Carolyn Bradford walks down an empty 42nd Street at dusk. Bradford’s gregarious personality complements her ostentatious appearance — patterned glasses, a leopard-print jacket and dangly earrings decorate a personality defined by exuberance. “My childhood was great,” she says. “Bein’ a military brat, it was great. Until I got older, and then my parents got divorced when I was young. Now, they’re both deceased.
DaVaughn Patterson finishes cutting a stretch of grass on 44th Street, just south of Garfield Avenue in Washington Park. Patterson, still in tattered shoes and a hoodie, lets one of the neighborhood children help before putting the mower away. “I don’t have a problem with Milwaukee,” he says. “I work with a lot of people that work in Milwaukee but don’t live in Milwaukee and have a different view of Milwaukee, you know?”
Marcell Turner walks briskly down a stretch of 37th Street, just north of Vliet in Washington Park. Turner, who sports a University of Wisconsin jacket and backwards hat, has roots in the neighborhood. “Look at our streets — it’s dirty, raggedy, trashy — look how people are treated,” he says. “I just want peace in the world. I want everybody to feel free in the world; I don’t want nobody to feel like they gotta be controlled by someone.”
Maikou Xiong (shee-ong) leans against her small, black sedan in the parking lot of the Washington Park Senior Center smoking a long-burning cigarette. Xiong, whose family is Hmong, has lived in Milwaukee all of her life, and she doesn’t plan on going anywhere. “There have been rough times,” she says, adding that her family has stuck together, and is always there for each other. “I’m really grateful to have a family like that — really, really grateful. To have a family that always appreciates little things.”
Calvin Young saunters down the steps of a porch near 37th and Roberts in Washington Park. The 55-year-old, distinguished by his fully grey, mid-length beard and two-tone skin color, walks into the empty, sunlit street to ask for a dollar or two. “I’m trying to change my life around. [The] only thing, right now, is I’m just an alcoholic — that’s it, that’s all,” says Young, who admits he was once addicted to crack cocaine, as well.
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.”
Black Love Matters, a community task force associated with the Safe Zones initiative, marched down Lisbon Avenue with about 40 residents of Washington Park on Saturday. The march was part of a “20 weeks, 20 blocks” campaign to raise awareness of black-on-black violence with the goal of “[eradicating] violence in the Black Community.”