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Cara Shih – Thriving Communities
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Cara Shih

Thriving Communities Quarterly Newsletter

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Here, you can look forward to seeing how residents and community members of Sherman Park East and North Division are creating change and positively impacting their neighborhoods. This newsletter is also a resource for the community to connect with city and state services during this time of crisis. For more than a decade, the Greater Milwaukee Foundation has been committed to strengthening neighborhoods. We have remained invested in building and strengthening resident capacity so they can be ambassadors in their neighborhoods.

We support the community-driven leadership that we know is on the ground every day. These networks have proven to be. a critical arm in the crisis response against COVID-19 and the systemic injustices and violence against communities of color with whom we serve and partner. As we look ahead to the rest of the year, we will remain diligent to respond and to not waiver from our commitment to stay engaged

Thriving_Communities_Newsletter_August

North Division Visioning Session Two

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On June 29, 2019 the second North Division Neighborhood Visioning Session took place at Coffee Makes You Black. The event was hosted by the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, and facilitated by Piper Anderson, founder and president of Create Forward. 

This session featured 19 residents and key stakeholders who gathered to discuss possible solutions for the betterment of the North Division community. With the smell of coffee and delicious food wafting through the air, the session began with introductions and beautiful conversations. Although each person entered individually as a resident, business owner, and/or stakeholder, each of them left as a fortified piece of a community ready to continue to grow and flourish in new ways. Over the course of the three-hour session, the community reminisced, laughed, shared, challenged, and shared their hopes with each other. 

“I want to be a part of a community that wants to be a part of their own change.” 

-Dorothy Williams, Saving Ourselves

Each person was given two minutes to share stories filled with all of the love and emotions they have for their community. 

After Neighbors shared their fond memories, they engaged in a discussion focused on community concerns. From this, North Division residents and key stakeholders were able to identify six major categories and their associated challenges and opportunities. 

CATEGORIES

OPPORTUNITIES

CHALLENGES

Economic Development

  • Home ownership
  • Neighborhood owned businesses
  • More opportunities for youth to participate in internships, job shadowing, and mentorship
  • Changing perceptions
  • Education
  • Acknowledging skills/talents/ gifts that already exist
  • Keeping money in the community

Perception of the Neighborhood/ Beautification

  • Home ownership
  • Stacking resources
  • Tear down, rehab, and/ or build new houses out of

abandoned/city owned lots

  • One sided negative coverage and media perception
  • Absent landlords

Youth Engagement

  • Communicate in new ways
  • Mentorship between adults and youth
  • Involve youth in planning and deciding processes
  • Reaching youth
  • Childhood trauma
  • Actually LISTENING to youth and children
  • Lack of understanding

Equality in Education

  • Collaborate with partners in new, innovative ways
  • More community activity at schools
  • Involve parents
  • High teacher turnover
  • Lack of resources
  • Burn out

Community Building

  • Bring arts organizations in for partnerships directed at community needs
  • Find ways to work together
  • Leverage communities
  • Generational transfer of trauma
  • Lack of resources
  • Lack of support for community visions/goals

Safety

  • Entertainment
  • Change the way we communicate
  • Build relationships with MPD
  • Build relationships with neighbors
  • Drug dealing
  • Drive by shootings
  • Prostitution
  • Carjackings/reckless driving

In small groups, residents discussed

the issues that were close to their hearts. Each individual shared their hopes and fears, dreams and visions Every idea presented something new. Information and contacts

were exchanged to collaborate in new and existing programs that contribute to helping the area thrive. Each person, young and old, was given a chance to claim a seat at the table and engage in robust discussion.

This gathering was truly a testament to the fact that people have the power to change their community and that we have to create spaces that invite them to share their solutions.

“North Division is a resilient community. The adaptability is proven. This idea of being a survivor is proven. So it doesn’t matter what the obstacles are, people are going to be resilient, they’re going to be adaptable, they’re going to adjust to the changes” 

– Antonio Butts, Walnut Way

North Division Visioning Session One

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On June 1, 2019 the first North Division Neighborhood Visioning Session took place at North Division High School. The event was hosted by the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, and facilitated by Piper Anderson, founder and president of Create Forward. This session featured 21 residents and key stakeholders who gathered to discuss possible solutions for the betterment of the North Division community. Although each person entered as an individual, each of them left as a stronger piece of a community dedicated to growing into the best possible version of themselves, together. Over the course of the three-hour session, the community reminisced, laughed, shared, challenged, and shared their hopes with each other.

Our story session featured the best parts of the community; the parts individuals have loved and the moments they felt proud to be a part of a strong community.

“I want to be a part of a community that wants to be a part of their own change.”
-Dorothy Williams, Saving Ourselves

Greater Milwaukee Foundation 3 Starting from a place of hope, we discussed community concerns. From this, North Division residents and key stakeholders were able to identify six major categories and their associated challenges and opportunities. 

CATEGORIES

OPPORTUNITIES

CHALLENGES

Community Building

  • Monthly community meetings
  • Block parties
  • Housing
  • Family nights
  • Seminars
  • Generational differences
  • Quality of life
  • Feeling equal

Community Policing

  • Bike patrols
  • More liaison officer engagement
  • Partner with grassroots to support MPD
  • Increase access to MPD
  • Community security
  • Police aren’t engaged
  • People believe stereotypes
  • Police are scared of the community and vice versa

Civic Engagement

  • Education-related government services
  • Understand areas around the neighborhood
  • Voter education
  • Gaining trust from the youth
  • Voter suppression

Facilities/Space

  • Community activities
  • Home improvements
  • Partnerships with construction programs
  • Integrate use of space
  • Underutilized space
  • Cost of maintaining programs
  • Vacant lots and houses
  • Communication

Safety

  • Playground safety
  • Education
  • Less gun violence
  • Life-skills trainings
  • Drugs
  • Guns
  • Afraid of retaliation
  • Lack of engagement

Exposure to Professional Trades

  • Local businesses
  • Career pathways
  • Livable wages
  • Life-skills development
  • Opening doors
  • Meeting people where they’re at
  • Parent involvement
  • Funding
  • Lack of awareness

In small groups, residents discussed the issues that were close to their hearts. Each individual shared their hopes and fears, dreams and visions. Each person, young and old, was given a chance to claim a seat at the table and engage in robust discussion.

Through a beautiful display of support and community, every voice was uplifted.

“If you want the community to thrive, then you have to really hear what the people are saying they need and deliver that if you can or show them how to do it themselves.”

-Andre Lee Ellis, We Got This Community Garden Owner

This gathering was truly a testament to the fact that people have the power to change their community and that we have to create spaces that invite them to share their solutions.

“We have the people, we have the love, and the energy. It’s just about finding a way to connect the dots.” 

-Deonte Lewis, LaVarnway Boys & Girls Club

Sherman Park Neighborhood Visioning Session Three

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Sherman Park Neighborhood Visioning Session
On Oct. 20, the Greater Milwaukee Foundation hosted its third Neighborhood Visioning Session at Parklawn Assembly of God. The event was facilitated by Piper Anderson, founder and president of Create Forward. The third Visioning Session featured a number of residents and key stakeholders who gathered to discuss possible solutions for the betterment of the Sherman Park community. Over the course of three hours, participants identified the following categories as focus areas: homeownership, community building and relationships, youth engagement, entrepreneurship, neighborhood schools and faith-based community involvement. Read more about the opportunities and challenges identified for each category.

The third and final session featured our highest turnout in overall youth involvement. This feat provided insight on a number of topics from a youth perspective. The youth provided insight on the neighborhood schools overall quality. The youth in the room provided real-life examples of how they feel the school system has failed them. Some examples they gave were old textbooks, teachers not being prepared with new material to spark interest and the overall lack of showing that they care. A recurring theme that the youth seemed to echo was an overall understanding between the youth the adults in the neighborhood. The youth showed that they are invested in Sherman Park and would like to see change, but it all starts with teamwork and an overall understanding of one another that crosses all age barriers.

“One of the major concerns right now with the Sherman Park area is finding a solution that drives positive outcomes for youth, those above the age of 13.”
-Nicole Brookshire

“I’ve met some of the kids and I’d want them to know these children by name. They’re not just a number, know their dreams, know their faces – they are beautiful children.”

– Bishop Harvey, Parklawn Assembly of God

Throughout the session, residents expressed heartfelt testimonies and developed practical and wild solutions to address challenges in Sherman Park. One particular testimony touched on relationships between the youth and elderly. It not only sparked a meaningful conversation, but also forced residents to look at the challenges from multiple perspectives. The youth representative in the room offered insight on the lack of understanding that youth and elderly have about each other due to different generational values. These differences are what make a community, and the group concluded that Sherman Park has the spirit and perseverance to thrive by coming together as one.

The act of coming together as one sparked a conversation that involved a plan on how to build the community by offering residents more access to wealth. Participants proposed the creation of a centralized career center that would cater to Sherman Park residents and provide resources like transportation, child care and housing to help overcome barriers. It would also offer training and development opportunities geared toward promoting entrepreneurship, which would create an environment for more local businesses. Though this idea was wild and elaborate, it showed cohesion among residents.

Advisory Council Update
On Nov. 12, 2018 the advisory council met for the first time. Our goal is to support
community-driven change in neighborhoods that have experienced years of
disinvestment and lacked access to equal opportunity. The cool thing about this advisory council is everyone is a resident or actively working in the Sherman Park community. The council members reviewed and discussed the top three issues that rose to the top during the community engagement process: Youth engagement, housing and employment.

After much deliberation, the one big idea that was identified is youth engagement.

Next Steps
The next steps will be for the advisory council to develop the criteria for selecting
proposals from the community. The projects supported will be creative and innovative with the goal to help youth reach their full potential.

Challenges facing Sherman Park youth:
33% of Sherman Park residents are under the age of 14 and existing youth programming does not meet the demand for youth engagement in the neighborhood. 35% of Sherman Park East households are living in poverty. The Milwaukee high school rate of 64% for Black students is the second lowest in the country.

These stats show that we are taking a step in the right direction. So what’s next?

Identifying programs led by credible messengers who are:

  • Experienced youth workers who are passionate about improving the lives of Sherman Park youth
  • History of living and working in Sherman Park
  • Trained in trauma informed practice

Defining success:

A sustainable program model that creates measurable change in the lives of 16-24 year old Sherman Park youth:

  • Positive behavioral change
  • Programs that lead to employment and/or employability
  • Exposure to professional fields in which people of color are underrepresented
  • Commitment to partnerships or a collective impact that leverages existing resources to youth as they transition into adulthood

“It’s been awesome to see our community come together as one, identify issues and curate ideas to work towards building a thriving community. The residents of Sherman Park consistently showed up and used their voices at the visioning sessions. We received great feedback from leaders in Sherman Park and some even agreed to join the advisory council. The people of Sherman Park are ready for change and they are willing to do the work to ensure it. It’s been a pleasure to serve as the Neighborhood Fellow for Sherman Park & I look forward to the outcome!

– Keaira Linyard, neighborhood fellow