Together, we make US better.
Right now, a large percentage of the developed world’s population is obsessed with borderline narcissism and self-promotion, so it’s a gasp of fresh air to be able to catch a vibe in Sherman Phoenix where everyone seems to be there to somehow make somebody else’s life better.
From the tenants who provide services to the community, produced BY the community; to the community leaders who host meetings there, discussing best practices to add value to the lives of others....
On any given day, you can walk in that building, that formerly served as a bank, and witness the beauty of unity. And while I admire it in all forms, I’d be concealing a big part of who I am if I didn’t express my admiration for black unity. The never-ending family reunion type vibe I get in here is a feeling that I crave every day.
When Sherman Park State Bank was built in 1927 (according to wisconsinsinhistory.org), I’m pretty sure no one imagined that the establishment would survive a near brush with complete destruction and transform into an entirely different kind of financial establishment.
It became an institution that will increase the economic health of a community that has had its fair share of struggles. One that would provide real estate space for close to 30 businesses of color, in a community of color, to serve that same community, as well as people across many demographics who walk through there each day.
92 years ago, I bet the architects of that building never imagined that 90 years later, the site they constructed would become an incubator for talent and business cultivation in the heart of a Milwaukee neighborhood that many would consider “troubled”.
However, many of us don’t see “troubled” when we think of the Sherman Park neighborhood.
At least I don’t. I think of being a kid, and playful walks to the corner store from at my aunt’s house on 34th and Auer.
A lot of us remember playing “carpet pool” with cousins, siblings, and friends at Mary Ryan Boys and Girls Club; or trying to sneak in the teen room, to see what the “big kids” were doing.
We think of BBQ smoke, our elders bumpin’ Frankie Beverly and Maze’s “Before I Let Go”, and family picnics at Sherman Park. Most of all, many of us think RESILIENCY!
Back in the Summer of 2016, the Sherman Park neighborhood was put to the test after a series of unfortunate circumstances that lead to unsettling tension between some of the community members, and the Milwaukee Police Department.
I asked Joanna Brooks, owner and CEO of Embody Yoga at Sherman Phoenix where she was when she first heard about the backlash that occurred after the killing of one of the community members, by a Milwaukee Police Officer.
This is what she said:
“I don’t quite remember where I was, but I remember exactly how I felt. I didn’t check the news that night, but I remember seeing it on people’s Facebook live, and feeling like I was there too. I couldn’t stop thinking about what I had seen, and I woke up the next morning to drive down and see it for myself. I was sad, but hopeful at the same time, because of how the community came together.”
I was curious to know what Sherman Phoenix represents to Joanna, and she told me that “it represents an opportunity for true ownership, growth and an opportunity to help me legitimize my business.”
Hearing her response brought extreme joy to my heart. It’s inspiring to see how far she’s come, and, as she stated, “be given the opportunity to normalize the practice of yoga in the black community”. Joanna is revolutionizing how Yoga is practiced and is thinking outside the box about how she offers it to her Yogi’s.
I’ve been given the honor of being Embody Yoga’s official DJ, and have been part of some pretty fly events, providing a hard-hitting hip-hop soundtrack, while they’re on the mats.
Embody Yoga, along with the 26 other businesses in Sherman Phoenix are doing something for our city that hasn’t been seen, since a portion of the original Bronzeville neighborhood was demolished in the 60’s to make room for the construction of the freeway.
Sherman Phoenix represents the resurrection of two giants! That fateful summer night in 2016 was no match for the power behind Sherman Phoenix’s rise: and neither was the systematic destruction of the original Bronzeville, which served as the hub of black business, economy and culture in Milwaukee.
If you appreciate a good comeback story, then you have to be inspired by how that old BMO Harris Bank building withstood the fiery beatdown it took; to return not only to be operational again, but as a symbolic representation of community strength. This can easily be ranked as one of the best “rise from the ashes” stories ever.
Yep, I said EVER!
Just think about the amount of talent that’s being developed within the confines of that space at any given moment. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear Sherman Phoenix getting a lot of credit in the future, for being the place that incubated some of the most talented individuals to come from Milwaukee.
I imagine someone giving an award acceptance speech for a notable worldwide achievement, accepting a Grammy, Oscar, etc. and telling a story that points to Sherman Phoenix as being the place that provided the inspiration for whatever they worked on to receive that acknowledgment.
Creativity just feels so free flowing and natural in here.
Think of how many dollars are being circulated back into the hands of the gatekeepers of this beloved community, instead of being sucked out and poured somewhere that won’t have any direct benefit to the people whose hands it came out of.
Something else that blows my mind, is how amazing each of the businesses at Sherman Phoenix are in their own respective right, but then as a unit, they give off an aura of superhero like strength, creating a thriving sense of livelihood in the community.
That “superpower” seems to rub off too, because whenever I’m at Sherman Phoenix, I feel a sense of invincibility, and inspiration, and belief that I can accomplish anything.
One of my favorite places to hang out at Sherman Phoenix, when I’m not shaking things up at Embody, is Shindig Coffee, formerly known as The Juice Kitchen. I’m a huge Hip Hop fan, and every time I’m in there, I sit as close as I can to the Wu-Tang Clan picture hanging up, because looking at it reminds me that I belong there. This is the only coffee shop I can go to, where I know I don’t need headphones, because the conversations are always ones I’m interested in, and the soundtrack is always right up my alley.
Wu-Tang is one of my favorite groups ever, and I see so many similarities between them and Sherman Phoenix. For example, together, the group functions as a cohesive unit, achieving unparalleled success. But also, individually, each member has had success outside the group. Sherman Phoenix is similar in that way!
When I’m there, I feel like I can succeed as my authentic self, because I see everybody else there doing it!
At Sherman Phoenix, I’m compelled to be the best that I’m capable of being, and I’m moved to continue finding ways to add value to the lives of others. There’s an unexplainable sense of encouragement that comes from feeling good energy and seeing good ideas being exchanged by the people in that building.
At the beginning of 2019, I did something I should’ve done a long time ago and wrote out what my core values are in life. Even though those values were always on my mind, it wasn’t until I actually wrote them down and saw them on paper, that I was able to better identify with others who share the same ones as me.
This is what I wrote down, and I’m not exaggerating when I say that I see an expression of all of them at Sherman Phoenix, and I’m sure I’m not alone.
CW Connect /Adam Xander