Once upon a time Bronzeville was the social and economic hub of Milwaukee ’s African American community. On Thurs., Aug. 11, more than 250 teens and adults paid homage to the historic neighborhood as part of the Bronzeville Unity Walk/Renaissance Festival hosted by Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee.
The event started from North Division High School ’s football field, located at 1011 W. Center St. The walkers continued east on W. Center St. to N. 6th St. and then south to W. Wright St. to the festival at Northcott Neighborhood House, located at 2460 N. 6th St.
The name “Bronzeville” stems from the early 1900s as African Americans migrated to Milwaukee from southern states in search of better opportunities for their families. Many of them made their home along Walnut Street between Martin Luther King Drive and 12th Street. The area was known for its high concentration of African- American owned businesses and its entertainment scene. The Bronzeville Unity Walk/Renaissance Festival is part of the Boys & Girls Clubs’ teen programming. Event organizers hope today’s youth will be able to understand and appreciate their connection with Bronzeville’s early residents.
“We want them to understand the perseverance of a people who were in similar circumstances and talk about how they overcame their challenges,” says Jamaal Smith, teen services program manager for the Boys & Girls Clubs. “It means a lot to show teens the importance of a community coming together positively and doing it in the spirit equal to the inhabitants of the early Bronzeville community.”
As part of learning about Bronzeville, Club members did research about it and created pictures of notable Milwaukee figures from the era. In addition, some members worked on pictures about the importance of political engagement, which was also part of their discussion about the period. All of the images will be on display at Northcott for the during Bronzeville Renaissance Festival. In addition to the Boys & Girls Clubs, there are several organizations participating the Bronzeville/Unity Walk including (but not limited to) League of Young Voters, American Civil Liberties Union, Connections Point, Reader’s Choice Bookstore, Historic King Drive Business Improvement District, St. Mark African Methodist Episcopal Church, St. Matthew Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, Greater Galilee Baptist Church, Wisconsin Black Historical Society, Running Rebels and New Life.
Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee is the oldest and largest youth-serving agency in Milwaukee. It offers high quality after-school and summer programming for children ages 5-18, focusing on those who have major life obstacles, most often poverty. The Clubs operates 37 sites, which include six primary locations, 29 school sites and Camp Whitcomb/Mason in Hartland.
Membership to the Clubs is only $5 per year, per child, but no one is ever turned away based on inability to pay.