James Arms on a Mission to Improve Milwaukee


James Arms is an entrepreneur who focuses his business on causes he cares about. He learned the importance of connecting with his clients and understanding the problems they are working to solve. “You kind of just connect with the pain that they feel for what’s going on in the city,” he says.

Dan Newberry, a Veteran Reaching Out to Other Veterans


“‘When I got out, I had a really hard time, primarily because I didn’t know how to integrate myself back into the community,’ Newberry says. More than fulfilling daily needs, the former soldier was struggling to make sense of the traumatic events he experienced in the army and unknowingly dealing with PTSD.”

Healthy Food for Everyone - The Victory Garden Initiative


“Many of us take for granted what we have available to us when choosing the food we eat. We often try to make healthy choices at the grocery store, telling ourselves to buy more produce and less packaged foods. But what if those fresh vegetables aren’t available? For many people in Milwaukee, grocery stores are hard to come by.”

Jared Bell’s City Champs Brings Martial Arts to Kids with Less Opportunities


“While training at a local boxing gym in Milwaukee in 2017, Jared Bell watched as a boy from Puerto Rico trained alongside him. The boy came from a difficult family situation but found boxing as an outlet. Bell witnessed that the physical exercise and discipline of the sport changed the boy into a strong young man full of passion and certainty. It was then that Bell realized the influence boxing and other martial arts could have on young lives.”

Monica Lopez Helping Parents of Special Needs Children


“Born and raised in Guadalajara, Mexico, Monica Lopez never planned to leave her home, but when her first child was born, her and her husband’s lives drastically changed. Her son, Francisco Javier Jr., was born in May 1982 with cerebral palsy and at the time, Lopez could not find any services in Mexico for people with special needs. Like many immigrants, Lopez and her husband decided to move to America in search of a better life for their child.”

Rafael Mercado and TEAM HAVOC Leverage the Power of Community


“You gotta engage the community, get them involved,” explains Mercado. “You just keep coming, then they accept you.”

Tony Báez Challenging the Norms in Education


“For Báez, assimilation was never the answer. His experiences in Puerto Rico and Chicago taught him the importance of building a new cultural identity alongside one’s home language and traditions. He has always stressed that suppressing one’s culture hinders an individual’s potential and hurts a community. The bilingual education movement does more than help individual students, it helps create leaders for the future.”

How Milwaukee Barber Shops Open Conversations for African American Men


“These barber shops, like others in the city, hold onto a culture that has been rooted in the African American community for decades. Barber shops have been a gathering place for black men, providing a safe space to talk and build self-esteem.

“A barber is far more than someone that cuts hair; he is a role model, a health advocate and a reliable person to talk to. Especially to a man dealing with difficult life experiences like poverty or family problems, a barber is a steady person in his life who can empower him with a new haircut.”

Venice Williams Cultivates Food and Community in Alice’s Garden


“Williams describes herself as a bridge between communities. She has made it her life’s work to connect different groups of people, helping them ‘bridge their uniqueness,’ she says. Today she runs Alice’s Garden, an intersection of the many neighborhoods in Milwaukee.”

Cendi Trujillo Tena: Honoring the Voices of Youth While ‘Igniting Transformation’


“Cendi Trujillo Tena is soft-spoken and humble, but as soon as she starts talking about the youth she works with at Leaders Igniting Transformation (LIT), her eyes light up, and you can hear the passion in her voice. Trujillo Tena has worked with young people at other organizations in the city but explains that their voices aren’t always honored or valued. However, at LIT, the number-one goal is to put power in the hands of the youth and teach them how to advocate for themselves.”

Christie Melby-Gibbons: Serving Community (and Healthy Meals) at Tricklebee


“When walking into Tricklebee Café, light fills the space and there is an energy that is inviting and calming. Patrons are engaging in conversations, children are running around, acoustic music is humming through the speakers and a smell wafts from the kitchen that makes you want to stay forever. This is the atmosphere Christie Melby-Gibbons and her family wanted to create when opening a café in a neighborhood that has been neglected. ‘It’s a safe spot and people can feel that when they come in the door,’ says Melby-Gibbons. Tricklebee has become a cornerstone in the community, providing both healthy food and a support system.”

Stacey Williams-Ng: Finding Opportunities for Local Artists


“Stacey Williams-Ng is a mural artist who has found her calling as an organizer. When asked why she is inspired to bring street art to the buildings of Milwaukee, her response was simply, ‘the empty walls.’”

Angela Lang: Working for Community Engagement in Politics


“‘Milwaukee inspires me and breaks my heart every day,’ says Angela Lang, the executive director of Black Leaders Organizing for Communities (BLOC). ‘It is such a beautifully complex city and it’s full of potential.’ Interacting with people in her community almost every day, Lang sees immense hardships but also uplifting resilience. She is the kind of person who witnesses struggles in her neighborhood and feels moved to take action. In her eyes, there is a path for change and a way to achieve a better future.”

Portia Cobb, Mentoring the Next Generation of Storytellers


“The Community Media Project was started in 1985 as UWM’s effort to provide artistic programming to underserved groups around the city. ‘The CMP existed as a way to empower—to tell the stories of those we weren’t seeing,’ explains Cobb.”

Convergence Resource Center Helps Women Inmates Reintegrate Into Society


“More than 40 years ago, Debbie Lassiter began going into prisons to work with women who were lonely and in need of someone who would listen to their stories. Driven by her faith, her work in prisons began with bible studies, but she soon realized that the women needed more assistance that that; they would tell her: ‘When we get out, there’s nothing to help us keep moving forward with a different kind of life.’”

Pat Wilborn, Fish Farmer from Port Washington


“When Pat Wilborn learned about aquaponics 12 years ago, it opened his eyes to a sustainable way of farming and he knew immediately that this was something he wanted to pursue. ‘I bought into the concept and decided it was time to give something back,’ says Wilborn. He and his wife, Amy Otis-Wilborn, first built a small aquaponics model in their home in Port Washington, and after refining the process, they eventually built a 3,500-gallon aquaponics system called Port Fish.”

David Johnson, Cream City Farms and the Power of Food


“David Johnson is a relatively new farmer who found his passion for farming through community work. His experience working with urban food pantries and community gardens sparked his interest in food and the power it has to build relationships. ‘What makes the farm work is other people,’ says Johnson.”


Mario Willis: Poetry as a Tool to Build Empathy from the Roots of Old School Hip-Hop


“Mario Willis speaks with a conviction and boldness that is hard to turn away from. He is a poet, writer and slam poetry performer with a stage presence that makes people listen.

Mario the Poet, as he is also known, has been in the Milwaukee poetry scene for over 10 years. His writing touches on issues like police brutality and the country’s political climate that sets up challenges for African Americans…”

Tatiana Maida is an Advocate for Community Health


Over the years of doing this work, Maida explains how her eyes have been opened to injustice and inequality. However, through those hardships, she has also witnessed the power of people to change their own homes and environments. And Milwaukee has provided her with that opportunity: a space to make closer connections and for her work to be visible. The main lesson she’s learned is to “have a lot of hope,” she says. “We can’t give up.”

Maria Miramontes


“Miramontes finally found the place where she could be herself when Centro Hispanico recommended her to CORE El Centro, a non-profit that offers healing and wellness services at affordable rates. Miramontes first came to CORE as a client. She was drawn to the fact that the people at CORE make a strong effort to understand people’s cultural backgrounds when helping them heal. The organization has taught her that a person’s culture and daily life are significant factors that contribute to his or her health.”

Tammy Rivera Mends South Side Fences


“Outspoken, bold and unapologetic, Rivera will not hesitate to invite you into the doors of the SOC and get you involved. But, if you ask her what she thinks South Side residents need, she won’t tell you. Her response will be, ‘Hold on a second! Let me see what the people think. That’s what a community organizer does.’”

Christine Neumann-Ortiz Fighting for Immigrants


“Organizing is like gardening. It’s constant,” she says. In conversation, Neumann-Ortiz is quick to talk about the next issue and how to improve policies because there is always more progress to be made. “We just have to make sure that we continue to be strong and unified and bold and the times require it.”

Arnitta Holliman. Working with Women Against Sex Trafficking in Milwaukee


“People like Arnitta Holliman, who sacrifice so much of their heart to the people they serve, don’t see what they do as a job, but as a lifestyle. As the Director of the Sisters Program at the Benedict Center, she works daily with women in the street-based sex trade. With a career like hers, Holliman doesn’t simply clock out at the end of the day. She thinks about these women constantly, trying to find ways to improve their lives and prevent sex-trafficking from happening in our city. ‘You can’t get a peek into these women’s lives the way that we do and not be touched by it,’ she says.”

Wisconsin Voices' Markasa Tucker Brings Activists Together with the Community


“With Wisconsin Voices, I’ve learned that sometimes we show up in spaces as if we’re going to be a savior. We’re not the saviors,” explains Tucker. “The people who are affected and impacted by the situation, those are the people whose voices should be up front.”

Building Community Through Poetry with Kwabena Antoine Nixon


“Based on his own background, Nixon understands how easy it can be for young men of color to get caught up in crime. That is what led him to start speaking in schools and sharing his story with young people in similar situations. He has been in their shoes and knows that the young students need to tangibly see what is possible for their future. ‘That’s where we can win,” he says, “when young men actually see what they can become.’”

Speaking Loudly and Getting Her Hands Dirty


“As a child in the late 1960s, Brenda Coley remembers being in the attic of her grandmother’s house, feeling the footsteps of marchers as they walked through the streets of Milwaukee demanding justice. Living in Milwaukee during the civil uprisings shaped Coley’s thinking and influenced her life’s work as an activist and community advocate.”

Bread of Healing Clinic Finds Solutions for Health Care


“I hold hope when other people can’t hold it for themselves, and that’s what this place is,” says Michele Cohen, the clinic’s behavioral health director. “I’ve learned how much of a difference we can make in someone’s life by just listening, by just telling them the truth.”

You Gotta Be You: Rue the Poet’s Positive Message and Empowering Music


“Full of life with a constant stream of energy, Lamont LaRue Combs is an outgoing musician with an overwhelmingly positive outlook on the world around him… Combs is an advocate for Milwaukee, using his music to talk about the issues the culture is facing and how to work towards resolving them. Through music, he believes people can find a common ground and understand one another.”

Milwaukee Fatherhood Initiative's Natasha Dotson


“‘The Milwaukee Fatherhood Initiative was created to say that this is something for and about men,’ Dotson says. There are many programs focused on women, but people don’t realize how little assistance is available for men looking for guidance. Dotson and the team at MFI are making it clear that they are here as a support system, and they are helping fathers understand what being ‘manly’ really means.”

Building Community at Riverwest's Woodland Pattern Book Center


“Woodland Pattern Book Center continues to make efforts to inspire the next generation to become leaders. ‘A lot of what I’ve learned from this place is respect and examination of what has come before and for the community that is all around us,’ says Gropp. The center’s history is a large part of the neighborhood’s story. That story is one of a community open to trust, sincerity and acceptance.”

Marcela 'Xela' Garcia and the Power of Art in Walker's Point


“‘At an early age, I saw the power the arts had in building confidence, pursuing leadership and finding a voice when you sometimes didn’t feel like you had one; in doing it in your own way, and in your own terms,’ Garcia says. The first step to helping youth and underserved community members succeed is by opening doors that allow them to explore their creativity.”

Jean Bell-Calvin on Health for the Whole Community


“The team at the Nursing Center treats their patients differently than the average hospital. Rather than simply looking at symptoms, they take the time to speak with their patients about their day-to-day habits and stressors that may have caused the symptoms. ‘You have a right to be treated a certain way, have your questions answered and have somebody take the time to listen,’ says Bell-Calvin, the Nursing Center’s director and driving force behind the clinic for the last 30 years.”

Shawna Nicols: Daring To Be Her Best Self



“With an energetic, outgoing, and positive personality, Shawna Nicols is the kind of person who gives praise to others before accepting any for herself.”

Photo Essay: Opening Night Performances From Milwaukee’s Inaugural Hip-Hop Week


“Hip-Hop is not just a music genre, it is a culture that is often underrepresented at Milwaukee’s larger festivals like Summerfest. But this year, the city is showing artists of color in the Hip-Hop scene how important they are and the value of the potential they have.”

Dasha Kelly Hamilton Helps Milwaukee Youth Find their Voice


"Dasha Kelly Hamilton reiterates one point to every one of her students before they perform their poems: 'Every time you speak your truth in front of an audience, there’s someone who needs to hear it.' That statement is why poetry is so important. We all relate to one another and through words, we can come together to a common understanding. Listening can be just as powerful as speaking, and having active listeners shows these young people that their words have power."

Cover photograph for the July 31, 2018 Shepherd Express issue. 


Muralist Tia Richardson on Bringing Communities Together


“I underestimated Milwaukee. I underestimated people’s willingness to do something positive in the face of so much pain. It tells me the potential that Milwaukee has, and I want to go after that potential.”   - Tia Richardson

Community Advocate Maudwella Kirkendoll


Maudwella Kirkendoll grew up in Milwaukee’s 53206 neighborhood, which gave him a perspective of people who work long, hard hours to support their families but still need some help to get by. It’s that perspective that drove Kirkendoll to become the devoted community worker that he is today. “I know there is some point when you can move people from needing help to the people that are helping,” he says.

Hip Hop as a Tool for Resilience in Milwaukee


"Art is a platform to help bridge some the issues of segregation in Milwaukee, because within that art is a sound or a visual that many people from different backgrounds can relate to. One prominent language that Milwaukee artists use to tell their stories is hip-hop. Hip hop is more than well-placed words and a catchy beat, it is a history of people that are yearning to speak out. The words share the reality of a movement that was born in the core of America’s urban hubs."

'CopyWrite' on Inspiration and Community


“We have people all over Milwaukee living the lifestyle that they have created for themselves and developing their own cultural hubs in the city. They keep us relevant and tuned in,” explains Taylor. The magazine is about being socially responsible and promoting Milwaukee’s talented community from the ground up. If we are influenced by each other’s stories, we can be inspired to make a change.

Fyxation Bicycle Shop


"Fyxation wants to be a place where people of all ethnicities, backgrounds and experience levels feel comfortable getting on a bike and asking questions. 'It’s all about empowering the consumer, empowering the community,' says Jessica Ginster, one of three co-owners of Fyxation, along with Ben and Nick Ginster. 'Knowledge is power, so let’s share the knowledge we’ve gained.'”

CORE El Centro


"When cofounders Jayne Ader and Madeline Gianforte started CORE El Centro 16 years ago, they saw a need for an understanding of healing and access to health services in the community. 'People have this innate wisdom about their path, and each path is different, so, how do we help you find that?' says Ader. Their goal is to inspire individuals and families to achieve optimal health by offering affordable services in both the English and Spanish languages."

Dr. Kyana Young, Marquette University Strategic Innovation Fund


"The program is meant to 'create a path for students that could be life-changing, so that they can see why they are working in a lab and see what this can become,' says Mukiibi. 'When you provide an opportunity, and you back that up with resources, this is what can happen,' says Young as she describes how the students have excelled far beyond expectations. 'This impacts the global community.'”

True Stories from True Skool


“'You might have a little bitty voice in this whole global spectrum, but your little bitty voice better be heard on the right side of history,' says Fidel Verdin. It’s all about the youth, Ali and Verdin explain. If you can open up possibilities for them, you can change their future."

Urban Guesthouses and B&Bs: A New Way to Experience Milwaukee


"Milwaukee has six small, family-run guesthouses or B&Bs that are all notably unique. From Victorian-style bed and breakfasts to a guesthouse in the midst of flourishing gardens and a cozy gallery space, each place adds a unique accent to the urban neighborhoods of this city."