Editor’s note: At the Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, we intentionally celebrate ordinary people who do extraordinary things. We are especially interested in our neighbors who are making a difference as we all deal with the effects of COVID-19. Please let us know by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org and put “Community Heroes” in the subject line.
Tokara Henry wanted to make a difference after learning about vandalism earlier this month near the intersection of North Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and West Locust Street, one of the epicenters for George Floyd protests.
A Walgreens and a Boost Mobile had been looted, storefronts spray-painted, and windows smashed.
Henry, along with other volunteers, sprang into action to clean up the destruction.
“As a business owner, it’s important to be a part of the community,” said Henry of Bijou Nails and Company, 2107 N. Martin Luther King Drive. “Not just own the business but be a part of the growth of the community. And I love King Drive, not because of the buildings but because of the people, the community.
“I want my children to know what it looks like to advocate for themselves and what they believe in.”
To help the effort, a handful of organizations in the Harambee area provided volunteers with supplies, including gloves and bags, and dispatched small groups to pick up garbage.
Deshea Agee, executive director of the King Drive Business Improvement District, and Ald. Milele A. Coggs expressed appreciation to those who participated in the four-hour effort.
“This cleanup was just an idea,” Coggs said. “It was the hundreds of people that came together in less than 24 hours that made this cleanup possible.”
Henry has been on King Drive for three years and recently received notice that she’ll be able to start a second business on the street. The Beyond Basic Nail Academy will be a training center for people who want to be licensed nail technicians.
And once again, Henry will get the chance to step up for the community.
“It’s one thing to have a business that creates jobs for people,” Henry said. “It’s another to be in a position to train individuals to be employable.”