By Nyesha Stone
Some people say if they had more money they would do more for their community, but Flow Johnson, owner of the After Gallery, doesn’t think that’s necessarily true.
“You don’t need money to make a difference,” said Johnson. “You just need time.”
Time is something Johnson doesn’t have a problem with giving to someone else. During the time, Johnson was releasing his first issue of his magazine “After,” he decided to give back.
One year ago, Johnson began putting together lunch bags to give to the homeless community in Milwaukee.
He does this twice a month, and spends no more than $90 on supplies. He is able to make around 200 brown paper lunch bags. Johnson calls this project the “HashTagLunch- Bag” at After Gallery. People also donate to Johnson’s cause, so whatever money or food he has leftover he then gives it to Repairers of the Breach—a daytime space for homeless adults.
To Johnson, it’s not just about giving back, but it’s also about his happiness. Giving and helping others is something that provides him with genuine joy, said Johnson.
Whenever Johnson’s out, he makes mental notes of where he sees the most people asking for money or has a heavy homeless population.
Johnson doesn’t do this alone. People are welcome to come to the After Gallery to help decorate the bags, pack them and hand them out. It’s never a set number of people that come to his event—sometimes its five participants, while others times it’s 30.
“I think people really like being able to help without having to spend money,” said Johnson. The lunch bags are usually filled with the same items—sandwiches, bottled water, chips and fruit. His most recent event’s bags contained Oscar Meyer lunch meat, Roundy’s white bread, jalapeno popper potato chips with a bottled water.
As the bags are being decorated with markers and sharpies, Johnson likes to play music— from neo soul to Hip Hop, he plays it all. With his two children, aged 8 and 1 ½, chilling in the basement and his landlord building a wheelchair accessible ramp for the After Gallery, Johnson was inside with his shoes off as he wrote encouraging words on the bags. The entire process of decorating the bags to passing them out takes about four hours. Johnson usually gives the bags to a tent community near his gallery and the library by Marquette University, but he also travels around the city.
When Johnson gives a bag to a person in need, they’re skeptical on why he’s giving them food for free. Johnson says he does this to let people know there are good people out there that don’t need a reason or a check to give back. “It’s just fun,” said Johnson.