Issue 17: Evolution

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03 more from our editor 05 issue 17: evolution 07 ex fabula stories: barbara cerda 09 “the future been female” a chat w/ april walker 13 a different image w/ dahyembi neal 19 beyond the sneex: a life interview w/ shake 27 n’fluence feature: ernie z 31 discrimination behind the scenes 33 art: in the wake of the pandemic [an interview w/ mario hamilton]

37 black space 43 the trauma trials 45 werk from home

A B O U T O U R F E AT U R E D C O V E R A R T I S T ––



E D I TO R - I N - C H I E F / L E X I S . B R U N S O N C O N T E N T E D I TO R / L AU R E N “ H O N E Y ” G R A N I E L A FA S H I O N E D I TO R / VATO V E R G A R A





D R . L I A K N OX







E R I C “ S H A K E ” JA M E S











8 8 N I N E R A D I O M I LWAU K E E




CopyWrite Magazine Media & Design, LLC currently runs as a Milwaukee-based organization. All images are not licensed or owned by CopyWrite. For any questions regarding photos, future advertisements, future employment, or any information about any featured artist, producers, or creators, please contact us at





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It’s a number that has always been symbolic for me. When it appears, it reminds me of who I am, where I have been, and most importantly where I am going. In numerology seventeen represents self-confidence, spiritual consciousness, compassion, and strength. These are all elements that I have used to maintain my survival. However, when I found out that many theorize the number to be influential in the exudence of leadership and good judgment [yes, I said good judgment], I looked at my current position in life and said, “Well Damn”. See, I never planned on being in this role. Beyond what the chatter at the cooler may suggest, my true nature lies somewhere between an introverted loner and a geeky analytical observer. This combination of personality traits was suitable for my past life but over the years they have EVOLVED, morphing me into a spirit that is way more complex than what was forecasted.

When the /CW Team started planning out this, Issue 17 of CopyWrite Magazine, we discussed how fortunate we are to even get to this moment. How were we even able to stay afloat in such an uneasy time and existence? We talked extensively about how our authentic connection to the community had been weaning due to my unwillingness to be the face of the company. How my shift into full scale adulthood, motherhood, and life partnership had removed me from the communal trenches I would frequent to cultivate our creative network. The genius of young journalists, content creators, and PR experts I call my staff, made me realize that the person who is behind the brand these days means just as much as what the brand stands for. I had always thought it appropriate to let the work speak for itself, but deep down I could not disregard that without the interpersonal relationships fostered in this space, we would not exist. Somewhere between minding my business and staying in tune with my surroundings, my world began to tilt on a different axis. There were constantly pieces of reality that bothered me. Things that others described as “normal” I found to be signs of complacency and fear. Though

I yearned to be aloof in all things, idleness just wasn’t suitable. If I saw a problem, I would try to find a solution. If I could not manifest a solution I would study its cause in the hopes that an alternative method may reveal itself. At its bare bones, that’s how CopyWrite was conceived.

But nobody really knew what I was going through. I wasn’t just trying to find solutions for the world. On a therapeutic level, I desperately needed there to be an attempt to do better. I needed there to be a community I could call home. I needed there to be people who I could look to for inspiration. I have always been trying to build a family of sempatico souls to build with. I needed there to be a different narrative to align with. I was looking for hope. AND I FOUND IT.

I found it in my struggle, my trauma, and in my pain. I also found it in my ambition, my dedication, and my triumphs. After soul searching in the depths of “seventeen”, I realized that I had always been a leader whose humility honored self-confidence, spiritual consciousness, compassion, and strength to carry on. My evolution story would be the anecdotal truth that I have lived. How when so many people had jumped ship, my inner compass would lead the way to bigger and better things. As I keep evolving, I hope to keep sharing stories from amazing people in our community, including my own, so that my representation may inspire others. [Like about that time I almost got kicked out of college, or how I was homeless the day I received my degree].

This is not the same /CW it was 3 years ago. It’s not a school project or hobby any more. It’s not just something cool to be a part of. It’s my passion, a heavy chunk of my career, my business, and my life. In good faith, I would like to reintroduce myself. . .




Evolution Though it should be a given, checking the social temperature of the world we live in today, the odds of that statement being false is high.

Word to Darwin: we are born playing Survival of the Fittest and any major misstep will leave you out the loop of natural selection. Thus, we must evolve or become extinct. Where some shifts are gradual, the ones being advocated for now seem pertinent to existence. Who we are is no longer a categorical assignment but a statement of continuity into a new era. In this issue of CopyWrite Magazine, we pay homage to our past state of being [including vaulted interviews from before the pandemic & social uprising] but heavily focus on the culture, community, and creativity that are currently taking form. It’s BOLD, it’s BLACK, and it’s hella BEAUTIFUL. This is The Evolution.




I am Barbara Cerda

Also known as Barby The Book Fairy, and I run a book program on Milwaukee’s south side that promotes literacy. I collect gently used books from community members and refill the little free libraries in my neighborhood. When I have been able to fundraise money, I have purchased new books written by Black and Brown authors. I am also an entrepreneur. I recently opened a bookstore called La Revo Books with my sister, Valeria Cerda. Our selection is affordable, relevant, and a reflejo of nuestra comunidad/ reflection of our community. We intentionally and carefully select new and used books for and by Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), with a specialization in Latinx literature. Barby The Book Fairy and La Revo Books are important to me because I know that when we learn new things about ourselves and our culture and history - our dreams start to run wild. These two were born during the COVID-19 pandemic, and as I have reflected on my purpose in bringing these two projects to life, I remember my abuelita Fidela. I think about a specific memory that fuels the work I do. Twenty- three year old me is walking through the large wooden doors of my abuelita’s house in Mexico. The house is partially made out of adobe and is over 100 years old. The house smells like wet dirt and I can smell the food cooking on the stove. I made my way to her kitchen to find her sitting in her favorite chair knitting a blanket. I sit down at the table and we begin talking about the little town I had visited earlier with my dad. My abuelita Fidela begins to tell me a story about my abuelito visiting that same town years before. She revealed surprising details of a story I had never heard before. At one point, mi abuelita says she had to sign a document at the bank where my abuelito was depositing money. She tells me she signed her name by drawing two little sticks. She didn’t know how to read or write which is why she just signed with a pair of little lines. I don’t even think that she truly knew what she was signing off on that day but trusted my abuelito with disclosing the actual details. That conversation that I had with her, is my most favorite moment, because all of her stories had a lesson and she was an amazing storyteller. This story was basically about saving your money. I think about this story a lot because when I go back to Mexico and walk through those doors, I won’t ever have an experience like that with her anymore. My beautiful, smiling, abuelita passed away this January when COVID-19 ravaged through our family. A day after she passed, we also lost my uncle, Jorge - who never left her side and who I loved very much.

Ex Fabula is thrilled to partner with CopyWrite Magazine. This partnership will combine different forms of expression and produce a space for community members’ true, personal stories in written and visual form. By connecting the stage to the page, both Ex Fabula and CopyWrite will reach new audiences, connect with new storytellers, and build community.

While I know that she lived a life that she loved, I wonder what her life would have been like if she had the opportunity to learn how to read and write. I pictured my abuelita crossing the stage to get her bachelor’s degree, getting lost in the stories of hundreds of books, writing research papers at her kitchen table, and reading contracts on her own without anyone’s help. I also envisioned her signing her name with a blue pen, taking up all the space she could. As I reflect further on my abuelita, I know now that literacy and imagination go beyond being able to read and write. She shared so much with us. Her prayers, blessings, stories, and her love. Fidela Vargas was never afraid to be herself. I have these wonderful memories of her. My daughters were fortunate enough to meet her and interact with her days before she passed. With the work that I do in my community, I want children

and families to have memories with each other- reading books and telling stories. These are the things that I share with my daughters after a long day, and spending quality time together brings us so much happiness. We do this to stay connected with each other and it helps us preserve the traditions that my abuelita taught us. I hope that my abuelita is proud of me. Because I am so proud of her.

@barbybookfairy @larevobooks


C U LT U R E + F A S H I O N


been female


C U LT U R E + F A S H I O N

r e k l a W April

Not too long ago (but what feels like a lifetime before) we received an email that April Walker, the “Sacagawea of Urban Fashion” would be coming back to our city for a few appearances and of course to drop some “Walker Gems”. A few months before that we saw a showing of the documentary, The Remix: Hip Hop X Fashion, where we were enlightened by the cultural impact of her fashion career. Our new knowledge of this Brooklyn raised fashion icon who started Walker Wear, inspiring us to dig deeper into the contributions of women of color in the fashion industry and entrepreneurship. Noting that many of those nostalgic hip hop “trends” we keep going back to, reimagining and are nostalgic of, came from the genius of women like Walker. But beyond April’s skills in fashion, she is an author, a brand consultant, and what we would call a “social advocate”. Though CopyWrite was honored to have moderated two public Q&A interviews with April, it was the 15-minute chat we had in the lobby outside of Sneex that reinvigorated some knowledge we already knew: “The Future Been Female”. CW: “So we want to know more about your consulting firm? What exactly does the A. Walker Group do?” AW: “So A. Walker Group is a consulting company, a creative company. We work with Classic Media which is now owned by DreamWorks. . . we did designs with them. We’ve done everything from design to marketing to licensing. And we’ve worked as a consultant with footwear, with electronic companies, with fashion companies, with accessories, like handbag companies. So we’ve done everything from licensing deals for Wilsons Leather to international deals here with a design company called Money Clothing — they’re really dope — outta the UK. And we did their United States licensing deal, so we go on the gambit from design to licensing, depending on what the client needs.” CW: “And is that where you kinda flipped after you stopped doing Walker Wear the first time?” AW: “I took a brief break and I went into that part of it. I also did some design work for Makaveli when Tupac’s mother and sister wanted to do a line. And I did some ghostwriting then. So I’ve done a lot of things. Taking a break and a breather. . . I’m a serial entrepreneur—so I had a pet shop and an all-natural pet treat company Called Walker Pets. Yeah, in Fort Greene Brooklyn, shout out to Brooklyn.” Even though some of April’s ideas have been more successful than others, her reflection of those attempts was not a waste.

AW: “You see an opportunity, you see something coming, sometimes it’s good to get in on the ground. And sometimes it’s not, but doing it makes the difference, you have no regrets, at least you tried.” The attempt is half the struggle. With Corporate America biting at Hip Hop culture and several other design companies pulling at some of Walker's original designs, she pulled herself away from her 1990’s fashion line. No stranger to the plight of adaptation and cultural shift with a few new entrepreneurial perspectives under her belt, she made a comeback with her Walker Wear relaunch that embodies all the needs of heritage and lifestyle fashion. CW: “We see a lot out now with Urban fashion and Hip Hop fashion, a lot of appropriation, to the stylings, imagery and all of that. What is your take on appropriation of Urban culture, and Hip Hop culture, and all that stuff that comes with it?” With a deep pause, she looked up and said. . . AW: “I think that it’s a question that’s—it’s not new. So it’s a hard question for me. I think now, with social media it’s great because it gives people an opportunity to have a conversation about it. But we have been dealing with this since forever. And I think that we are a resilient people, and we are innovative and creative people. So that will always be the case of the originator and the copycatter. It’s just up to us as a people to support the originators right? So I think that when we learn how to foster our own community growth through the creativity and all the jewels we share. Here’s what I think, that the more important question to the


conversation is we create so much magic every day, and then we give it away? And then we actually let them take it, regurgitate it, and spit it back to us, and we stand in line and kill each other over it, to buy what is already—we created. And so that’s really the main thing. I think that’s where the work needs to be done. Because we wouldn’t even care if they were copycattin’ because we’d be supporting our own. Does that make sense?” CW: “Yeah that makes perfect sense.” AW: “And I’m not sayin’ there aren’t those, and we don’t have communities. I just left Sherman Phoenix today which is a great example of what I’m talking about in fostering our own creativity and building community. But I think that when we learn collective economics we won’t have those holes, or those worries, worry about those gaps, you know, we won’t have those existing problems like that, because we would have this together right? Cuz when it’s like this [she gestured space between her fingers] I can get between those to make this weaker. But when it’s like this [she held her hand up in a tight fist]—” CW: “When we’re together, it’s harder.” We were about to move on to the next question but she stopped us, compelled that there was more to be said. AW: “Let me go right back to that—as far as appropriation, I think appropriation—there’s a difference between appreciation and appropriation. So, I think appropriation is wrong, especially when you’re not giving credit. I don’t mean credit, I mean I need it to be a market share, in business, in a revenue structure. That’s what I think people need instead of, like I’m paying you mine, but I’m taking your style and everything you created and I’m not giving you anything but saying thank you. You know what I mean? That’s

not a real thank you. Besides, how do we break bread together if you wanna do that? But I think that, yeah I think appropriation and appreciation are two different things. And I think that we have the control over appropriation if we want to redirect that we can change it to our own.”

#Buy Black

April’s theory of collective economics is something we want to pay a little more attention to. Though many people in the urban community have used this same type of rhetoric, it has drastically been rekindled in the impact of the recent 2020 protest for racial and social equality. “Buy Black”, “Shop Local”, “Support Women-Owned Business” are all hashtags and call to action s the reinvigorate communities that have long been disenfranchised by appropriation that many of us willingly buy into out of convenience and years of media conditioning. Like Walker asserted, if we collectively control the appropriation narrative and all the other intricacies that come with it, maybe we can collectively turn it into viable gain.

#Shop local

#support women-owned business

CW: “Hip Hop can be seen as super political, it also can be seen as social. Do you think they have become one and the same, and what is your position on Hip Hop culture being political or social?”

AW: “ I think it’s both. Right. I think hip hop reflects a lot of socio-economic times, and it reflects how we feel inside, in our environment, and what’s going on around us. It’s a voice often of the voiceless and people that don’t have the medium or the power to talk about the issues going on in the communities, so they’re talking. And you can also hear the ills of society within hip hop, right? When we’re off balance. Like you know, you can hear what’s going on right now in this day and time. You know like...So I think it’s no different than rock ’n’ roll, in that sense of like...When I say rock ’n’ roll, rock ’n’ roll in the with means to like sex and guns, that’s what’s pushed. But I think hip hop is really more than that. And I think that we just have to dig through the crates in order to see it because there’s a lot of good. I mean I think Rapsody should have definitely won this year for what she did, you know, there’s a

lot of great work getting put out. And it’s up to us to celebrate us, and do the work and buy and promote these artists. Did I answer your question?” CW: “Yeah you definitely answered the question. I got one more for you. So . . . What do you see the future of fashion being, and— you know, we can’t redo the ’90s—” AW: “No—” CW: “You know that’s over with—” AW: “Right—” CW: “We can’t go back” AW: “Absolutely—” CW: “We can’t have the same—” AW: “We shouldn’t want to—” CW: “Yeah exactly. So what do you see as being some new prolific force, or some new interpretation, that you’re looking at from this generation of being like, that’s it, like that’s next.” AW: “I think that people are gonna take fashion. They’re already . . . I think all the boundaries are leaving. Right? Gender was a big issue when I came up, that’s gone. You know, men wearing’ pink could be punched in the mid-’80s in the early ’90s. Now you have mauve.” We both burst out into laughter. CW: “Yeah. You’re right! Now we just changed what we call it.” CW & AW: “It’s mauve!” AW: ”Like, that’s pink.” CW: “That’s pink y’all.”

C U LT U R E + F A S H I O N

You know like it’s a lot of stuff that’s gonna happen, past what we can fathom. It’s coming.

Our banter was sarcastic at the thought of the connotation of a color simply being changed by calling it another name.

AW: “Okay, That was hilarious. But like you know it is—So from gender, to erasing those lines and anything goes, you know and the gender-neutral bathrooms, it’s the same thing in fashion right now. . .Then on the same token I think the other vast frontier we’re about to see explode, soon—it’s already happening, and bubbling in different ways, but I don’t think we’ve even scratched the surface—is technology. I think fashion and technology in this next era is going to be on a whole ’nother level. We’re gonna be seein’ people pour liquid, and that’s going to turn into fabric. You know like it’s a lot of stuff that’s gonna happen, past what we can fathom. It’s coming.” If boundaries are being pushed in fashion, as a reflection of culture, that means they have no choice but to be pushed in society too. Where April welcomes the change, pointing out designers like Fe Noel, Samantha Black, Olivia Anthony, and Romeo Hunte as those she has noticed doing amazing work and stepping into their own piece of history in the fashion world, she notes that there are many more out there and we are only just scratching the surface.

CW: “We think that’s good that you are able to identify these designers. That really says a lot about you. A lot of people are like we said before trying to redo the ’90s, but if you see that people are actually contributing to fashion, contributing to the culture in a way that is not just taking from what already happened, but are actually creating something, that’s important.” AW: “Very important. That’s what it’s about, creating. When we’re dimensional, like, I started—So we should say I started with a custom shop, from Fashion In Effect. And at Fashion In Effect it wasn’t streetwear, it was lifestyle, so I did tuxedos, we did full sequins gowns, we did sequins everything, we did leather suits, we did Easter outfits for you to go to church with. And then we also did clothes for babies. So you know, I started on couture. I just happened to know how to do the Hip Hop lifestyle too. Lifestyle got pegged into this category called streetwear. But I think it’s up to us to not pigeonhole ourselves into anything and just stay fluid. Cuz I can get down and dirty with the best of the best.” But as far as we are concerned she is one of the best.

We could have ran you her credentials, the names of celebrities she has worked with, and some trends you wouldn't have without her. However, we’d rather use her genius as a reminder that if we are writing history that we don’t forget to and “HER” to it. For us April is symbolic of a consciousness we can not afford to ignore. Our women carry gems with their experiences. They see change as it is lived not as it is imagined. They are a part of the threads that have sewn together the legacies that we still take pride in. They are the past and they clearly have been the future. So who got next? Lexi for /CW


A Different Image [an interview w/ Dahyembi


In a world not long ago, in a place not so distant, photography was a sacred art. The ability to capture the essence of reality through the shutter of a lens allowed it to hold memory, show the indescribable, and perpetually live in the moment. But times have changed. The art has become as fleeting as the seconds in a day, as ordinary as the scrolling motion of a fingertip, and a generic act of existence. However, in a place very near, in a time that is now, there are still gifted humans who value their craft.

photographer and I can sometimes be a lifestyle photographer. . . When I first started this, my goal was [to do] this for my people. I’m doing this for Black women. I’m doing this so we can get our names out there. I wanted to create something around that, showing us in a different way that other people are really not seeing us. I love to play with color. I love fashion. I wanted to mix all of them in one. And I kind of just kind of built up around it. It’s just kind of difficult because I really don’t know. . .”

Photographer Dahyembi Neal is one.

CW: “Like you’re in there. It’s just you.”

CW: “Okay, all right Dahyembi. The first thing we want to know is how do you become this amazing? I mean, absolutely amazing!”

The uniqueness of her photography goes beyond a good eye for lighting or a thematic approach. It is in her noticeable effort and risk-taking that we see her success.

DN: “Well thank you so much. . . I started photography when I was in high school. . . I’ve always been interested in art. So I was like, Alright, let me try my hand in photography. I took classes and I fell in love with it. It was just like, wow, this is definitely my calling. Then I didn’t really like getting serious about it until my senior year of high school, which is actually when I started my business up.”

CW: “Well, you know, a lot of people will say that you could be in a larger market. Why here? Why make Milwaukee your base?”

Yes, you read that right. Dahyembi started her photography business in high school. Her young entrepreneurial endeavors formed into something beyond an elective course of the basics. Working with clients she realized that this skill she developed was her creative niche. She began to mix her portrait work with her love of fashion and color, creating an aesthetic that is very much her own. DN: “I kind of started experimenting with my sister who’s actually a model. And from there, I’ve kind of just flourished.”

CW: “Some people are in Creative Photography because it’s trendy. Other people actually have a skill set. What we’ve noticed is that you actually have a skill. So what would you call your niche? Or what would you call that in your aesthetic?” You would think by now we would stop asking creatives this question. Just like most, Dahyembi lingered around the words one can use to describe a thing. We could tell you that we see elegance, with earthy auras. Mystic with warmth. Color with contrast. Melanin in the realm of the present. But there are no boundaries that we can ever be certain of. Only the artist can ever be certain that our read is “right”. DN: “I don’t know. See, that’s something that I’m literally still trying to figure out. I know that I’m like a fashion editorial kind of photographer. But I’m also a portrait

DN: “Well, I am actually from Illinois, but I came here for school. I’m going to UWM right now. I’m here why not? Like, take advantage of it. I do say I’m based in Milwaukee and Chicago, but I feel like here is really my base. And I’m pretty happy with it. Milwaukee has brought me some really great things that I’m appreciative of. It has a really good creative atmosphere as well. Like, there’s a lot of great underrated creators here. I thought like, why not lowkey kind of put the city on. There is a lot to offer.” [Say it again Dahyembi, for all the people from “The City” (Chicago) in the back. MKE has a lot to offer too! LOL] Even though photography is Dahyembi’s calling she is not studying it in college. Now take this as a lesson in Creative Collegiate Practices 101. You might just learn something about our society that can’t be stressed enough.

CW: “Are you in school for photography?” DN: “No. I was but then I was like, ‘eh’, because it was not really my speed. They were having us do stuff that I wasn’t really interested in. I have a thing about being told how to create, or what I should be doing. It’s like, I don’t want to do that and I definitely don’t want to get graded on it. Everybody has a different perspective of art. So if I would do a project, the teacher might not understand exactly where I’m coming from. So they wouldn’t even grade me based off of what I thought was good. But if they don’t think it’s good, they don’t think it’s good. So I didn’t like that whole thing. Now, I’m going to school for advertising and public relations, which definitely plays a part in my business and things that help me kind of get my name out there.”



CW: “So we don’t want to pry too much. But do you think that the difference in what you were trying to produce for projects and stuff like that. . . Do you think it was a cultural misunderstanding of what your aesthetic was? And maybe how you were expressing yourself versus a systemic norm?” DN: “Yeah, definitely. I think so. Everybody was doing the same kind of thing. We would have a project and everybody would be taking pictures of buildings. Which I’m cool with. I love landscape photography or architecture photography. But I was trying to do things that were based more on. . . me. Like my experience as a Black person and a Black woman. Even one project I turned in was a portrait of me and my sister. They liked it but they were still trying to critique it [about] these little things. I’m like, ‘I’m sorry but I think it’s good’. Like not to be cocky, or whatever but I thought it was a good concept. I thought it was really exemplifying us as Black women. It was just like they couldn’t connect with it and that could because of a racial divide.” When we talk to creatives that’s something that we find pretty common in the narrative. It’s like trying to go the professional route of doing stuff becomes a neglect of the authenticity and passion that brought you to school in the first place. Representation has not been there before, especially in the collegiate spaces, so you’re constantly trying to fight for your creative approach. Then you try to showcase something that culturally would be dynamic, something that culturally does fit the script, that does go with the assignment. It’s just that they don’t understand. And there goes another soul filled with potential failed by the system of “higher” learning. CW: “So, now that you understand that’s a part of the narrative of just being a creative in spaces that are not made for Black and Brown people—obviously, now you’re moving, you’ve moved into another industry professionally for your degree. That field also has that same kind of narrative, except for there’s been this movement to kind of change what representation looks like. What do you think your role is in that? I mean, now you’re in a collegiate space, but obviously, you’re not just getting a degree just to sit on it. So what do you think your responsibility is in having this information on how this industry works?” DN: “I think I’d say just try to make a space for people like me. I think I’m okay with trying to go into these sorts of spaces and really changing that. But also why not make a space for us. That’s definitely something that I’m trying to do, which is what I’m actually trying to incorporate into my own photography. I just want to make a space for us, I know that you can do this

too. If you’re a Black girl in freaking Tennessee and you want to do photography, you should do photography. You should do advertising. You should do public relations. Make your own lane, because—or make yourself heard just in any way, shape, or form, whatever that may take. I can’t really say much on like, how I’m going to do the advertising and publications piece yet because honestly, I don’t really know, just because it’s so much going on right now. I don’t even know how that’s even gonna happen. But I’m just trying to show them, or show the world what I can bring to the table. The kind of creativity I can bring to the table. The kind of content I can bring to the table. Things like that.” Without a doubt we know she can do it. Ideally Dahyembi would like to continue to work for herself, noting that corporate spaces just may not be a fit for her self-determined creative expression. [Trust and believe we feel that.] Working at her own pace, with her own stylistic approach has not failed her yet but she is open to trying a job in those spaces just for the leverage and experience. It’s a strategy that has shown to be beneficial so we can appreciate that sentiment too. Just like many other visual artists, Dahyembi has a muse. A muse of familial tie and a bond like no other. CW: “You’ve mentioned your sister a lot. So you say she’s a model? How does that partnership work? And do you find inspiration in her work? Does that help you with your creative process?” DN: “Yes, absolutely. Me and my sister are best friends and we live together too. Anytime I have an idea I’m like, we should try to do work or vice versa. I’m definitely very inspired by her. She’s a very, very strong woman. She’s very creative. So anytime we just have an idea, we collaborate on it. She helps me with my stuff, I help her with her’s. It’s just a really great mix. It’s obviously very ironic, that I’m a photographer and she’s a model type thing. But it really works out. Honestly I feel like that’s probably another reason why I was able to kind of, like leverage my whole creative being is because of her. I’m able to bounce off her and create with her. It’s nice when you get to have someone like that to create with because, other than that, I don’t know what I’d be doing. I feel like I probably wouldn’t even be as far because I’d probably be too scared to reach out or whatever. But she constantly motivates me in that aspect. So it’s really good.” S/O to Kynnah for being #SisterGoals CW: “So do you come from a creative household because both of you decided to do something that’s way more creative and outside of the box, especially in the Black and Brown community.” DN: “My parents themselves are not in a creative field, but I feel like both of them are mutually very creative people. Like my dad, he’s a contractor, so like that. To a degree that definitely requires some creativity when building houses. My mom is very creative. She’s always


been very into fashion and very into art. They introduced us to art and many spaces as young kids. My aunt is very creative. She’s actually an actress. So I feel like that’s probably another reason why they’re so welcoming to me and welcoming to the idea. My family also has a music background. So it was just like, creativity is definitely there. So definitely inspired by all that for sure.” Now while we had Dahyembi’s attention, we wanted to ask her about something that bothers us to the deepest depths: FAKE-tographers. CW: “So we are in a supersaturated digital age, right? Where photos are everywhere. We have a social media platform that is just for images, you know. As a photographer—who is trying to cultivate a skill set, really trying to create something dynamic, use representation and all of those things—how do you feel about people who call themselves photographers, and kind of twist what that role is? So whether that means over sexualizing Black and Brown women or using it to abuse Black and Brown Women. . . How do you feel about it?” DN: “It’s—as a photographer it’s incredibly frustrating. First of all, I hate how those types of photographers [are] taking advantage of these women who are probably more than likely trying to come up in their careers. They’re trying to make something of themselves and you take advantage of that for your own personal weird gain. It’s just—it’s just weird. It just makes you very uncomfortable. It’s very upsetting for people who call themselves photographers. At the end of the day—even like you are saying that you notice that—we know who the real photographers are. You can see the passion in the work. You know it’s not there, like they don’t care about this for real for real. They just want to be a creep, they want to be a weirdo, pervert, or whatever. But even for the people who just say they’re a photographer for clout, at the end of day your passion will show in your work. We’re just gonna let them do them because at the end of the day I just don’t think it’s gonna last. . . As a woman it’s hurtful. It’s hurtful to

our community. I don’t know, I have so many words going on my head right now. But, um, yeah, it’s incredibly damaging. I feel like I have this conversation, like, all the time with my sister. It’s just sad in so many different ways. It hurts us as photographers because it makes us look bad. It just makes it look like we just kinda want some clout. Like we don’t really care about, you know, anybody outside of ourselves. But like I said, the real will prevail. So that’s really kind of it.” We are counting on the L’s for the phonies, and hoping it happens before they create damage that can not be repaired. But we are also counting on the W’s of those who really have something the world needs to see. We are counting on even bigger W’s for Dahyembi, who is still young enough to manifest her goals above and beyond what we could ever imagine. CW: “So we know this is cliché. But we want to know, because you’re still young. Where do you hope to see yourself in the next five years? What are your hopes and dreams?” DN: “So I’m hoping that I’m definitely a full-time photographer for sure. I hope that I am working with big companies. By then I don’t know if, because I don’t really know where I want to go necessarily in terms of like, you know, locally, but hopefully by then I will be like, probably somewhere in Chicago. Probably be there working with just amazing people. . . just being more successful, and just within myself. . . Being financially free, and maybe not by then, but you know, getting there.”

CW: “So is there anything about you that people wouldn’t know that you want people to know and they just don’t know. You’re usually on the other side of the lens. Is there something about you that people would know if you were on the other side, but they don’t technically know because you’re doing the work on the other end?”


you happy, make you excited, make you inspired, make you motivated. I really just appreciate anyone who does support me in anything I do.” @dahyembijoineal

DN: “Sometimes it can be tough to do this. Especially when you’re young and you’re a woman people don’t really take you seriously. But the work that goes into this, the passion I have for this is immense. Like I love what I do. I love this so much. I think that’s always just what I want people to know. I always want people to know that I’ve truly put my 100% into this, always. So when you see my work know that okay, she did, she put her all into that. I will stay up till three, four o’clock in the morning just to go over a concept, perfecting it because I need it to be correct. . .” CW: “You mean you don’t just show up and shoot?” [the sarcasm conscious of the disregard of creative practices and their significance] DN: “Yeah. I think sometimes people might think that. I think people take it for granted. It’s just honestly just a lack of just knowing. I don’t think it’s anyone’s fault necessarily. But I don’t think they know how much it goes into it. Or how much you really care, or how much effort is in the little details. Like if I’m worried, especially for clients, like oh my god. I think the only people who really know are like my family. But I will stress out about it even just a little bit. I’m like oh my god, they’re not going to like it. Like, it’s just like, just because I just want other people to be so—I want you to be happy with the product. And it is about me, but it’s kind of about you too, because it’s like I want you to see it. I want you to feel it. I want it to make

As we evolve into new spaces of seeing, capturing the moment will have its place. With photographers like Dahyembi Neal, we have a better chance of seeing the world through a more inclusive lens. In this light, we left her with a final question which she gave us her truest thoughts: CW: “We’ve heard a saying that the photographer is like a historian. You capture events, you capture auras, and essence, things that may get lost in the narrative in the future if you don’t capture them. How do you feel about that perspective? Do you subscribe to that narrative? Is that a challenge?” DN: “I do. I agree with that narrative. I think it is true. I honestly believe that. When I first started out, that was kind of like my thing. I want to be able to create a moment that I see that could maybe go down in history. History can be iconic. I want to create a moment that people will look at years from now and be like, wow, like, that’s great. So when I create my work, I try to be as timeless as I can be, because you never know, you know, especially when you are creating with other people. Like you were saying, you’re creating someone’s energy, someone’s aura, or like you have to embody who they are. And that’s another thing, when I’m trying to like—when I photograph people, that’s something I take into consideration. Like, this person is like this, and they have this beautiful light, I want to be able to show that and in the best way I can. Because I met some really amazing and beautiful people. And I hope that I’ve only served them justice.” /CW




CW: “Alright, so, we’ve been noticing that you are highly connected and well respected. We want to know how you got into the position that you are in today.”

play basketball with Run-DMC?’. I was like ‘fucka’ stop lyin’. He was like ‘I swear. You know, they in my store right now, they wanna play . . . they lookin’ for a gym to play basketball at.”

“I don’t know if your phone got enough power [for that].”

After a little convincing from his friend, Shake agreed to meet up with Run-DMC to play basketball. When they got to the store they were told that they had just walked up the street to the Dunkin’ Donuts on 6th and Wisconsin Avenue. So they made their way to Dunkin Donuts, opened the door, and right there in the heart of downtown Milwaukee, he found Run-DMC.

He laughed softly, sat up a little, and began to tell us a story. One created by chance, confronted by risk, covered in Hip Hop nostalgia, and basking in Black Entrepreneurship. It is a story that explains the mystery of the towering dark figure who’s Hip Hop credentials, sneaker collection, business savvy, and social accountability outranks most.

His name is Eric James, but they call him Shake. Shake is the owner of Sneex and Clicks, two local shoe boutiques that feature high profile sneakers and most notably “big city” shoe drops that are hard to catch around these parts. With his connection to Jam Master Jay, and his constant link to relevant music, style, and cultural icons, his presence in MKE is mystical and thoroughly contradicts the “get out and never come back” sentiment that many locals buy into. His interview with CopyWrite reveals why Milwaukee should not be counted out. SHAKE: “I mean basically when I was younger I was, you know, an aspiring rapper. You know, like everyone else from the ghetto: basketball or rap. And so I was rappin’ and had a friend of mine that was like my biggest fan. You know, like he’s my biggest fan, telling me I’m the best, dopest, whatever. And so, um, one day Run-DMC came to Milwaukee. And so my friend was like ‘Yo—this other guy that we knew called us, [he] called my friend’s phone. . . like ‘Yo’, he said um ‘Do ya’ll still rent that gym and play basketball?’ And I was like ‘Yeah’. He said ‘Do ya’ll wanna

SHAKE: “We were like ‘Yo what up?’. .They were like ‘Yall got the gym?’. ‘Yeah, we finna play basketball’. ‘Alright, cool’. So then, we all went to the gym you know, and played basketball. It was like a surreal moment cuz when I was younger, you know like, when I was you know like 7, 8, 9, I—we grew up super poor. Like it was me, my 3 cousins, 3 other cousins, 2 other cousins, my mother’s sisters, her other sister, like we all lived in a two-bedroom house.” He continued to describe his childhood living conditions, recalling a non-insulated attic covered with spiderwebs that they cleared out to make room for their beds and curtain room dividers. With the hardships of poverty, his older cousins would try to find means of survival through burglary and car theft. Both acts his mother tried to keep Shake away from. SHAKE: “I’m the only child, so my mother always was on me. They were my big cousins so I looked up to them. I always wanted to be around them. You know, we were in the same house, but we kinda were in the attic, and then they were in the basement. . . They had a little bathroom down there. So that was their house. So she kinda tried to keep me away from them. It’s funny how I remember this because it was so vivid—so we had thirteen steps to get in the basement. So I used to stand at the top of the steps of the basement, and my mother used to come in, come through the back door, and she’d see me sittin’ right there. And she’d be like ‘You know how many stairs that is?’. I’m like ‘It’s thirteen’. She said ‘If yo’ foot come off that stair, and touch that stair right there, I’m beatin’ yo ass’”

Of course, Shake swears to this day that he didn’t move off that step (Haha! Bet not!) But he would sit there and listen to the music his cousins were playing down there. It was Run-DMC. He would sit and study the lyrics, so when he caught them in the kitchen (a place that was common ground) he would burst out things like “I’m the king of rock, there is none higher, Sucker MCs should call me sire . . .”. In trying to get brownie points from his cousins, he actually found a great interest in rap. So getting a chance to really hang out with Run-DMC was epic. He had come off the step and then some. SHAKE: “So then we played basketball. It was cool. I was probably like fourteen. I was selling drugs at that time too, and so um, I had this like tricked out 5.0. So when we came out of the gym from the basketball game, like Jay (Jam Master Jay, that is) looked at the car and he was like, ‘Who car is that?’, and I was like ‘That’s my car’. And you know I wasn’t the size I am now. I was smaller. I was like way skinnier, but you know I still kinda had a nice little height. I was like ‘This my car’. He was like ‘What you doin’ out here shorty?’, I said ‘I‘m livin’. So he’s like “I’m ridin’ witchu’.” With all the theatrics that you find in a good late 80’s movie, Shake said “Aight”. As they started walking over to the car, he pulled the keys out of his pocket and told Jay “You can drive.” SHAKE: “I said ‘But wait, you know how to drive a stick?’. And he looked at me like that was the dumbest shit that you can ask a grown man.” He laughed reminiscently. He was like lookin’ at me. So I threw him the keys. So he got in, And so you know I’m like, man, you know I’m like thinkin’ of my cousins. I’m like if these niggas knew that this nigga was in my car now.” Shake instructed Jay on how to let the top down, even more, impressed as they pulled off Jay requested Shake to put on some music. SHAKE: “And so, of course, you know what I did, I’m in full fan mode, so I threw in Run-DMC. And he was like, ‘Yo, how you take that out’, I said ‘Push that button right there’. So he pushed the button. He grabbed my tape and just threw that shit on out. Right on 94. And I was like ‘Man that’s my tape!’ (he chuckled thinking about it now). Dude said ‘I don’t wanna hear that shit, I hear that shit every night, like put somethin’ else on’. You know, so I put on some like MC Breeze or somethin’. And so he was like ‘Who’s that?’ you know what I’m sayin’ and so. You know how we all got this thing where we think that JAY-Z know 50 Cent—’” CW: “Right.”



SHAKE: “And live around the corner from Puffy and know Kanye. We think that but they don’t. They are so far removed. So he didn’t know who the fuck MC Breeze was and he was like ‘What? Who is this?’. “Like you know so I’m telling him shit, I’m like ‘What? You don’t know who Breeze is?’. I’m telling him about all these different songs and shit, like what’s poppin’ and whatever. So we went to the [Run-DMC] show. The show was coo’ you know what I’m sayin’. And then after the show he gave me his number. They continued on the tour. Then me and my friend, went back to doin’ what we was doin’. So the next day my friend was like, ‘Did you call’em?’. I said ‘Call who?’ He said did you call Jay’. I said ‘Bro I ain’t no fuckin’ groupie, I ain’t callin’ him’” CW: “I’m was about to say. That’s what you say to a girl. You call’em? Did you call’em?”

We all burst out in laughter. His friend was persistent. He kept asking Shake if he had spoken to Jay. Annoyed, he begrudgingly called to get him off his back. SHAKE: “So I picked up the phone, dialed his number and shit, I’m like ‘Yo Jay, what up?’ I said, ‘You know who this is?’. He said ‘It’s my man Shake from Milwaukee’. So I was like ‘Bro he knows who I am!’” CW: “He remembered?!?” SHAKE: “He remembers me. And so then, I went back cool boy, I said ‘Yeah. So what’s up man?’. He said ‘Wussup nigga?’, he said ‘You ready? You ready to come to LA? I’m finna put you in a video, I’m finna make you a star’” CW: “What?” (Time out! Who wrote this script? It’s too good to be true! But just wait on it. It gets even better!)

SHAKE: “I said ‘Bro he want me to come to LA, he wanna put me in the studio, put me in a video’. Then my friend was like ‘I told you! I told you ((hyped))’. So he was goin’ crazy goin’ crazy. I said ‘Yeah’, I was like ‘I could come to LA’ you know what I’m saying. So when do you want me to come there’. He was like ‘Thursday’. So this is like on a Sunday. I was like ‘Aight, I’ll see you on Thursday’. And then I was like, ‘I’ll call you when we get there’. And he said ‘Yeah aight, call my phone’. I said ‘Aight bet’, and I hung the phone up. So my friend’s goin’ crazy he‘s jumpin’ around goin’ ‘Yeah nigga!’. And so he looked at my face, he could see I wasn’t excited. So he said ‘Bro what’s wrong?’. I said ‘Nigga how the fuck we gon’ get to LA?’” Now, children, this was a time before we had smartphones with built-in GPS. Before teenagers could book flights online and the only way to move your money was to pull that cash out of the ATM. But with directions written out on one of those old school road maps from Uncle Charles and a 1970 Cadillac, they were off to L.A. L.A. was a culture shock for young Shake. Gang rivalry and color set trippin’ were violations that could really get you killed. When he arrived in Los Angeles, Jay was working on some music with Crip members. As Shake got out the car to meet his new friend, he soon realised that his shirt with a red Adidas trefoil and matching white and red shell toes, had him look like a Blood, which of course is a rival gang. SHAKE: “So soon as I get out the car, these mother fuckas pull out guns—I’m talkin’ bout like this shit really happen. Like they pulled out guns ((hits hands together)), and was like ‘The fuck you doin’ around here nigga’. Like ‘What set you claimin’ homie’, like that right. I was like ‘WHAT!’ you know what I’m sayin’. Cuz I didn’t, process it you know. Then Jay jumped in front of me, then he pushed the gun away, and he was like ‘Yo’, he wit me. Yo this my family’. And so then dude was like ‘Yo he gotta take that shirt off’. I was like ‘Shit, no problem’” At that point, Shake started to see how many different types of people respected Jay. He also noticed that Jay was genuine about his respect for Shake. As they ventured around town shake was introduced to powerful gang leaders, business


Jay’s untimely death, he still holds dear.

owners and celebrities. Shake was navigating new territory that would essentially change his life. SHAKE: “So we hung out there for a couple of days, and uh you know we were in the club. Like I said, by that time I was probably like 15, from Milwaukee Wisconsin, and [I’m] goin’ to the club in Los Angeles California! It’s different you know. And so [eventually], we ran outta money, and so then my friend was like ‘Dude, how much money you got?’. I was like ‘Look, I got like 700’. I said ‘How much you got?’ ‘I ain’t got nothing’. So he was like ‘Man so what’s up? So we out here tomorrow right?’. I was like ‘Tomorrow?’. He was like ‘Yeah’, so he like ‘Aight, we out tomorrow’. So we went back to our rooms, and the morning came, he was like ‘Yo, what’s up, you ready?’. And I said ‘Yeah’. And I reached in my pocket like I gave him 700. And he’s like ‘What’s this?’. I said ‘That’s 7’. He’s like ‘What you doin’?’. I said ‘Bro I ain’t goin’ back’. He’s like ‘WHAT?’. ‘Bro I aint goin’ back’.” His friend took the $700 dollars and Shake stayed on the road with Run-DMC. They were traveling and flying, living the fast life, encountering legends and creating a friendship that

even after

SHAKE: “Like I said Jay always [introduced me to people]. I’m talkin’ bout like this shit was so crazy he always did that. I guess, one of the better times he did it was [when] Prince used to have a club in LA, and he used to open up only on Wednesday. So every Wednesday we used to go to Prince club. This was probably like ’90, ’91. So we goin’ up to the club and we see the Thug Life dudes for Tupac. They were outside the club, they couldn’t get it. We were like ‘What’s up, ya’ll goin’ in?’ They were like ‘Nah we ain’t goin’ in’, they were like, uh, you know ‘Dude won’t let him in with the shirt’ some shit. So Jay was like ‘Aight fuck it’. He had on like a Coogi shirt. Like it was a, it was really weird—it was dope though. It was a Coogi—it had a pocket down here, then it had short sleeves, and it had a hood on it, but it was Coogi. And it buttoned like here. Jay just takes the shit off and gives it to dude and is like ‘Yo c’mon let’s go’. So we started walking to the door, and as we walkin’ towards the door the security dude’s on the megaphone and he is like ‘THE LIST IS CLOSED! NOBODY’S GETTIN’ IN. WE ARE AT CAPACITY! I DON’T GIVE A FUCK WHO YOU KNOW, WHO YOU WITH, WHERE YOU FROM, WHAT SET YOU WITH, NOBODY’S GETTING IN THE CLUB! TAKE YALL ASS HOME! WE AT CAPACITY NOBODY’ GETTIN’ IN—’ then he saw Jay and he was like ‘Unless I’ve been listenin’ to you since I was 14!” Like his whole shit changed!” Of course as the security guard’s tune changed, he let Jay in, and with a



‘Yo this my man’, Shake strolled right in too. SHAKE: “So we in the club, and so you know, we partyin’ and shit. And Tupac was in the club. I’m from Milwaukee, so all I know is Tupac, you know what I’m sayin’. I was like ‘Where the fuck ’Pac at?’ So I’m tryin’ to find him, but it was a lot goin’ on and shit. Then I look, and I was like ‘Damn, I think that’s ’Pac’ right there’. It ain’t no Instagram [at that time] so I was tryna’ get a visual to see ’Pac. So now I gotta get Jay to go over there. . . So then two security dudes come down, [one] whispered something to Jay [about someone wanting to speak with him]. So I say ‘Bro what’s up? C’mon’’. And dude put his hand on my chest hard as fuck like ‘Not him, just you’. Jay was like ‘Naw he with me. Like that right. So then dude looked at me, and was like ‘Aight aight’. So we go upstairs, and the upstairs of the club, it had this balcony, with frosted windows, like you could see—” CW: “People movin’, but you can’t see in?” SHAKE: “Right. Their faces. So we get upstairs and shit, and it’s Prince.”

NEVERRRRRRRRRR! LOL SHAKE: “He’s like ‘Yo, what’s up’, you know what I’m sayin’. And Jay’s like ‘Wat up’, They start talkin’ about some music and shit. I’m like ‘What’s up’ so I shake his hand. And he told us to let him know if we needed anything like everythings on him. You know, he was just super cool.” Shake admitted that it was nice meeting Prince but he was a bit upset because he really wanted to meet Tupac. After coming back downstairs the club was soon to be closing and the moment was slipping from his grasp. SHAKE: “The club is over. You know how clubs go. Everybody is outside. They tryna catch the girls, shit like that, get numbers, whatever. So we standin’ there talkin’, and then I see Tupac and them ride by in a car, and so I was like ‘Damn, there go Tupac’ like that. They just ride by drivin’, he doin’ probably’ like 15 miles an hour. And then Jay was like ‘Damn, I wanted to talk to him. I wanted to get him on this record’. So I said ‘You want me to catch the car?’, he was like ‘Yeah”

CW: “Of course you like, ‘say no more’ and gon’ go catch the car!” SHAKE: “I’m runnin’” He laughed fondly of his effort. “That was probably the fastest I ever ran in my life. So I get up to the car, and I’m like ‘Yo what’s up?’ I said ‘Hey ‘Pac. Jay want you’. So he was like, ‘Who? ‘Man fuck that nigga’ like that, right. So then he could tell by the look on my face like wait ‘What Jay you talking about?’. I said ‘I’m talkin’ about Jam Master Jay’. He like ‘YO YO. WHERE HE AT THAT’S MY NIGGA!’. So he open up the door. He jump out the car like—exactly how you see him, that’s exactly how he was—He like ‘YO’, and threw his hands up. So we started walking back to Jay. He was like ‘Yo, my apologies I didn’t know he was talking about you. I thought he was talking about this other nigga Jay’. So then Jay was like ‘Man this

my guy Shake from Milwaukee’. Pac was like ‘Milwaukee? I got a show coming up there. Is it cool if I get his number? So you know I’m getting all excited. Like fuck yeah he can get my number.” Jay gave Tupac his number. Jay and Tupac finished talking about the music. . . SHAKE: “They left and we went on and did some other shit. Now I’m a stop talking and let you ask the next question.” Clearly at this moment, our minds are blown. Jay had put him on with ease. That right place, right time theory was epic and Shake’s memory of the events that transpired was beyond vivid. We swear it would definitely work as a good ass screenplay. There were no other questions that needed to be asked but after we settled down from that first chapter of adventures, there were a few other things that we were hoping Shake would share. CW: “You wound up going on tour with them. You said you were like 15. So that means you were not in school?” SHAKE: “Yes. I mean school was just there. I always felt like I was going to be a professional basketball player or a rapper. It’s just what it was. So I just felt like when I first met them and went on the road with them there was nothing for me to come back to. So if I had decided to be with them for a year and come back to what I was already doing, everything would have still been here. I just felt like I was supposed to be there. The way me and [Jay] just hit it off, it was like just a crazy friendship. So naw, I wasn’t going back. So I stayed.” When asked about how his family felt about his choice, Shake brought me back to his original description of his young life. The reality of the matter was that they were all poor. Him hustling to make a few bucks to keep it together was not his passion and not even his true persona. Being around Hip Hop artists who were successful at their craft was much more fitting. SHAKE: “This was my dream so I had to pursue it. Now, sometimes people respect Run-DMC and sometimes they don’t because they don’t know the heritage. But when I go to schools to speak with these kids, the first thing I ask them is what they are into. Most of them will say sports or music. Then I ask them who their favorite music artist or sports player is. Then I tell them to picture themselves being best friends with that person. That was my life!” Even though Shake had made his choice to forgo his education at such a young age, the outcome of his choice has shown to be extremely beneficial. However, Shake didn’t just leave Milwaukee and never look back. On the contrary, he has used his experience to cultivate opportunities in MKE that reach beyond the scope of music and actually dive into terrains of social development, community outreach, and prolificness of sneaker culture. CW: “What brought you back here?” SHAKE: “People don’t really even know we were doing like 250 shows a year. So we were always on the road. But when we had breaks in between shows. . . Me and Jay would come back here. We used to hang out here. We would go to those little clubs like Brown’s and Martini Mikes, Matrix. . . We used to go to all those clubs. Jay was really about the people. He wanted to be where we were at. . .

So that’s what it was.” CW: “So even though you had that shift in lifestyle and going on the road with him. He wanted to have the experience of what’s going on in your city and where you come from.” People could never really understand why someone that famous would want to spend time in Milwaukee the way Jay did.

Even now when Shake tells people he still lives in Milwaukee, they always assume that with his connects and ambitions he would be residing on the east or west coast. SHAKE: “I just feel like a lot of times people are sleeping on Milwaukee.” CW: “So I have to ask you the big question now Shake. Why Milwaukee? Because clearly you see it, when others can’t.” SHAKE: “I’m going to give you the real answer. WHY NOT? Being on the road, seeing all these different cultures and things of that nature . . . I used to really think that Milwaukee was a follow me state. I would see something that was the trend in L.A. and then I would come back here and then eight months later, I would see somebody rocking it like it was a new thing. They have already moved on to something else [in L.A.] now that’s the new trend! So I thought we following. I never understood why we had to wait to see what everybody else thinks is popular or fashionable before we adapt to it. But now I think Milwaukee finally has its own identity. I think we have the dope photographers, the dope writers, the doctors, the singers, the teachers. We have those things.” Shake mentioned that he believes most of the perspectives (even the ones we cast on ourselves locally) have to do with the media representation of Milwaukee and what it’s like here. He also sees the influx of social media as the new normal for venting, airing out other people’s business and making a spectacle of some issues that used to be resolved on more personal levels. “Sometimes I feel like I blinked my eyes and I got old because the things that mean something to me, don’t mean anything to other people.” Shaking someone’s hand, looking a person in their eyes, giving someone your word and meaning it, are all values that Shake see’s as important, which comes with his understanding of why investing in Milwaukee is a reflection of character. In the past loyalty went beyond the bonds between people but actually were practices that kept brands, sports teams, and holistically cities a float. For example, you would never mix Adidas shoes with a Nike fit (we call that perpetrating). Or if you were from Wisconsin you would root for the home team, not your favorite player, so that’s Bucks, Brewers, and Packers (show them some love, buy their merch). Or even making it normal practice to shop local or buy Black. What this does is create economic and social investments that sustain culture, communities,



and business that helps cultivate the environments in which they dwell or represent. The people who usually get to control the narrative of what Milwaukee looks like and needs are usually people who have never been here, have no stake in its success, and only see us running to more notably popular cities. If we control the narrative, we might be able to change our trajectory.

The way Shake is helping that trajectory has a lot to do with his entrepreneurship. So why is a sneaker store so relevant to that pivot? SHAKE: “I feel like sometimes Jay still has his hand on me because this was an extension of him. Basically it was a guy who worked at Adidas who was like the head guy and he was about to leave the company. He had a lot of respect for RunDMC and appreciated everything they did for the brand. So as a way of saying thank you for all they had done for the brand he offered to give them their own store. . .” What was interesting about this was when Shake was on tour with Jay, they would constantly receive shipments to the hotel of new shoes. Some they kept, some they left, but Shake always thought it would be even better if they had their own shoe store where they could go in and just take exactly what they liked. SHAKE: “So when the conversation about the store came back to me and Jay, I questioned what my role would be. He told me that I would have to move to New York full time to run it. So I was like ‘alright cool, I’m wit it’. But in between that, Jay got killed. When that happened the plans for the store was over with. I came back to Milwaukee. I was just, here. You know like when somebody passes away, especially when it’s somebody close to you, they ask you what are you going to do to honor your friend. People will say, ‘oh I will get a tattoo or put their

name on a t-shirt, or whatever the case may be. All that was corny to me. It was cliché to me.” It took him a long time to figure out what he wanted to do to honor Jay but it eventually became very clear while attending the Adidas annual Christmas party that they would constantly get invited to but had become hesitant to attend. SHAKE: “So we went to the party and we ran into different people. One of the people we ran into was Jon Wexler, who was the head of the entertainment, marketing, and influencers department at the time. He was like ‘Did you ever do the store?’ ‘Nah, we ain’t do it. Jay got killed’. Hee was like ‘Man, you should do it. Kinda like as a tribute to Jay’. I was like damn that’s actually dope. Wex was like, ‘I can’t do it today but come back and we can sit down with the lawyer and we can figure it out. So me, DMC, and his manger flew back out to Portland and we had a meeting.” Of course during the meeting the marketing department thought that the best place to put the store would be New York to bring in all the East Coast rappers, or they could put it in L.A. and invite the West Coast rappers. Shake listened intently but did not respond. When they asked why he isn’t chiming in he said: SHAKE: “Because it’s not going to be in either one of those places. ‘It’s going to be in Milwaukee.’ When I said that shit, you could hear a pin drop. It was dead silent.” Shake began to explain to them how there was a market in Milwaukee that wasn’t being tapped into. Whenever somebody wanted something more exclusive they would have to make the trip to Chicago to cop something new. Buying into his pitch, Clicks Kicks Adidas Lifestyle Boutique came to Milwaukee. “One thing I have always tried to do is humble myself and keep true to myself. I have always tried to be a good person. I’m not the robber or none of that. I tried to never do nothing wrong to people and that always came back to me. I always tried to put out good energy.” That energy showed up when Jazerai Allen-Lord helped Shake get the store off the ground or when he paid it forward by helping a friend get on as a security guard and years later he brought his client Macklemore to check out Clicks. As time went on, Clicks became a place to visit, and in some instances a reason to come to Milwaukee. Anthony Pettis, Mac Miller, Ariana Grande, Public Enemy, Naughty by Nature, EPMD, Rakim, ASAP Ferg, New Edition, Kevin Hart, and of course Run-DMC have all hung out at Clicks. SHAKE: “It just kind of manifested into its own thing. This person tells that person, That person tells this person. Like I said a lot of celebrities have come through Clicks. What I like about it all is that it makes those connections.” He gave the example of people meeting by happenstance. One person might come in to look at one shoe and someone else may be in to look at another. Being in that same space drums up a conversation about the leather of the shoe or the color wave. That connection of shoes may foster other opportunities and networking from a genuine place.

With the success of one shoe store and an urge to expand into other brands, he opened up another store called SNEEX. CW: “Now that you have SNEEX, you have been working on programming to bring people to Milwaukee and have conversations with our community. Like with Sneex Sofa Sessions, which we are partnering on. Where did that idea come from and how do you think it’s going so far?” SHAKE: “Last year we had an event called Real Women. I had Beija [Marie Velez] come. I had April Walker come and I had Jaz[erai Allen-Lord] come. They came and they created this panel speak on the importance of women in male dominated spaces.” (They were also joined by Sabrina Mabbett, Sneex Store Manager). “You know when you do something and it’s big, but you have no idea how big it really is? The response and the feedback I got from that was crazy. So fast forward to when it got time to book it again, I started to reach back out to Beija, Jaz, and April. One day would work for Beija, but it wouldn’t work for April or one day would work for April but wouldn’t work for Jaz. So we could never get all three of them at the same time.” But then it happened. The famous red “sofa” became a part of the Sneex store decor. Seeing the sofa triggered a thought in Shakes’ head. Similar to the Red Table Talks that have sparked an interest in new aged open dialogue, Sneex could have Sofa Sessions. So instead of a joint dialogue they thought it might be cool to just have one Sofa Session. Shake asked Rachel Muscat, ex-adidas Global Brand director and current General Manager for Pharrell’s Hu, to do the honors. She agreed to do it for Shake, and it went well. But soon after Beija’s availability opened up and she came for a Sofa Session, and soon after there was Darryl Brown, and then April Walker for a session. Every month a new person was on the schedule and people who Shake had connected with over the years from influencers, industry execs, to well known celebrities were reaching out to let Shake know that they would love to come to Milwaukee to be a part of a Sneex Sofa Session.

SHAKE: “It was only supposed to be one. It just manifested and took on a life of its own”. Though this was all before the pandemic hit and caused a pause to the session events, Shake claimed that if everyone who volunteered to do one came, we would be booked at least until 2022. SHAKE: “I just have been trying to strategically pick them because in all honesty, I think there are some dope people here [in Milwaukee] that need to be on this couch.” As we wound down the conversation Shake began reflecting again. This time it wasnt on the past but in the present. Not where his world collides with the rich and famous, but right here in MKE where he sees potential for much more. SHAKE: “I think there are a bunch of dope creators here. I just don’t think they work together enough. There is too much division in the creative space here, and I don’t think it should be like that. Even when I said that, I’m kind of guilty myself. You can’t just preach it. You have to practice it.” So Shake has made a conscious decision in changing the way he moves. Letting locals come in the store to do pop up shops, having viewings of social commentary, or even reaching out to us to moderate the sofa sessions. Cultivating relationships and bridging the gaps between various sectors of community is really what Shake does best. SHAKE: “There are a lot of talented people here. It’s just time that they wake up.”

Are y’all ready? /CW




Before we get into this interview, let’s first take it back to July of 2020. Do y’all remember when I dropped the first episode of my top 5 music video countdown show, “Carrie’s Countdown?” Well, after that episode the team and I took some time to evaluate the show and find ways to improve it to make it better. From that, Carrie’s Countdown got a MAJOR facelift and is now N’fluence! Other than a new name, we gave the show a brand new logo, a new website for submissions, a new way to vote and a brand new Instagram page (@the. nfluence). N’fluence allows new, and up-andcoming artists to show their talent, grow their audience, and prove their influence in order to make it to the top. We couldn’t be happier with the debut of N’fluence and we’re proud to introduce N’fluence’s very first countdown winner: Ernie Z!

WHO IS ERNIE Z? Ernie Z is a newer artist in Milwaukee but is ready to make his impact. Born and raised in Milwaukee, WI, Ernie Z grew up with many hobbies and interests. In high school, Ernie moved to California for a bit to live with his grandparents so he could play sports at St. John Bosco. He played basketball, baseball, and football there until he tore his ACL meniscus around his sophomore year, and then came back to WI and went to Franklin where he did track. Ernie Z has been playing the piano since kindergarten and his Mom also had him play the violin, even though that wasn’t his favorite.

“I actually broke my violin purposefully so I could get out of it haha,” Ernie Z said. Although he wasn’t a fan of how strict his parents were, he still thanks them for actively putting him in so many different activities. When it comes to music, other than playing instruments as a kid, Ernie Z has always been around it. His Dad is a Christian rapper and had been doing that since before he was born, and his younger brother started rapping as well. Music is something Ernie Z had always wanted to do, but was always too shy to get into making serious music for himself. Like most people can relate to, he doesn’t like letting people into his life and getting too personal, but that’s why he puts it all into his music. Ever since high school, he has been into poetry and expressing himself through words, and his music is a way for him to finally let people in to see who he is. That’s another reason why Ernie Z had held back from releasing music: Who wants to be judged by others based on YOUR personal feelings? Like Erykah Badu said, “I’m an artist and I’m sensitive about my sh*t!” I feel that, okay!

MUSIC CAREER Ernie Z’s first time in the studio was definitely one to remember because it almost technically happened by accident LOL. He


was originally going to meet up with his guy P4li to see what his recording process was like because Ernie really rocked with his music. P4li ended up getting sick and not being able to come, but Ernie Z was already at the studio with engineer Tae The Don and E Maejor, so he used the opportunity to record a song that he had written a year earlier called “Take it Slow.” This was a big step for him because he had to step out of his comfort zone to not be nervous in front of other people while recording, especially in front of people he didn’t really know. “I would always lock the door and shut it whenever I was performing by myself,” Ernie Z said. “After that [session], I was like, you know what, I can do this. I might as well see where it goes from here and then in my next [studio] session I recorded “Blessings.” “Take it Slow” was recorded in August of 2020 and he finally dropped it as his first-ever single in October of 2020. Ernie Z said he dropped it in October because he wanted it to be official where if he released it, he’d have other music to release soon after as well. He wanted that rollout to be


on point, okay! Some people drop singles every once and a while with no real plan. Ernie wanted to have enough music to be able to drop once a month so he could check his audience’s temperature with it and grow a real fan base. A fan base that wasn’t just his friends. The pandemic actually helped kickstart Ernie Z’s music career. Other than actively participating in the 75 Hard Challenge (which is super intense . . . like WTF LOL), the pandemic gave Ernie Z a lot of time to himself to dig deep in figuring out what he really wanted to do in life. Music had always been one of his passions but he was too shy to go after it, so what better time to start pushing forward with that passion than right now? That’s what led Ernie Z to go out of his comfort zone and finally start his music career.

THE #1 VIDEO Ernie Z dropped “Agree on Love,” his very first music video, at the top of 2021. The video is about him not feeling good enough for his girlfriend, no matter what, but she isn’t perfect either and has problems of her own yet still makes him feel like everything is his fault. In the video you see his girlfriend two-timing him while having fun with another man! Ernie Z was about to propose to her and everything, but she was on dirt. . . SMH. Gonzalez Visuals made the video and helped Ernie’s vision come to life, so shout out to him! [Also, let me just say, Ernie Z went so hard during the voting period for N’fluence. With more than 1,000 votes, Ernie Z won the #1 spot on the countdown by a landslide and we really appreciate the support he gave the show during the entire process!]

FINAL MESSAGE At the end of my interviews I always ask the interviewee, what’s your message?

Ernie Z says his message is to be you. Go through the hurdle regardless of other people and how they feel about it. You never want to be something you’re not, so just keep being you until you find the right people who’ll rock with you regardless. Make sure to follow Ernie Z on IG: @itserniez and check out “Agree on Love” on all streaming platforms! Also, follow the N’fluence page (@the.nfluence) to stay updated on the details for future episodes. /Carrie (Noni Juice) for CW







About a month ago a friend messaged me on Facebook to warn me that KKK members were spotted on the east side of Milwaukee, not too far from where I live. I laughed out of the irony and anger, noting how the remnants of history are always trying to repeat themselves. But this is a new generation with “new” lifetime expectations. I don’t think I’m a spokesperson for discrimination, but I do know right from wrong. For years I have had to deal with my personal battles, in addition to the battles plagued against me because of the color of my skin. It’s hard for Black women. When the dominant world sees us they first see our color, and then the fact that we are women. It shouldn’t be like that, and it should’ve never become normal in the first place. I decided to do a project on something I already knew the answers to: Is race still an issue when it comes to our economy and workforce? Unfortunately, yes it is. I created an uncovering exposay assignment for this, my very first feature for CopyWrite Magazine. In every job I have had I was expected to work the hardest, but was always rewarded the least. My worth as a Black woman has never been valued in society, and it always makes me think of the impact it has had on us as a whole mentally. To find out if my theory about workforce discrimination was right, I gave myself the name of Jane Krol, and I created a resume using that name. However, the resume created still used my real credentials to see how much of a difference it would be when applying for jobs and internships. It’s funny because I already knew my resume would probably go to the ignored pile of many places, but I kept that 1% of hope that I was wrong. Nevertheless every day during the process, I eerily noticed the same result: either denial or I just didn’t hear back anything at all. Oh, but for Jane, that was a different story.

During a two-month window, I researched jobs/internships in the media field that aligned with my current qualifications as a content creator/journalist or jobs that I was overqualified for. I filled out around twelve applications [six under my real name Adrienne Davis, and duplicates under the name of Jane Krol]. To ensure that these practices were not subjected to small-scale bias, I selected institutions that have more corporate status in the industry. During the application process, all but one application requested the identification of ethnicity. “Jane” was coded as White and “Adrienne” as African American. Out of “Janes” six applications, she was called back by three employers and still has an application pending. “Adriene” [who again has the same credentials] received one reply for an internship application submission and it was not a confirmation of interest, but instead an acknowledgment that my application had been received. Why didn’t they contact “Adrienne” for the same positions “Jane” was contacted for? What was the difference in my application besides my name and ethnicity? NOTHING. To be honest, starting this assignment was mentally exhausting, I was coming out of a severe depression wave that had lasted for about nine months. During that time I had to learn about the things I truly wanted in life to push me forward, while still analyzing the reality of the world around me. I prayed for better days, and therapy helped me along the way. I had to put my crown on and push forward with school, work, and my internship without letting the weight of it crush me. Already knowing the results of something and actually going through it, are two different things. The denials or no answers poked holes in my confidence. I wanted to say forget it and just do something else, but I knew that analyzing this process was important. We have to highlight the bullshit around us. It’s the only way things can move forward. Seeing the denial of my application or the ignorance of them, made me question if being a journalist


was still something I could realisticity do in the future. How could I apply for a job in a field that doesn’t accept me? It wasn’t my skill set that created my denial of job candidacy. Instead, it was the certainty that the name on the application had been associated with the identity of someone who was not “of color”. Long story short, I didn’t get the “jobs”. However, “Jane” was quite the candidate. Who knows, if I had continued to pursue the replies, I may have become a sales team leader, editing intern, production intern, or sales associate, until I showed up Black! But jokes on them. In reality, I do have a job that supports me as I push through these last two years of my undergrad. I have a great internship at CopyWrite that I should start taking more advantage of, and of course, I will continue to write and create content that the world needs to see.

do for a vast amount of time. So I’ll be damned if I ever stop. In a post Trump era, all eyes are on the media, so I want to be one of the members of the press that actually uses their creative voice to make a difference. As we move forward during this pandemic and social shift, I will always remember the strength in the numbers of people around the world. Justice for everyone who’s been done wrong is still a reality that we have a long way to achieve, but we’re still closer than we ever have been. Don’t stop now. The more we fight, the more we share our truth, the more we change. “Daddy changed the world”-- Gianna Floyd R.I.P George Floyd /Adrienne for CW

Sometimes I still think about this career being the right choice but my passion for it allows me to keep going. Reflecting, writing was something Black people weren’t even allowed to



ART In the Wake of the Pandemic


Up-and-coming muralist, Mario Hamilton has shown the world his full potential during the COVID-19 pandemic. Mario’s work ethic and creativity is unmatched. His work is visually appealing and each piece has a compelling message. Even though Hamilton specializes in murals, he also works with paint and multimedia artwork.

The Mayfair Mall shooting occurred right before Hamilton’s shift began to work on his mural. Hamilton notes how “contrasting” it was to work on an inclusivity peace in between a shootout.

My first impression of Mario was humble and knowledgeable. Hamilton started murals a few months before the pandemic and was already offered opportunities for commercial companies a few months later. Even though his success was rapid and impressive, he was very humbled throughout the entire interview. He was very eager to show me his pieces and to share openly about him. His passion for Black culture shows with his strategic and purposeful art. Most of his pieces revolve around the essence of the Black experience.

“That’s the different narrative that really holds in the truth about Milwaukee”, said Hamilton when he recalls the shooting. When asked about his favorite piece he said his Nordstrom inclusivity peace is “most appealing to the eye.” This mural is large with rainbow abstract squares as the background. In the middle of the mural, there are four diverse hands holding each other by the wrist. Despite the shooting, Hamilton adds that this was the hardest piece he’s ever worked on. He never worked on a large mural by himself and he only had nine days to complete the project. Mario still came through with one of his most notable murals despite the circumstances.

The college student’s diaspora piece is one of my favorites. This piece encompasses migration through his personal life, as an African American man, and the migrations that people of African descent had to take. MH: “What migrated from me [from youth to adulthood]? What is home as I grow as an individual? The home is always where family is.” Made out of objects Hamilton found in his home: barrettes, combs, jean jackets, and more, he created a side profiled self-portrait that flaunts creativity and his growing depth as an artist. This portrait shows the influence and importance of Hamilton’s family. The blue and orange complementary colors represent Hamilton going into the world and becoming a man. Outside of the side profile of Hamilton, the portrait is blue to represent the cold world that he’s forced to go through. The orange colors inside of the face of Hamilton represent the comfort of family. During the interview, Hamilton’s face lit up whenever he discussed his family. He discussed the influence of his four siblings and parents, how they “moved in a pack.” He made it clear that family is everything. “If I want anything to be showcased, it’s me and my family because we work as a team.” During the social uproar last summer, Hamilton received opportunities to protest through his art. Summer of 2020, Hamilton created the unity mural on the side of Nordstrom (at Mayfair Mall in Wauwatosa, WI) and contributed a painting of a famous activist, Angela Davis, alongside other muralists in an alleyway of Black excellence homage on the East side of Milwaukee. “If I could be the person to put positivity in that negative space, I’d be happy,” said Mario in response to the Mayfair Mall shooting.

One thing that stands out about Mario is his purpose. When discussing his artwork everything is strategic and planned. Art is Hamilton’s life and he makes that clear. His activism, forms of affection (towards his family), and his own self-reflection all evolve in his work. When Hamilton created the ancient African pieces on Sah and Set, it was not only clear that he studied his subject matter, but also clear that his reasoning for making those pieces was to educate. MH: “I was tired of people looking at African deities as mythology instead of religion.” The thought of this seemed fascinating since iconography has long been projected under the imagery of Christianity, Greek mythology, and Roman deities. MH: “Just having a piece on African deities can push a narrative.” He plans to continue this series and wants to create pieces of several African deities. He’s currently working on a piece of Osiris that will add to his collection of icons. Another series that educates viewers on the Black experience is his People of Color series. This collage piece connects the faces of Black people into one face. The face has exaggerated features that were used to stereotype and demean people of color. For example, big, bright red lips and dark features. MH: “If I let that conversation out [without stereotypes] it wouldn’t be complete.” During our interview, he also talked about a lack of representation and resources he had as a child. Similar





to most of us who went to Milwaukee Public Schools, Mario had a White school teacher who didn’t understand his creativity. He recalls receiving a “C” in his middle school art class and instantly feeling down. MH: “He didn’t inspire me to do what I wanted to do. I was focused on other things because he didn’t let me be a creative.” With little exposure to art education after that until college, he did not see himself thriving in artistic practices. This has motivated him to want to mentor and educate other up-and-coming art students. MH: “I’ve never seen someone do this in my youth. Every day I could be there, I was there,” He said when asked about the impact of his Nordstrom mural. Betting on his skills and confidence in his work, Mario has decided that Art is life and his career. However he’s not a commission artist. He works on art pieces that he believes he can deliver an authentic piece of his perspective. He shies away from commission work because of the client disconnect on the true value of art and an artist's worth. Only twenty years old, Mario Hamilton is making an impact on Milwaukee through his murals and creative voice. He hopes to one day own his own museum [Mass Majo], and to create a mural for a skyscraper in a big city. Thinking large, we know he will get there. Tanasia for /CW


,-Black people don’t do theraHow many times have you heard this crippling statement? Too many times from too many people.


This idea has made generational trauma a norm that affects our communal growth, quality of life, and ability to evolve to survive today’s society. However, this psychological warfare no longer holds rank around here. We need a space where we can be heard. We need a space where we are culturally valued and our realities are not downplayed by a socioeconomic hierarchy that comes with racial stigmas and the like. What we need is a. . .

Black Space. Dr. Lia Knox, Corey Fells, and Darius Smith are trailblazers of humanity. Not because they are perfect human beings [if that was even a real thing] or because they have invented a new social media platform. It is because they were courageous enough to step toe to toe with an issue the Black & Brown community has been avoiding and say “Let’s do it together”. CopyWrite decided to take on our own therapy session with the Black Space team to find out how we too can begin to heal. CW: “So obviously we have done a little research and have read what you have publicly said about Black Space. But we want to give you an opportunity to tell us what Black Space means to you and what it is all about.” DS: “Black Space for us is a free therapy experience. What we try to do is prepare people for therapy or just show [Black and Brown] people what therapy is. Black men, Black women, and Black queer. . . It’s an experience to show that it’s okay to be vulnerable with other people.” Dr.K: “Our main purpose for creating Black Space is definitely to destigmatize mental illness and mental health within our Black and Brown communities. That is something that we strongly believe in. The Black and Brown community has a huge stigma with mental health. So we sometimes say we know all you need is Jesus. That’s what we were taught growing up. Sometimes you hear that mental illness is for white people. That they are the ones that deserve a break. They get to stop living [their reality]. We don’t. When in fact, Black and Brown people absolutely deserve a safe space, to be able to talk to someone. Someone that is Black and Brown like themselves. So many of the people that come, they’ve never seen a Black and Brown therapist before. So we wanted to provide a group therapy experience to introduce them to the concept of a therapeutic experience, and with someone that looks like them, which is me, and then also to provide resources in the community of other Black and Brown therapists. . . We also want it to be accessible, because many times we don’t even know where to start. So we want to make sure that we provide the service, where we’re not only making it a safe space with someone of a Black and Brown hue, but also giving resources so that after the group therapy experience, they can then call those numbers or email, look at the bios and then say, ‘Okay, this person seems like they are a match’. And then they can go further if they choose to. Or they can back to the next group when we have it.” Not having a safe space is one of the major reasons Black and Brown people have shied away from therapy. Even the vast differentiation of cultural identity within these communities


creates a disconnect in the ability to understand a therapy client or the clinician. Black and Brown people are not a monolith. So one therapist might not be a match for you and that makes a big difference in the outcome of its success. You can be talking about traumatic experiences from societal norms and certain people are not going to understand. The real question then becomes, how do you engage with people to make sure that they know that finding the right fit may take some time but it’s worth the effort? Dr. K: “The first thing I say is, ‘You know what? Finding a therapist is like finding a dress’. When I go find a dress, if it doesn’t fit these curves am I gonna buy the dress and hang it up, just to keep it? Or am I gonna go right on to say, ‘Nope, doesn’t fit, I’m taking it back to find my correct size’. You have to look at the therapist. When you walk into that therapist’s room or when you see them on that zoom call, do they seem approachable to you? Do they seem friendly? Are they the type of person that matches your personality style? You could be very cool, laid back, chill, or creative. Or you could be very orderly and the same creative. You could be very much so a person who needs to know step by step what’s going on, or you could just go with the flow, chill, and see what’s going on. But you have to make sure to interview your therapist. You also have to look and see their bio. Do you want play therapy? Would you like cognitive behavioral therapy where there is a plan, and you have a notebook? Are you a person that likes to use technology? Are you a person that would like to use yoga meditation, maybe see your therapist outside in a friendly environment or relaxed environment? So you have to look at their bios and see what services they are offering. If they don’t have a website, does that bother you? If they’re older, is that a factor? Or younger? Because some people say, ‘Well, you’re the same age as me, what do you know? You got the same experience as I do’. Or, ‘Well you about 10, 15 years older’—okay. Or you know, ‘I kind of want a mom, a dad, an auntie figure’. Or ‘Do you have kids or not?’ And some therapists, we were taught in school, don’t share that information. With Black and Brown people, we come from a different camp. Some people may be willing to say that information and some people may not. So we talk about those things and how you can actually interview your therapist. . . We also discuss how it is okay to advocate for yourself and say, ‘You know what, I don’t really agree with medication, that’s not what I’m here for. I don’t need that kind of referral’, so on and so forth.” Advocating for yourself is another thing that many Black & Brown people have been reprimanded for over generations. Our unwillingness to take things just as they are given to us has stigmatized our people as troublemakers, when in fact we have been stripped of our agency. Even when it comes to our healing. However, it is something that we only have been able to ignore in pockets of time. If we look at our history in the past century, about every 10 to 15 years we get to our breaking point and we demand an upgrade on our civil [HUMAN] rights. The most recent one triggered by another unwarranted death of a Black man. The incident sliced open cultural wounds that had only been wrapped in bandages of normality. The trauma was not isolated. It was communal.




CW: “Where did this all stem from? What happened that Darius and Cory were like, hey, let’s make this a thing, and then we get Dr. Knox involved. Like, how does that occur? What triggered it?” DS: “Throughout the summer I was doing a lot of protests and led a couple of protests. For me, I was constantly being out there. And I found that my mental stability was declining. I’m like, ‘Ooo, I want to go out there’ but I was so conflicted. I realized, like, ‘Man, I’m starting to get a little depressed’, you know what I mean? Like, I’m starting to feel all these things. And for me, it was more like, ‘Damn, if I feel like this, I can imagine that people that stay fully out there every single day are feeling like this’. I think the biggest thing for me was that we were out here telling white people how to treat us. But do I even know how to treat myself? So I reached out to Corey, like, ‘Hey, bro, I’m trying to do this, I want to make it free. I want to have a group therapy session’. And he was like, ‘Hey, bro, you know, reach out to my therapist’, and that is Dr. Knox. And that’s when we brung the two together. And it was like a match made in heaven. It was everything it was supposed to be. . . But it just came from being out there, and just understanding like it’s so much work that we put in, but are we puttin’ that same amount of work within ourselves? I can’t keep telling white people how not to treat me like shit, if I don’t even know how to treat my damn self. Then Dr. Knox added all these good little things to this stuff, ‘We can do this’, ‘We can do that’. We can do all these different things. And it was just everybody brainstorming together. And that’s how we became Black Space. That’s how it became such a fluid thing that we’re doing. Dr. Knox does a wonderful job at facilitating the group. And it just really worked out.” CF: “There’s a mental health stigma in the Black and Brown communities in Milwaukee. The pandemic and social unrest have exposed underlying mental health issues, and our environmental threats are skyrocketing. Mental health care is too expensive. Affordability is an issue and we have a lack of safe space. The fact that we experience more trauma with less resources is an Injustice.” But without Black and Brown therapists there is no way we can change the unjust narrative. Someone has to do the job. Someone has to help facilitate. Someone has to know professionally, psychologically, and socially how to address the issues. CW: “Dr. Knox, why choose this as a profession? I mean, there are so many other things that you could be doing. Clearly you already come off as a wonderful person with good vibes. So why take on this heavy task?” Dr. K: “It is so odd. Because when people ask me that they’re like, ‘Oh, my goodness’. And I’m just like, ‘I love it!’, they’re like ‘What is wrong with her?’ I was born and raised in Milwaukee. I went to Riverside High School. [Go Tigers!] And so my first psychology class ever was with Mr. Wilde. And so I got to class

that day and there was this squirrely wild and crazy white guy. And Mr. Wilde was like ‘Alright everybody, get out your books, now put them to the side! Throw them on the ground!’, and I was like, ‘What?’ So, we put our books to the side. and after that, he had us do social experiments. We would go up to UWM and do all the social experiments. Like ‘Go up to UWM, and when you go into the elevator, turn around, face everybody, and ride up and down the elevators’. So I was like this, this is awesome. People would then turn around with us or they would be wondering what’s going on, we’d have to write a report on them. Or we’d have to go into different places and go really close to people and ask, ‘Do you know where the bathroom is?’, and write down their responses. It wasn’t the safest, but we never got hurt. So it was like, ‘This is awesome. And I think it’s what I want to do’.” Dr. Knox continued to discuss how having someone close in her family who had some mental health issues also made her want to help. She noted that her experience growing up in Hillside, Lapham Park, Lisbon Square, 22nd and Center, 20th and Vliet, made her who she is. Though she describes these communities as “warm” for her, she also noticed that people paid attention to the height in drug and alcohol abuse, prostitution, the trafficking, and mental illness, but there was no real help. Instead of trying to find the cause of the issues, people would receive punitive damages. When her relative had an experience that created a “schizophrenic trigger point” in his life, things spun out of control for him. Dr. Knox saw that her family rallying behind him allowed him to get the assistance he needed. Taking his spiral into an upswing and creating stability has made him a functioning member of our society. Dr. K: “If it wasn’t for that wonderful Black male in my life, plus wonderful Black and Brown people who continue to encourage me, and even the ones that people thought were the less of us, they were the ones that helped to raise me, the ones that were on the corner that nobody talked to, but held my hand and made sure I got to the corner store and gave me their last penny to buy penny candy. The ones who you didn’t really say anything to, but made sure that every day when I got off the bus stop, they were watching me and if anybody tried to bully me, all they had to do was take a look. So I’m pretty sure that’s exactly why I do what I do today.” Having someone like Dr. Knox in your corner is a game-changer. Her experience with mental health is personal, thus it is an authentic connection to the struggles many of us find ourselves in. But the lack of space to explore these layered factors of Black and Brown existence is not coincidental. It says something about our society. It says something about our community that before this time, Black Space was not a thing. So what do we do now to make sure that this becomes the norm? How do we make sure our people know that it is okay to need therapy? How do we make this normal for our community instead of a stigma? Maybe we just need to start the conversation. CF: “Me receiving therapy from my personal therapist, has helped me with communicating effectively with my loved ones, helped me with my self-confidence, and also my anxiety. I initially


came to my therapist [Dr. Knox], when I got my first anxiety attack last year. My anxiety attack felt like my body was lifeless, no air inside, and physically/mentally drained, all at once. I’ve only had this feeling twice in my life: the day before boot camp for the US Army, and 8 years later, my last day out of the Army, which was also the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdown in Milwaukee. My attack happened at work. My director and also friend connected me with Dr. Knox, from there, my relationships with friends, family, and even my partner have strengthened. I have a new approach to stress-induced moments. Now, I have better ways of connecting to my peers, and [I] also know how to take care of myself. As a man, and as a young Black man, I am learning to love and take care of myself more effectively.” DS: “I just think for us, we have to stop normalizing just all the BS that goes [on]. It’s just so much in our culture that we just chop it up like, ‘Man up’, ‘Stop acting like a girl’. All these types of things that are triggers for us to not talk about our own mental health. So I think for us we have to stop saying those things to each other, and actually ask the people around us, or our friends or whoever it may be, you know, ‘How are you doing?’. Not just from a just to say, ‘What’s up’ type of thing. But like, actually ask them and get down to the nitty-gritty of, ‘How are you doing?’, and actually listen to somebody—because you could ask somebody, something, but you ain’t really listening— actually listen to them and have these conversations. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable with your brother, don’t be afraid to be vulnerable with your sister. I just think we always are afraid of being labeled as quote unquote, “crazy”. We got to get rid of that thing of it being you know, looked down upon because you’re talking about your emotions or your feelings, or things like that. I’m saying that as a man that has, you know—sometimes I still struggle with not wanting to feel like this, or I don’t want to share this with somebody. But at the end of the day it is hurting me more than it is hurting the next person. I love myself enough to understand that I want to be better and the fact that I need to be better for my family, for my partner, for my mother, for the people around me. If you’re not even there for yourself, how you gonna be there for somebody else? So that’s what it is for me, but I’m pretty sure Dr. Knox has something good to say.” Dr. K: “No, I’m with you Darius, stop normalizing the BS and normalize the good stuff. If we read and look at TV and things like that, you can see all of the Black and Brown things we normalize, like the strong Black woman syndrome. Who? What? No! The strong Black woman syndrome should have a whole different meaning. Right now, it’s you know, do everything yourself. Make sure that you have a job, make sure that you take care of your house and things like that. The strong Black woman syndrome should be making sure you call a friend when you are about to break down. The strong Black woman syndrome should be: I cried real hard last night. And I allowed my daughter and son to see me. And when they asked me what was wrong, I explained to them in a three-year-old term, or a five-year-old term, ‘Mommy is feeling very sad’, or ‘Very tired’. And ‘It’s okay for you to cry when you feel sad and tired too’. ‘Yes, Mommy, likes a hug from you at this time, because it makes me feel better’. . . ‘You don’t have to feel afraid. When you get hurt, sometimes it’s okay to cry too’. Strong Black man syndrome: we feel like men should not cry and things like that, or, you know, Black man invisibility,


or Black man strength. And all these terms normalize unhealthy behavior within our cultures. [Same] with the LGBTQIA+: doctors not wanting to touch Black bodies. You know, not asking about health care within our LGBTQIA community, not only because of sexuality or gender, but also because of the color of their skin. These shouldn’t be normalized. So with that, like Darius said, it should be normalized to be able to say yes, I’m vulnerable. Yes, I’ve had enough today and I need a break. Yes, I am going to take this hour vacation because I have 965 hours left. And no, I don’t have to do twice as much. Because I’ve been taught that from my grandma and them. I’m only going to do just as much today because I don’t want to, because I’m about to fall back out right now. So I think part of this should be starting a different trend of making sure that we hold each other accountable for taking care of ourselves. . . So making sure that healthy things in life are normalized and don’t just call it a white thing. Call it a, ‘take care of yourself’ thing.” As we start the conversation the message will be delivered. It is embedded in us to pass on knowledge. Even the knowledge



that they have tried to hide from us. Dr. K: “I wrote a dissertation called ‘The Use of Media by African American Women to Utilize Mental Health Knowledge’. We are griots. We are storytellers. When we read a magazine, when we read a book, when we watch TV, guess what we do? We go tell it. Black people have stigmatized it, or negativized it by calling it rumors, gossip. No, we’re griots. We’re automatically storytellers. We pass the word so that we can do better in this life. So I think that would be a part of normalizing this kind of positive energy.” “In order to find your peace, you got to start the search.” Where most of our discussion seemed like information to deliver to our /CW audience, there was one particular moment that pulled at us [at me, Lexi]. Dr. Knox mentioned that the nature of Black and Brown people is to be very communal. Dr. K: “To do stuff by yourself, ‘I don’t want to be a burden. I’ll do it myself. I’ll take care of myself’—that ain’t us! It ain’t never been us. It’s not even in our blood system. Historically, we were taken away from Africa, from tribes. We worked together. It ain’t never changed, it ain’t never going to. So accept it. And let’s go on ahead and find our tribes and do what we have to do for each other.” CW: “You talking to me right?” Dr. K: “I am Lexi.” [At that moment I had to do a soul check. I was guilty of all of that. The strong woman syndrome, the attempt to be halfass communal when it came to my personal life, this idea of avoiding being a burden: that was me tied up in a big pretty bow. A week after our interview I started therapy.] CW: “Another thing that we want to make sure that we touch on is imposter syndrome. We want to use imposter syndrome in the reference of us being a part of a society that wasn’t made considering us as a people, as Black and Brown people. Or being in spaces, and being like, ‘I don’t think I belong here’. Or this idea of having a seat at a table, especially in corporate America. Or in society in general, where Black and Brown people are usually not the norm. I want to know, is there a way in which we can start, you know, supporting each other, when it comes to that? I think a lot of times we’re thinking that we have to assimilate, right? That can take a mental toll on us: having to assimilate, having to code-switch beyond our comfort, having to be a part of practices that are, you know, detrimental to our existence. How do we support each other and support each other’s mental health in doing that? And I’m asking this from a personal space, I’m asking this from a professional space, and I’m asking this because I know often—when I discuss and have interviews with Black and Brown creators—there’s always this

feeling like, I’m doing this despite. I’m doing this despite people not giving me the opportunity, or me not being allowed in this room, and I feel like when I get in the room, am I supposed to be here?” DS: “I think for me, it’s more so you have to be okay with being okay. I used to do interviews with people, and you want to look a way, you want to talk a certain way, you want to do all these things. I got to the point where it’s like, man, I’m doing interviews with all these places, and I’m hurting myself. You know what I mean? Like, I felt like it’s totally ingenuine. So I made sure whenever I do interviews [now], however I talk, the dialect I use, the words I use, whatever it may be, I’ma come as just that. It got to a point where I had to be okay, with what comes after that. Like if they say, oh Darius, we don’t like, this, that, and the third: well, apparently you don’t like me. So I may have to leave, you know what I mean? Cuz, you know, I think it’s because we spend so much time code-switching, and we forget how to turn that off sometimes. You know, so you’d be at home talking to somebody, and you be like ‘Damn, I’m still at work?’. You basically got to know, as much as you come home from work and take off your clothes, you got to take off another layer of this outfit that you wear mentally. And just what worked for me was just being able to be okay, with being Black. You know what I mean? Like, this is who I am. Ey, if y’all don’t like it, you know, it is what it is. So I had to be okay, with losing out on opportunities for me being myself. And it’s like, okay, if I’m coming as myself and y’all don’t want to interview me like this: cool. I don’t! I don’t need to be there regardless, you know what I mean? I don’t need to be there. . . We did some recent interviews, and I was wearing my grill like, okay, whatever, you know, I’ma wear my grill, I’ma be myself. I’m not gon’ wear a button-up, I’m not gon’ do any of that. Do the interviews on TV, I’ma talk how I want to talk. I’m gonna, you know, be myself. I’m not gonna sound stupid, but I’m gonna be myself and be charismatic and all these other things.” Dr. K: “So this is crazy that you asked that question because we just had an interview. . . He asked me what was the issue that you might have had or struggled with, and I was like ‘imposter syndrome’. And I had been working through that for some years. And he said, so when was it that you finally realized, or if ever, that you and things were okay? And I was like ‘Well, about a good five, six ago, when I came back to Milwaukee’. I said ‘And it was the best healing experience ever’. I lived in Chicago for 13 years. And I’ve traveled all over, to Afghanistan, Haiti, lived in Mississippi, Alabama, just all over the place working and doing my thing. Of course, it stems from trauma, certain trauma from just being Black. Not Black enough in some places. Not white enough, in some places. As you go to school, and you get all these accolades, and you’re doctor this, and doctor that, and all of a sudden your first name becomes doctor, you get just this thing because at heart, you are 20th and Vliet, Lapham Park, Lisbon Square. So when these things come about, and you get into these spaces, and all of a sudden, you know, they say, ‘Well come on in’. And suddenly, you’re there for an interview as a secretary and you’re like, ‘Well, no, I’m here’ [laughing] ‘I’m here for the Doctor position’. Or they usher you to a seat, and you’re there and you’re like, ‘Well, no, I’m Dr. Knox’, and you’re interviewing that person. Which brought me glee many times,

cuz then of course I was like, ‘Aw thanks for coming in for the interview—’” CW: “Whoa!” [Side note: Y’all gotta chill out with all the assumptions. That stuff is embarrassing . . . for you.] Dr. K: “—So that was awesome. However, with imposter syndrome, it is a real thing. And so you’re in these spaces thinking, ‘Man’, you know, ‘am I supposed to be here?’, and even your own Black people can make you feel like ‘Girl by the grace of God’. Or yes, and you know all that the ‘Yo financial aid and yo scholarships and everything got you through’. Or ‘The complexion of your skin, and your hair’. And like all these things other than you trying so hard, you studying, you and your family scraping everything they had together, you and your tears, you and your family’s tears, didn’t get you there. Or you and your street sense, because I always say my street and common sense got me these degrees. They helped me work them books, not the opposite. So with that being said, the imposter syndrome played a huge part in my life until finally, I was in spaces with beautiful Black and Brown people who were very strong. And I watched them, and I watched them glow. And I watched how they move around, and a lot of Darius’es of the world who were like, you know, ‘Okay, bye!’. And they would slam doors and walk out. And I was like, ‘[Gasps], so what we gonna do now?’. And they were like, ‘You got this!’. And so I would take over and do whatever I had to do. And then finally I was like, I don’t feel comfortable being here. This is not my space. Listen, I got to the point where I was like—and you know I’m always in a pair of heels unless I’m at the gym—I’d click clack my little self outta there and that felt better than staying.”

We talked in length about our experiences as Black professionals. We talked about our moments of discomforts, our moments of anger, and our moments when we finally said, ‘No more!’. Our anecdotes resonated with each other because our experiences were threads of our cultural hardship, resilience, and evolution. It was a safe space to be Black. It was a group session without its formality. It was communal in its nature; it was the Black Space it needed to be. CW: “How do people get involved? How do they keep in tune with what y’all got going on? Can we expect more? You know it’s all hot n’ poppin’ to be socially responsible and in tune with the Black community, but how do they stay engaged and make sure that, you know, this is not just a ‘right now’ thing but keeps going and keeps revamping into something beautiful?” DS: “We’re very social media-driven. We are [currently] workin’ on all the other stuff. Everything is moving extremely fast, faster than what we anticipated it was gonna be. It’s moving very very fast, and we just tryna to play catch up.” Dr. K: “We’re just doing it because we loved it.” And we love yall for it! Since our interview Black Space has launched their website: And has held another group therapy session. We believe that this is just the beginning of something amazing and we are happy to be on the healing journey together. /Lexi for CW



While the pandemic has set almost everyone back in some way, we tend to forget what exactly “stay at home” means for many people and children. Whilst some people may be okay with working remotely, other people don’t have that same luxury of comfortability. For some people, home might be the safest place for them to be while other people are faced with a different reality: They are stuck with their abusers. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported, “The Milwaukee Police Department saw an 8% rise in reported domestic violence from Jan. 1 to April 1 (2020), compared to the same period last year. In the early weeks of April,

the number of reports was 28% higher than last April, according to department data.” We’ve seen an increase in domestic violence while we’ve also seen a major decrease in reports for child abuse. Another local news source, CBS58, reports “According to data from the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families, reported child abuse dropped by almost 50-percent after the first two weeks schools closed statewide.” This is due to teachers and other adult staff members unable to report anything due to the children not being in school. According to Wisconsin Sexual Assault Kit Initiative, Pre-COVID Milwaukee held 20% of the entire state's reported sexual assault victims from 2010-2015. From that number alone, only 23% of the


reported victims actually got a rape kit (Sexual Assault Kit). To slim the number down even further, out of the 31, 633 reported victims statewide, only fifteen criminal cases were filed against the abusers in the entire state of Wisconsin. FIFTEEN. Out of that fifteen, only five cases came out with a guilty verdict. The other seven cases are still currently pending. In Milwaukee alone, there are only four cases filed with one guilty verdict and one verdict still pending. DOES THAT MATH ADD UP TO YOU? ABSOLUTELY F-CKING NOT.


The purpose of this project is to develop an understanding of how young adults face abuse and trauma locally. I wanted to create a space for participants to feel safe and heard. I hope that through true testimony from adults of my generation, a conversation can be started about what trauma is and what that looks like. I want people to be encouraged to seek out help if needed and know that there is help available. The purpose is to spread awareness about trauma and how others dealt with theirs. Through measures of transparency and accountability, I hope this births’ a new beginning of healing for all involved. The format is similar to a previous project I released titled, “the love project” but this one is in black and white. In this minidocumentary series, I focused more on preparation. Participants received the necessary questions before the interviews because of the sensitivity of the subject. Comfort was everything. My main priority was being transparent with everyone and making sure everyone was okay with sharing. Through semi-formal interviews of participants, I asked them questions about their traumatic experience, how they use it, and digest it on the daily basis in terms of any healing or lack thereof. The interview includes questions about their choice of testimony as it involves their traumatic experience and somewhat of a background to let viewers get a sense of who they're listening to. THE FINDINGS WILL BE EXPRESSED IN QUESTIONS LIKE: • •

• • • • •

Descorbeth, Shirley. “'We're Terrified:' Child Abuse Not Being Reported, but Children Remain at Risk during Pandemic.” CBS58, 8 May 2020, 3:52, Luthern, Ashley. “Domestic Violence Reports Have Risen in Milwaukee during Coronavirus -- but There Is Help, Advocates Say.” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 21 Apr. 2020, “Prosecutions.” WISAKI, 7 Apr. 2021, during Coronavirus

What is trauma and what does trauma look like to you? What’s the nature of your traumatic testimony (i.e., assaults: sexual, physical, battery, domestic violence, abuse: sexual, mental, physical, child, death, fertility, addiction) What’s your story? How does this story affect you on a daily basis? How has your healing journey been if there is one? Word of advice for someone going through a similar situation. Your real-world perspective will be included in our media platforms, both personal and public.

The hope is that participant contributions may expand our understanding of Milwaukee’s Gen Z’s/Millennials’ experience with trauma and how it may change the development of society beyond its physicality. While abuse is still happening, it’s barely being reported. It also may speak to more critical connections between physical and mental spaces, redefining boundaries, creating a space of anti-taboo and existence after trauma.

-- but There Is Help, Advocates Say.” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 21 Apr. 2020, “Prosecutions.” WISAKI, 7 Apr. 2021,

The series is set to release in late Spring of 2021. Imani Ortiz for /CW






Vato Vergara [Fashion Editor] for /CW














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