By Dylan Deprey
Sherman Park has been considered everything from neighborhood park to war zone.
Over the summer the gigantic green space allowed kids to burn off steam, whether it be shooting hoops, playing at the park or visiting the Boys and Girls Club. Although there were some resources, the park was also a hot spot for those craving to settle a grudge.
It did not matter whether it was day or night. Teens and young adults flocked to the park to size up with one another. Some were out of spite, while others out of boredom.
This upcoming summer that is all going to change because Program the Parks and Cream City Boxing are teaming up to bring disciplined boxing programs for the entire community.
Vaun L. Mayes and the Revolutionary Black Panther Party, and took it upon themselves to patrol the neighborhood over the summer.
“When we got there in early June, everybody knew there were mass fights,” Mayes said. “The first thing we focused on was stopping and preventing the fights.”
Mayes said that during the beginning of the summer four to five fights would normally break out a week. After bringing individuals together and implementing conflict resolution techniques the numbers dropped to around one or two fights per week.
Although compromise and apologies worked for most of the issues there were still some who just had to take duke it out with each other.
“What we would do is say, ‘Ok, what two people have an issue? Those two get in the middle and everybody else put your weapons down and handle your business,’” Mayes said.
Though it was a last resort option, the idea was planted for boxing equipment in Sherman Park.
At first he thought of creating a resolution circle to let people figure out their problems, but there was the issue of safety.
After purchasing a few heavy bags and boxing gloves through donations, Mayes reached out to Kirby Lockett at Cream City Boxing.
While standing in the nearly desolate boxing gym, owner Kirby Lockett looked around and acknowledged how the empty room still held its character after six years.
“It smelt like a gym, it looked like a gym and we talked like it was a gym,” Lockett said. “Man we could have made a show with all of the things that happened in here.”
As the wooden crossbars gripping onto the last heavy bag were lowered and carried across the street to its new location, Lockett said the bigger space was not the real reason for the move.
“I lost my spark,” Lockett said. “I was down here knowing what I’d have to do, but I would lose it right when I walked through the door. I had to do something to make me feel better.”
Lockett said Cream City Boxing is considered one of the last real boxing gyms in the City of Milwaukee. He is proud of the amount of interacting diversity in the gym whether the age, race or ethnicity of the fighters.
“What I mean by diversity is that people are actually talking together. It’s not like they serve you a burger and leave,” Lockett said. “Sometimes you might find a stock broker talking to an ex-banger.”
Though many consider boxing a violent sport, Lockett said it is more than being able to just fighting.
“It is not about just hitting hard, you need cardio and endurance,” Lockett said. “Kids don’t have to fight, that’s the parent’s decision. You could just be hitting bags and getting exercise, but that’s like teaching your kid how to ride a bike and not buying them one.”
Mayes having trained as a youth knew the amount of work that went into learning how to fight properly.
“It is a form of discipline,” Mayes said. “When you actually learn how to fight you don’t really want to fight because you know what you could do to them.”
Although there are programs in Sherman Park, Lockett said there could be more structure and variety for teens other than the multitude of basketball programs.
“Some people consider the Boys’ and Girls’ Club a daycare because it’s really not structured, they have programs but not structured,” Mayes said.
Lockett plans to send some of the boxers from his gym to give free boxing lessons along with the other Program the Park projects including: self defense, karate and MMA classes.
He also hopes to donate a portable ring that could be used for outdoor training and events.
Mayes said he remembered as a youth throwing the gloves on and having friendly competitions with his friends on the block.
“We’d fight, shake hands and that was that,” Mayes said. “It didn’t turn into anything other than that, and we’re just trying to bring that back.”
Mayes’ Facebook live videos over the past weeks have showcased the RBPP self-defense training. The videos of men and women, young and old sparring in the park with smiles on their faces is the bridge Mayes strives to build in the community.
“We want to get the children, adults and the elderly to come together and train for free,” Mayes said.
Mayes said if everything falls in place, the county will allow for a shed to house all the equipment in.
As for Cream City Boxing, the old location across the street from the new gym will become a fitness center.
Lockett also has plans in the works to open a multisport complex out on Milwaukee’s northwest side near Brown Deer Road.
He added that for black programs and businesses to work to the fullest potential in any neighborhood the entire community would have to help.
“The thing about African American programs is that we’re criticized by our own people, even though we’re doing the best we can. The people doing the criticizing don’t want to step up, but we need them too,” Lockett said.
For more information join the Program the Parks Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/groups/620494778105383/
For more information on Cream City Boxing visit http://www.creamcityboxing.org/