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.”
“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.”
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."
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."