By Dylan Deprey
In a little green space tucked away between 26th and W. State St., a flood of red Hausmann-McNally t-shirts was matched with smiling faces and dancing neighbors. The music echoed through the neighborhood as smoke from the Grill N’ Café tantalized taste buds with the scent of smoky barbecue. Kids showed their gymnast skills off by flipping around aimlessly in a bouncy house as happy mothers and aunts watched in awe.
Though the area is considered one of the highest crime areas in the city, Attorney Charles Hausmann loves the neighborly spirit and considers the block home. His mother was born on 16th and State, his grandparents lived there and he grew up there with his 10 brothers and sisters.
“I’ve spent a lot of time on State street,” Hausmann said laughing.
He recounted a memory of his sister getting her purse snatched while walking on 27th and State St.
“By the time, she was on the ground, a man had picked her up and brought her inside his business and two other guys in the neighborhood chased the robbers down, and as they ran more people were chasing them and they dropped the purse. Within five minutes, the cops showed,” Hausmann said. “That is the kind of reaction, that brings back good memories because this neighborhood is rough, but there is a lot of good people.”
It was this neighborly spirit that led him and a group of other business men to revitalize the neighborhood and create the West End Development Group nearly 15 years ago. He decided to put his money where his mouth was and purchased property to rent to neighborhood entrepreneurs.
“We’ve got a bunch of guys here trying to bring businesses back, but we’re also trying to bring the neighborhood back, and also make it a neighborhood again,” Hausmann said. “You know a place where people hang out together, we party together and we support each other.”
Just like the mural of a phoenix being reborn from the ashes on one of his buildings, Hausmann hosted a Stop the Violence celebration to bring neighbors together and rebuild the neighborhood they call home on Sept. 9, 2017.
Minister James Nelson Sr. is the community coordinator for Hausmann-McNally, S.C and helps set up events across the city. He was all smiles as he danced and took pictures with neighbors, whether they liked it or not, but eventually ended up with smirks and laughs.
He said that when it came to the immeasurable amounts of violence in Milwaukee, it was time for each person to take a stand in their community.
“You can sit and talk about it and continue to do nothing, or you can get out and do something,” Nelson Sr. said. “God has given everybody a gift and once you discover what it is, you go from there.”
As Nelson walked around hyping people up, he shouted out to Philip Echevarria and Isaiah Przeworski, who heard about the event and stopped through, and were asked to spit some positive rhymes for him.
Both of the 20-yearolds could connect with how some of the young people in the City have felt lost and unable to express themselves having no support system or a sense of direction.
“It’s not fair that I’m only 20-years-old and the only way to have my piece of mind and feel safe is to have a gun,” Przeworski said.
Both said they made the decision to join street gangs in their youth, and spoke on how their street families may have protected them, but it came with a cost.
“I’ve done stuff that I didn’t want to do because I thought they were my family at that point in time,” Echevarria said. “You have to rely on yourself and surround yourself with people that have those positive vibes because once you give out that positive vibe you can change millions.”
Echevarria said he lost his mother as well as 45 other friends in the last year and a half, which he said has taken a physical toll on him. Both now work to become the best people they can be.
“They say you only live once, but take it to the fullest,” Echevarria said. “You don’t have to downgrade yourself and stoop down to everybody else’s level.”
In between bumping old school jams, Hausmann introduced three mothers, Arlene Patterson, Deborah Harris and Denise Lamar-Everett, who had been affected by the rampant violence in the community.
“Today we have an abundance of violence and it is so sad because people and their families affected have to stop the violence themselves,” said Patterson, a 30 year Milwaukee resident.
Her son was killed on Oct. 30, 2006, and she said the upcoming anniversary was pulling on her heartstrings with the feeling of loss.
“Our families are stricken with violence in this community and we have to pull together and we have to have unity because we want peace,” Patterson said.
Lamar-Everett said she had lost her brother in 1991, and her husband in 2006. She said she was hesitant to show up because over the past 20 years there have been stop the violence events, but it continues.
“People need to be heard, they need jobs and the kids need places to go where they can get out their frustrations,” Lamar-Everett said. “I’m asking the community, the churches, the parents the sisters and the brothers to let our young people know that we love them because they are hurting and violence is not the answer.”