The Sherman Phoenix opened its doors in late 2018, “rising from the ashes” of the BMO Harris Bank that burned down during the vioent protests on August 13, 2016.
Three years later, we asked customers to reflect on the unrest, the state of police-community relations and how community projects like the Sherman Phoenix contribute to the community’s healing process.
When Benjamin Watson’s family moved to Sherman Park 40 years ago, they were the first African American family to live on his block. He grew up using the neighborhood’s namesake park as his backyard, visiting every day to play basketball or just hang out.
The neighborhood is still Watson’s home, and he is a community organizer involved in the Sherman Park Neighborhood Association and other groups. He remembers in vivid detail how the events unfolded in August of 2016.
Watson believes some beauty came from the chaos, like the opening of Sherman Phoenix. Still, there is work to be done, particularly on police-community relations.
Marcia Taylor owns Lush, a gourmet popcorn business that found its home at the Sherman Phoenix. Originally from Detroit, she moved to Milwaukee 10 years ago. Taylor describes her reaction when she heard about the shooting of Sylville Smith and subsequent events.
Taylor says the positivity that came from the tragic events in Sherman Park is an example for the rest of the nation. She wishes the media would show that side of Milwaukee and her neighborhood so others can understand there is more to the city than the crime that most news outlets display.
Sisters Jyniah and Jymiea Williams remember driving home from the State Fair in 2016 when they saw the buildings on fire in Sherman Park. They recently started work at Shindig Coffee.
Jymiea, a criminology student at MATC, speaks about her experience as a police department ambassador, a youth program that bridges community members and police officers, and how her personal path has evolved.
Betty Reid-Ward has been working at the resale boutique Grateful Girls since May. In that time, she’s felt a real sense of camaraderie develop between businesses and customers in the Phoenix. She’s also found the community-minded spirit of the building reflected in the businesses contained within it, including her own place of employment.
About Bridget Fogarty
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