It began in earnest when the kid from the hood,
Just 15 years old, shot in the stomach,
A fine Riverwest, gay, pub worker/owner,
A few weeks after an intemperate leader
Gay-bashed rogue cops
Rather than thoughtfully, powerfully,
Seize the reins of justice.
This outrageous shooting, plus
A rash of thuggery that summer, 2005,
Brought forth a community gathering,
Which I attended, at the Art Bar on Burleigh,
Across from old St. Mary’s,
Where the shooting had occurred.
I had the same sinking feeling in my stomach,
As during the 1970s and 1980s, when I and friends
Had done our best to inspire thought in things better
Than racist scapegoating at community meetings,
Following notorious crime events and moments
In struggling Milwaukee.
But when I arrived at the Art Bar, there was a
Spirit of graceful, powerful…resolve.
A succession of strong and warm people,
A polyglot, rainbow melange,
People with deep roots in the neighborhood
And the movements of our times,
Expressed thoughts and feelings aiming to heal and renew,
To draw upon our deepest imaginations and
Sources of resilient endurance…
To keep our eyes on the prize that
Ghandi and King, Rosa, John, and Bobby,
Mandela, Grace Lee Boggs, and many more,
Had blazed in great visions in our youth.
Having spent much time alive
In the dark, dank tombs of pharaohs,
While not witnessing manifestations of bestial hate
Aimed at minority “others”
I was overwhelmed by these
Bursts of warm light
Coming from everyday people.
I had to leave early,
Lest I lose my composure,
And while driving home
Along sacred city trails,
Alongside resurgent neighborhoods
And cleansing rivers,
The notion of finally meeting Big Will Allen,
The legendary urban farmer already renowned
In awakened circles for his avant-guard
Permaculture and urban agriculture innovations,
Innovations agricultural and “biological,” e.g. vermaculture,
Agriculture ecological, e.g. gloriously productive
Simulated indoor river valleys with sweet water
And fat, healthy, tasty fish,
Innovations social and cultural, e.g. farmer training youth programs.
And when I got out to Growing Power, on 55th and Silver Spring,
More than one incredibly exuberant persons,
Starting with Miss Karen, greeted me with a warmth and generosity
That continues to inspire, and even, startle me.
Later on I learned that I had experienced my first moment with…
Growing Power Magic!
That’s what Miss Karen calls it.
And it’s true!
I returned home to find an e-mail
Sent from Harvey Taylor, Milwaukee poet and stevedore,
Which contained a song he’d just written
About Big Will Allen and Growing Power!
And then at my 60th birthday party,
Sally Leiser, whom I’d never met, showed up
At the Kern Park “country club,” out of the blue,
And shared the Growing Power story,
In perfect pitch!
Consider sharing your Will Allen, Growing Power story.
Send your essay to Will@milwaukeerenaissance.com.