.” “It was hard, but I got used to it quick.” He was younger and smaller than the other kids, so any time he had something with him they would try to take it, he says. “It made me want to do it to (other) people.” “[I] … beat up a kid and took his stuff, but I felt bad,” says Long. …
Evelyn Smith teeter-totters down the sidewalk of North Teutonia Avenue in Borchert Field, grocery bags in hand. She stops in a triangle-island at the corner of Burleigh Street to wait for the bus she’ll catch home. The 70-year-old was born in Canton, Miss., but her parents came to Milwaukee in 1949 when Smith was only 5 or 6 for “the reason everybody else came up here”: better jobs.
Coleone Davis canvasses the intersection at 35th and Burleigh, sign in hand, hoping for some extra cash. On this hot summer afternoon, Davis rests on a shaded bench in front of the eastbound stoplight of West Burleigh Street. “You know how you fall sometimes? I want to get back up to where I was. And this ain’t me. This ain’t me,” says Davis, who has been out of regular work for about a month.
Earlene Green stands on the northwest corner of 14th and Burleigh in Borchert Field, dressed to the nines after attending a funeral. The 66-year-old Green is hesitant at first but it doesn’t take much before she begins to recall her childhood. “We were getting integrated at that time,” says Green. “It was different … it was very different.”
Lennis L. McDuffie smokes a square on the steps of an apartment building at the corner of 14th and Burleigh. The 63-year old stands out in his oversized coat, faux fur-lined hood and flat-brimmed hat. But, despite his city-like sense of style, McDuffie’s heart is in the Arkansas woods where he spent his early years. “I went down there every summer,” says McDuffie of his grandmother’s place, about 50 miles outside El Dorado, a city of almost 19,000, where he was born. “They would have to pry me outta there.”
Richard Hodge stands on the corner of 24th and Burleigh, outside COA’s Goldin Center campus, on a sunny Friday afternoon. The bright greenish-yellow of his crossing guard uniform immediately catches the eye, a necessary characteristic in this line of work. He fist-bumps children on their way by, creating a sense of safety that extends past the uniform. For Hodge, this isn’t just another job. “The most important thing is the safety of the kids,” he says.