By Karen Stokes
James Harris, was once a resident of the Sherman Park neighborhood where a recent incident at a BP gas station had residents protesting the station. His family still resides in the neighborhood and Harris frequently visits.
Harris 30, is concerned about the negativity in the area and to promote healing in the community he organized a community block party.
Last week, it was reported that a clerk at the BP gas station on Sherman and Burleigh fired a gun into the air to startle a group of kids hanging around on the property. Residents boycotted the station looking to bring accountability to the clerk and the incident.
“The boycott went on for a few days, we wanted to bring some accountability for the gas station clerk who was actually the owner’s son but we didn’t forget to hold the kids accountable and do what we need to do to inspire change,” said Harris.
According to Harris, the clerk did not get arrested. The store got a charge which is equivalent to a ticket. The clerk was terminated from the Sherman and Burleigh location but could possibly be working at another location.
On Saturday, July 23, Harris organized an Emergency Block Party to open the lines of communication between the store owners, adults and youth in the area.
“We are here to reach out to the kids. Let’s talk to the kids. We need to try to hear them to find out what’s going on with them,” said Harris. “We need to talk to them about not being disorderly because this incident could have went a different way.”
Music, fun and food made this festival look like any other festival but this community gathering had a purpose.
“The objective today is to bring the community together to talk to these kids from the Sherman Park area because right now the owner of the station is having a meeting with some other community leaders as well as some of the local politicians,” Harris said.
Harris said that the private meeting was meant as a brainstorming session to work on a solution in response to the shooting that happened earlier in the week.
Attendees of the block party were members of the Sherman Park neighborhood as well as people who once lived in the neighborhood and concerned residents from all across Milwaukee. The community donated all the food, refreshments, DJ and bounce houses for the kids.
“I want to let my son see how Black people rise in the community,” said Amanda Johnson, who once lived in the Sherman Park area.
She now works in northern Wisconsin and wanted to come back and support the community.
“Even though we had some problems here, I want my son to know that his mom is trying to make a better world for him.
Sharon Whittaker was at the block party to show support for her neighborhood.
“In an effort to bring peace between this gas station owner and the community. I think this is a beautiful effort on the part of residents here. I am just happy and overjoyed to see this type of unification,” Whittaker said.
Whittaker added that she had been to the gas station plenty of times before and never had any issues.
Harris also noted that he had grown up in the neighborhood and is now an entrepreneur. “I still come here and hang out,” Harris said. “I’m still concerned.”