By Nyesha Stone
In a time when tensions were high, anger was boiling over, shots were fired and someone left for dead, Milwaukee cried out for help. All this happened during the 2016 August riots. In their rage, Milwaukeeans destroyed the old BMO Harris bank located on Fond du Lac Ave. But leaders like JoAnne Sabir, a co-owner of the Juice Kitchen, turned tragedy into something beautiful.
Sabir is spearheading the Sherman Phoenix Project, which is a high-quality space for small businesses of color, according to their site. The businesses will reside inside the old BMO Harris building that is currently being renovated. The project was short $500,000 of its $4 million goal.
U.S. Senate Tammy Baldwin wrote to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services — Office of Community Services (OCS) to advocate that the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation (WWBIC) receive funds to allocate to the Sherman Phoenix Project.
“The Sherman Phoenix Support Project site is located in a census tract (94% minority, 89% African American) with unemployment and poverty rates more than twice that of state and national rates,” Baldwin wrote in the letter addressed to Gerald Shanklin, program specialist with the Office of Community Services (OCS) within the Administration for Children and Families. “With a fall 2018 completion target, Sherman Phoenix will be a model for healing our city, generating positive economic and social returns in communities of color.”
She continued: “I strongly support efforts aimed at spurring economic development and providing opportunities for upward income mobility in Wisconsin’s rural communities and HUBZones. For this reason, I respectfully request that full and fair consideration be given to the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation’s application.”
Baldwin is proud to announce that in September, she officially secured $750,000 for the Sherman Phoenix Project.
“The Sherman Phoenix Project…will bring good paying jobs, economic opportunities and community growth to Milwaukee’s north side,” said Baldwin. “I partnered with the WWBIC and Milwaukee community leaders like JoAnne Sabir to secure funding and keep the Phoenix Project moving forward, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the project brings growth and vibrancy to the Sherman Park neighborhood.”
Sabir is ecstatic about the money, but it’s more than just that. This project is bigger than what they’ve could’ve imagined, in the aspect that it’s collectively bringing businesses-of-color together that will leave an ever-lasting ripple effect on Milwaukee, specifically people of color, who need resources the most.
“[This is an] opportunity to highlight all that is well and good in Milwaukee,” said Sabir about the project’s impact. “We all have the capacity to do something that positively impacts ourselves and neighbors.”
To find out more about the Sherman Phoenix Project visit https://www.shermanphoenix.com/