We walked into Shante Hullum’s home and sat in the living room—her favorite space in the house. It is a beautiful home with red mahogany-colored wood framing for the door openings and trimmings. There is a red and black color theme throughout the home that is expressed in the furniture. The built-in cabinetry holds family portraits, dolls, and other ornate details of expression. She describes how she can see everything from the windows in her living room, "I can look out there and see people coming up in my yard. I can look out there and see people, and they can't see me.” Peering out onto the neighborhood, Ms. Hullum is always involved with the world, even without physically interacting with anyone outside of her home.
Although very energetic when expressing her thoughts, Ms. Hullum explains that she has a protective personality. Ms. Hullum’s protective personality derives from the trials and tribulations of her past. She told us that she has endured a considerable amount of heartache in her lifetime, which often makes it difficult for her to trust people. She spoke about how she’s “real iffy on getting to know people—because of the world”. She explained “I really don’t interact with outside people, that’s just how I am… I have a real trust issue”. She explained that her home is a very private sanctuary. Outsiders are not welcomed on the upper levels of the house, “No one goes upstairs... that’s where my girls are."
In her forty-four years of living in Milwaukee, she has been married for twenty-two years. She had three children. Two of them are still living. On May 22nd, 2013, her son died in a double homicide in Chicago. She keeps his spirit with her, still protecting him. Although she has worked in the nursing field for seventeen years, she describes herself as a stay-at-home mom, a foster mom for two of her nieces, and a grandmother to six grandchildren. These are responsibilities that she loves and she explains, “I like to cook, I like to stay at home and do my own thing, clean, wash, and do the mother thing, the wife thing. I’m going to be a foster mom to my niece—I’ve had her since December.”
A strong woman who smiles frequently and laughs at her own jokes, Ms. Hullum reveals many truths about her transitions throughout life. Prior to living in the Sherman Park neighborhood, she lived on 45th and Lloyd in a duplex that wasn’t the most comfortable place to raise a family. There were many issues that troubled her. Hullum was the only person in the complex who paid rent. Her landlord was confrontational. She had to deal with drug dealers, prostitutes and household fights in the upper unit when she lived in that neighborhood. Moving into her new rental unit was important to her but she looks forward to buying her own home. When asked how she would describe the difference between having a house and a home, she identifies strongly with the potential of home ownership. “This is my house because it is something that I’m renting; a home is something that I’m purchasing. Something that I can absolutely make mine.” She explains that she’s trying to make her current house a part of her life for as long as she can live there, until she is able to purchase her own home.
Ms. Hullum has been living in the Sherman Park neighborhood since November, 2016. She finds that the Sherman Park neighborhood is a friendly environment with neighbors who communicate with one another. Her neighbors have welcomed her family into their community. Mrs. Berry, a neighbor that Ms. Hullum mentions several times, is someone she talks to occasionally and who has helped her settle into this community. Ms. Hullum feels that her new neighborhood is a family-oriented space. She finds that police officers walk on foot, “letting the neighbors know that the police are for us." Community organizing through the Sherman Park Community Association is another prominent facet of this neighborhood. She appreciates some of the initiatives that have come from the Community Association, one of which being the speed bumps that were installed on the streets. She feels secure in her environment—a feeling that she hasn’t always had the luxury of enjoying elsewhere. This year is the first time that Ms. Hullum is contributing to a community block party. She is also involved with community organizing.
Ms. Hullum is a survivor, a wife, a mother and a caretaker, and she is a proud resident of the Sherman Park Neighborhood.