Charvonne Carlson, 46, has lived in Sherman Park for just over a year. Though she works 40 hours per week at UMB Fund Services, she and her wife Marie devote the rest of their time to building community and feeding hungry and homeless city residents. Carlson is quick to say that she chooses to work this hard, but everyone can make a difference, even in a small way.
“Whenever there’s an opportunity, you can help build community where you are,” she said. “Sometimes it just takes putting a garden box in your front yard or putting water outside on a hot day with a sign that says ‘free.’”
This photo gallery is a representation of a typical weekend for Carlson, filled with food, family, faith and fun. On Saturday, Carlson is usually out of the house by 7 a.m., when she and Marie drive all over the city retrieving bakery and produce donations from Pick ‘n Save and Costco and then redistribute the food to homeless shelters, food banks and directly to hungry or homeless people out of the back of their car. On this particular day she said that 25 or 30 individuals stopped by to get food. Fruits and vegetables, she said, are always the first to go.
Carlson is a member of the First Spiritualist Church of West Allis, where she leads healing rituals. Spiritual practice plays an essential role in building community for Carlson. She also spends her weekends attending meetings as a board member of Tricklebee Café, a pay-what-you-can eatery that primarily features vegetarian and vegan meals.
Carlson’s weekend was topped off by a surprise visit from her son, his wife and her grandchildren.
With these photos, Carlson seeks to combat stereotypes of African-American women and what they are “supposedly” doing in their free time. “I’m a married black gay woman with kids and grandkids. My life doesn’t look like what people expect, their fantasies or fears. My days look like everybody else’s.”