Category Archives: [by alysse]

Interviews by Alysse; edits by both of us.

meet sarah: using hip-hop to empower youth in milwaukee

TRUE Skool purchased all the pieces produced through the Art of Coping program.

TRUE Skool purchased all the pieces produced through the Art of Coping program. This piece is by Lasha Bradley.

“Your life becomes so enriched by being around differences,” says Sarah Dollhausen. “It doesn’t take anything away from you.”

Sarah, director, founder and trailblazer at TRUE Skool, is just the kind of woman you wish you had in your life when you were younger. She created TRUE Skool, a Milwaukee nonprofit and after-school program that uses hip-hop’s core elements—DJing, breakdance, emceeing, graffiti and knowledge—to empower youth, teach about social justice, encourage community service, and create a pipeline of opportunity for Milwaukee’s young people. Now 11 years old, much of TRUE Skool’s work comes to life via after-school programming including classes such as the Art of Emceeing, DJing, Video Production, Band (not the kind that was in my high school…) and more. (Seriously, how freaking cool is that?)

Besides the fact that she has shepherded the growth of this organization whose programs will now hopefully expand nation-wide, Sarah has one particularly beautiful gift that stood out to me: She has a clear, deep passion for bringing people together to work on co-creating the future. Competition doesn’t have much of a place. Jealousy? Nope. These students, the team of working artists, and every person involved has a safe space to share, learn, grow and collaborate to create the community they want to live within.
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meet molly: baker and pastry maker in milwaukee

Molly’s personal favorite is her lemon poppyseed cake with strawberry jam filling. She picks the strawberries in the summer and makes her own jam. “The flavors are just bursting,” Molly says.

Molly’s personal favorite is her lemon poppyseed cake with strawberry jam filling. She picks the strawberries in the summer and makes her own jam. “The flavors are just bursting,” Molly says.

How do you decide to make an idea into a real thing?
Where do you go for honest feedback?
What do you need to be able to move forward?

For me, all those things involve other people. Their opinions, experiences, skills, resources, expertise. Even just their presence, so I can speak something out loud and make sure it doesn’t sound too ridiculous. (A little ridiculous is okay with me.)

Lately I’ve been surrounded by a lot more targeted teamwork: The yoga studio I attend and absolutely love recently transitioned to two owners, no longer just the one amazing woman who has run it for years. My boyfriend, who owns a composting company, is working with aligned businesses and organizations to transform a Milwaukee warehouse into a hub of urban agriculture, bringing together innovative projects with positive momentum so they can grow together. Escuela Verde brought together a team of people to start a school they all believe in. Who else comes to mind for you?

Truly, no one ever starts a business venture solo—you have to count those supportive family members, colleagues, spouses and friends!—so this week we want to especially highlight the value of collaboration. Here’s one really special example:

Molly Sullivan, 29, is the PR manager and pastry chef at Braise. She’s also the owner of Miss Molly’s Pastries. As Molly has built her business, her local-food-system-strengthening employer, Braise, has fostered her growth and supported her along the way. As she’s paving her pastry-making path, Molly is not alone. [Help her on her Kickstarter here through June 2016!] Continue reading

meet angela: social architect in milwaukee

Last time we had a Leap Day, I was a copy editor at Reader’s Digest. And since then—even without a day dedicated to jumping—I have leapt and landed in the urban ag world, and oh my gosh has it been worth it.

After I wrote this post, Kate encouraged me to find these little maps that I made in March 2012. So many parts of them have come true in ways I never anticipated. Minus the $10,000. Good goal, though, 23-year-old me!

After I wrote this post, Kate encouraged me to find these little maps that I made in March 2012. So many parts of them have come true in ways I never anticipated. Minus the $10,000. Good goal, though, 23-year-old me!

All over this blog, week after week, we watch women leaping toward their dreams. We see some going for it fast and laying the bricks of their path as they go. Others experiment, test and explore before making moves that alter their lives…and careers…and bank accounts. And no matter the preparation, each woman learns about herself, the world, and her vast potential as she dreams big and turns her ideas into reality.

I can be spontaneous, but career-wise I’m pretty firmly in the latter camp. Before I left my stable gig for what started as a part-time job at my beloved Victory Garden Initiative, I took classes, saved money, drew out all sorts of little maps about my potential professional path, read a lot, researched and discerned what might happen if this turned out to not be the right fit. So when I got a call actually offering me a job at my dream nonprofit, it all coalesced into a YES.

Now if only we could use some of that happy energy to also make the case that we all get Leap Day off and/or get paid a little extra for working that one bonus day. Or, you know, get some free yoga or something. But I digress. Continue reading

meet atieno: detroit community organizer, farmer and sangoma-griot

Sometimes it feels like we are powerless.

  • Families in Flint, Mich., reach for bottled water, now painfully aware that they have already, unknowingly, poisoned themselves and their children with one of life’s basic necessities.
  • Refugees, now in the press less, still struggle to redefine home, reconnect family and find some semblance of stability.
  • People of all colors, genders, religions and cultures check the calendar to confirm that yes, it is actually 2016, and yes, we are actually still as a country pushing forth a presidential candidate that unabashedly and loudly discriminates against a wide and beautiful part of our population.
“Some of these foraged foods I’m talking about tend to grow where the soil isn’t so rich—they’re hardy, less intensive,” Atieno says. “My position when it comes to this farming movement is to advocate for the inclusion of these other greens and vegetables and flowers into our diets. They are indigenous, Native American, culinary heritage crops. For many of us in different parts of world, you see so much more continuity in our diet over generations.”

“Some of these foraged foods I’m talking about tend to grow where the soil isn’t so rich—they’re hardy, less intensive,” Atieno says. “My position when it comes to this farming movement is to advocate for the inclusion of these other greens and vegetables and flowers into our diets. They are indigenous, Native American, culinary heritage crops. For many of us in different parts of world, you see so much more continuity in our diet over generations.”

Holy mother of pearl, this is dire. It truly is no time to give up—so bowing to perceived powerlessness just can’t be a thing. We all have different levels of resources and connections, but we also each have a voice, a heart, a purpose.

Atieno Nyar Kasagam, 25, shows us that we can rise above our situations and come together with others for a common goal. Our leaders can only put their political gains ahead of the public good for so long; people like Atieno are bringing their voices together to be louder, to be challenging, to be visionaries.

Atieno is changing the world by changing her world, starting in Detroit’s local food scene. I met her this fall at her home and urban farm. While we talked and spent time with her sharp and funny little girl, my boyfriend, James, helped her husband, Lorenzo, install the next section of their roof. Nothing cures powerlessness like picking up a hammer. Continue reading

femfest 2016: meet yessica, illustrator

“Art is how we decorate space; music is how we decorate time.”

Riverwest FemFest combined both. Atop Company Brewing on Saturday and Sunday of FemFest, 20+ artists and activists came together in a pop-up gallery space to share their heart-fueled and purposeful paintings, drawings, 3D works, video installations, and more.

Among them was Yessica Jimenez, the Milwaukee born and raised artist behind Xeroine Illustration. For FemFest, she created a series of five portraits featuring Milwaukee musicians Fivy, Siren, Zed Kenzo, Queen Tut, and Chakara Blu. We met up before FemFest began, and I can hardly believe after an empowering, love-filled, authentic, weird, wonderful weekend that it’s already over. The support and significant ripple effects will go on—especially since FemFest ended up raising $10,000 for Date Rape Awareness Milwaukee!

This piece was one of five in Yessica's FemFest series. Contact her to purchase a print, and check out our Q&A with Zed Kenzo here.

This piece was one of five in Yessica’s FemFest series. Contact her to purchase a print, and check out our Q&A with Zed Kenzo here.

People With Panache: How do you feel making your first FemFest series? What do you get out of this? Continue reading

femfest 2016: meet zed kenzo, hip-hop artist

“FemFest is important to me because women are often undermined, ignored, ridiculed and insulted as both people and artists,” Zed Kenzo told 88Nine, Milwaukee’s local radio station that loves to lift up our homegrown artists. They caught up with 11 Riverwest FemFest performers to share what the Fest means to them—and everyone’s answers made it pretty clear that this powerhouse of a hip-hop artist isn’t alone. “We are way more under scrutiny and not given the opportunities that our male counterparts are given simply because we are female. FemFest gives us a platform to unite as artists, use our power combine our energy and take a stand that says, ‘Yes, we can do the same thing as you, we are talented, we are independent and we are not playing around.’ I’m simply grateful that it exists and feel honored to be a part of it.”

Zed Kenzo and I talked last night after she finished up an all-ages show at the Jazz Gallery in Riverwest, where Friday night’s FemFest shows will happen. It’s a meaningful effort to include more venues even for the non-21-year-olds in a music festival all about celebrating strong, diverse, inspiring women. I know teenage me would have l-o-v-e-d FemFest.

Suggestion: Hit play on this song and read a little more from Zed Kenzo before her show on Saturday night.

Zed Kenzo 02 People With Panache: How did you get involved in the Milwaukee music scene after coming back from LA?

Zed Kenzo: I was asked by my friend Kiran, a.k.a. Q the Sun, to join the bill for an all-womyn lineup for a show called “Festivale Fatale” where I met Queen Tut , Fivy and Cat Ries of NO/NO and Pleasure Thief (her solo artist name). From that point on, other individuals in the Milwaukee music scene kept asking me to join bills. Continue reading

meet bethany: revolutionizing education in milwaukee (escuela verde series 03)

Bethany Vannest

“I’ve always felt the education system is unfair the way that we assess students,” Bethany says. “I’ve always worked in Milwaukee, and I wanted to teach here. It’s made me look at the education system and just say, ‘What’s “wrong” with MPS? What’s “wrong” with students in Milwaukee?’ Nothing inherently—a lot of students have been traumatized! Trauma totally affects the way brains take in learning, affects the ability to sit in a desk and feel like you can ace this test, affects the ability to sit in this chair and listen for 60 minutes.”

Today, we celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In workplaces and churches, community centers and homes—blogs, too!—we all honor and continue his quest toward justice, equality and peace.

Just as I was writing this, I got a text from my boyfriend, James:

“I want to live in a world that is not controlled by money and greed; where kids can play in the streets and be safe; where individuals can work in collaboration and help one another rather than fighting over political, racial, religious and monetary differences; where we use resources given to us thoughtfully, rather than destroying the one planet we have.”

I want to live in that world with him. (Don’t you? We’re getting chickens!)

Well, this wasn’t random. Last night, I returned from a retreat for the Food Leader Certificate Program, in which I am a mentor. The weekend was about turning dreams into plans (and task lists), organizing communities to meet common goals, and servant leadership. And changing the world starting with changing ourselves. To me, it was bliss and filled my heart and mind with ideas and hope. It also seems like an effortless transition to MLK Day. Continue reading

meet nayla: revolutionizing education in milwaukee (escuela verde series 02)

Nayla Bezares 02

How Escuela Verde works: They have a lot of open project spaces in their schedule, and students complete projects to earn credit to advance from one grade to another. If you’re a student who wants to go to medical school, for example, there’s a medical workshop where they bring in professionals from the community.

Kate and I were so pumped to feature Joey Zocher and Escuela Verde, we decided to turn her story and others’ into a series. Please check back over the next few weeks for more Q&A’s with the advisers, educators and overall awesome humans who staff Escuela Verde.

Nayla Bezares, 28, has been an adviser at EV for 5 months.

“My dream was to work for the bad guys and change their perspective,” says Nayla. Born and raised in Puerto Rico, she always knew she wanted to save the world. Now, Nayla’s working with the Good Guys, I’d say, but she got there in a roundabout way.

Nayla and I met at one of our favorite places in Milwaukee—Outpost Natural Foods—to talk about dreams, education, and yes, trying to change the bad guys to change the world.  Continue reading

meet ruth b8r ginsburg: milwaukee musical activists

Ruth B8r Ginsburg

They picked the name Ruth B8r Ginsburg to promote female empowerment—and help people be a little more informed about politics. Notorious R.B.G. is a pretty fabulous role model!

“I feel like I dropped into the middle of this blossoming place, and it’s been amazing.”

“This is sort of therapeutic for me, a safe haven.”

“I feel like this is also a vehicle for messages. We can help!”

These uplifting thoughts bring to mind some of my favorite parts of life—activities that work toward my goals, within my passions, with people I love. While Ousia, Danielle and Johanna said them in the context of their melodically harmonizing, lyrically inspiring band, I feel like they could’ve been talking about anything. A new community, a calling, a group of friends.

That makes sense because Ruth B8r Ginsburg is all three. This week’s interview took me to a kitschy, cozy, eclectic third floor of a home in Milwaukee’s Riverwest neighborhood. It was filled with warm tones and temps, low light and laughter of a bunch of inspiring women. Plus community bottles of local mead and a round of Brie literally being nibbled on made it feel a little extra Wisconsin-y. I liked it a lot.

My friend Quinn Cory invited me to a rehearsal of Ruth B8r Ginsburg, a Milwaukee band known for its mesmerizing harmonies. (Check them out here!) Practice was at the home of Johanna Rose, upright bassist extraordinaire, and I sat on the floor with them and got a really special glimpse into the energy that flows between this stunning ensemble. I even got to be there for their very first recording session. Continue reading

meet joey: revolutionizing education in milwaukee (escuela verde series 01)

Three years ago, I made a list of my personal heroes. I was on a quest to pave a path that melded my skills with my passions and my possibilities, and these people were true inspiration.

Joey, her mentor, and a group of teachers came together to start Escuela Verde as a team, under the umbrella created by the trailblazing TransCenter for Youth.

Joey, her mentor, and a group of teachers came together to start Escuela Verde as a team, under the umbrella created by the trailblazing TransCenter for Youth.

Then I made a list of my core values and drew little maps of potential professional paths I could create for myself, including things like starting a farm, going to grad school, moving to places I’ve never even visited, and—this is great!—working at Victory Garden Initiative! I just found the little notebook I wrote all my dreams and plans in, and I don’t really remember writing that, but it came true. I also researched the best educational programs and companies to work for, compared my strengths and weaknesses, and considered the characteristics and careers of those I looked up to most.

Now fast forward to today, and I really do feel like I’m living the values I listed while I take on the best parts of those paths I drew. (However, I laughed out loud when I found my weakness list and realized most of them hadn’t changed. Note to self: Work. On. Those!)

I also happen to work for one of the women on my hero list—and that dang list just won’t stop growing. Who would be on yours?

Settle in for a good one; Joey’s my newest addition. Continue reading