Where is Adams Garden Park?
Adams garden Park is a newly renovated building that will serve as a community space in the Lindsay Heights Community of Milwaukee. The function of the space will center around supporting and cultivating the ecology, education, and economy for members in the community. Milwaukee Water Commons, Milwaukee Environmental Consortium, Wisconsin Conservation Voters, and Walnut Way‘s Blue Skies Landscaping are four of the tenants in Adam's Garden Park.
Community members are able to connect themselves to the greater Milwaukee area through food, wellness, and entrepreneurship. Local businesses, community organizations, and foundations strive to support and revitalize their neighborhood after decades of environmental, social, and economic disprivilege.
Who are Sharon and Larry Adams?
Sharon and Larry Adams are locals and developers of Adams Garden Park and co-founders of Walnut Way Conservation Corp. The main goal of their projects is to attract recourses for community development, health, and wellness. Find out more about Sharon and Larry here.
CM: What is your most cherished moment of living here in Lindsay Heights?
ED: The biggest thing I can say is not one moment in particular, but it's the experience of community more than anything else. Being part of a community where you can knock on somebody's door or somebody could pick up a package for you and keep it for you because you weren't home, having my kids know their neighbors- that was an experience that I've never grown up with.
Johnson's Park is located near Elizabeth's home in Lindsay Heights.
CM: What kinds of changes have you experienced while living in Lindsay Heights, from the time you started living here until now?
ED: Over the years, it took lots of advocacy, fundraising, and a lot of trying to shift ideas and misconceptions and biases about our community and the value in vesting in our community. So over time, we've had lots of changes in (Johnson's) park and lots of changes in Alice's Garden that really has made it a space that is community and family friendly and is accessible and safe.
Elizabeth discussed the ways systemic barriers have been depriving the community of multiple vital resources, like access to healthy food, clean parks, and affordable housing. She elaborated on how the media perpetuates the deficit-based narrative about the neighborhood.
ED: Anytime we would do something positive in our neighborhood and we would send out press releases and ask people to come and recognize it, capture it, or communicate about it, we wouldn't be able to get any input from the broader media. It's frustrating how systematic it is that there's a lack of will to talk about what's good.
SK: What are some changes you would like to see in your community?
DW: I would like to see landlords (especially those who don't live in the community) being held accountable for the eyesores that exist right now. I would also like to see programs for people living in the community to own their homes, since so many people in the community are renters.
I would like to see spaces where people can gather to make art, or just express themselves. I would love to see a gazebo so people could go out there and sing, dance, do poetry, whatever it may be. I'm also thinking that it could be a space for our youth and our elders to convene together.
Danielle discusses the ways in which over-policing has caused harm to the neighborhood, resulting in disharmony and confusion among community members.
DW: I see police all the time here. It's a disruption to peace and I think that's the purpose. Their role is not conducive to how I want to live. It's not conducive to how our community wants to live. Societies have existed without police, so I don't think that there's a real need for them.
In terms of our cities' budget, it could not be so bloated for police officers. It could be actually for helping people not be homeless, not be food insecure, for people who are in violent relationships, fighting abuse and mental health issues. They consume too much of our money and they are inefficient. If you look at their track record, they don't do what they're supposed to do.
JK: Is there a memory that you look back on fondly during your time working in Lindsay Heights?
PC: The class I taught, Experimental Ethnography, evolved out of developing a relationship with Sharon and Larry (Adams) and seeing what they were doing in the community with urban gardens and learning about the bigger story of creating a campus there. So, I think my fondest memory is just shadowing my students when they were creating the documentary.
Portia reflected on the memories she made while working with her students and community members in Lindsay Heights. You can watch the collaborative documentary here.
PC: We were telling the story of a house that was being renovated, I mean, they stripped everything. Getting to know the people who were the craftsman, who were rebuilding this home. I was thinking about placement a lot and understanding the perimeters of the community and how it impacted every life there. Those are my fond memories of being there.
JK: What made you decide that you wanted to send your students to do their community work in the Lindsay Heights neighborhood?
PC: It seemed to reflect what community felt like. I wasn't born in Milwaukee, but it felt like a common ground that people could enjoy having a good meal and that meal represented a cultural story for everybody. You know, good corned beef. Also, seeing people that looked like them working behind the counter. Or, for students who never moved beyond their campus boundaries, it was a way to send them into a space where they wouldn't necessarily stereotype it or feel that they were in a place that was not safe.
JK: What do you wish other people knew about Lindsay Heights?
PC: It holds so much. It holds a story. It holds history. It holds people who I would consider visionaries. There are artists who live nearby. There's family life. It feels like the heartbeat of the community in a lot of ways. I feel like it's a really good example for the city of Milwaukee.
Jonny is a freshman Computer Science Major at Milwaukee School of Engineering, taking part in a student leadership program working with Walnut Way and the Lindsay Heights Neighborhood. Their goal is to create an ecommerce platform that allows local businesses and side hustles in the neighborhood to interact in an online environment, especially during COVID-19.
Sam is a freshman computer science major at Milwaukee School of Engineering, enrolled in classes that discuss the history of civil rights and injustice in the US and in Milwaukee. For his student leadership project, he is creating an accessible archive of the civil rights history and social justice movement happening in Milwaukee.
CM: Everybody that we interviewed, including us, are all of different ages and had different experiences, fields, and relationships to Lindsay Heights. It was cool to hear how all of that took part in how each person became involved in their community.
SK: Getting to talk with community members on an individual basis was really rewarding. In the larger setting like a classroom, you lose a little bit of that individual connection. Through this project, I started to realize how important that individual connection is for doing community projects.
JK: One thing I thought was really interesting that they all had in common with each other was how they all talked about how inter-connected the community is. Most of the problems being caused were from outside sources, like the landlords, police, and the media. It's interesting because they aren't interacting with the community on an intimate level, they don't understand what the community needs.
CM: Yeah, it's interesting to think about how we can view communities in more of a relational way, rather than how we think it should look like based off the dominant culture saying, "this is what a successful community looks like". It felt like a lot of what made that community special was the stuff that you can't see. I want to be more invested in learning how Lindsay Heights fosters those connections because I feel like other communities have something to learn from them.
CM: Our individuality is so important and also plays a role in how you show up for your community. When you can be your authentic self, then you have so much more to offer than trying to be what you think the community wants you to be like. It's a double edged sword.
JK: There's so many elements that you can put into the community to make it better. It's hard to get those going, but if it becomes ingrained in the community than it becomes more natural. It's interesting to see how all these disciplines come together. You can make a difference through art, you can make a difference through technology and it becomes even better if you can combine the two in some form.