Tamesha McKinney was born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin's 53206 zip code area. She remembers swimming lessons at the Moody Pool during summers and recalls being able to walk to her neighborhood school on Auer Avenue. She grew up at a time when everything was conveniently available within a walking distance. But her neighborhood changed as she was growing out of her adolescent years. When she was ten or eleven years old, Tamesha remembers news of gangs taking over her neighborhood. The gang members were neighborhood kids who lived in the community, and she knew who they were. There was an unspoken code — the gang members didn’t try to initiate other kids who were not interested in gangs. McKinney learned to stay in the house after certain hours. As she grew older, the neighborhood continued to deteriorate. The gang presence in her neighborhood grew, and her dad decided to move the family to a different neighborhood. McKinney suggests that the drugs are what really destroyed her neighborhood. By the mid-70s and 80s, the neighborhood was unrecognizable from what Tamesha remembered as a child.
She moved away to the 53209 zip code where she found that there was still a sense of community. She found that community elders maintained a rich social network, homeowners and residents cared for their properties, and the blocks displayed a well-maintained aesthetic. Yet, somehow, those childhood places of fun that she remembered so fondly were missing from her new community. She cherishes those fond memories of growing up and aspires to bring back the vitality of the community that she remembers from her childhood days.
Her commitment to her neighborhood and nearby areas is expressed through her community-engaged work. For instance, after the 2016 uprising, Ms. McKinney helped to plan the World Peace Program event at Sherman Park. The event became a successful public forum where diverse stakeholders including community members, police, residents, and businesses engaged with each other.
Ms. McKinney is an advocate for respecting people’s opinions and keeping an open mind. If she sees a problem, she addresses the issue constructively and seeks a positive solution. She explains that a positive solution has the potential to change more minds and encourage much-needed social change. She believes that we need to be friendly to one another and be aware that the process of social change starts with us.
Ms. McKinney wants to recreate the neighborhood block watch that kept her community safe when she was young. She remembers her dad leaving the screen door open during summer and fondly recalls coming home to block parties where everyone knew each other. Her favorite memories of childhood consist of her playing in the alley. She laments that kids today don't get those opportunities — that even she is cautious about letting her own kids go out and roam the neighborhood freely. People were not fearful then; she is optimistic that contemporary communities can get back that sense of conviviality.
This is where community dialogue and community organizing is important.
Ms. McKinney seeks out others who also crave the types of neighborhoods that she remembers. She uses certain strategies to organize within her community. For instance, repeating a core message and spreading information via the word of mouth are grassroots strategies that enhance connectivity and strengthen social networks. These practices hold the potential to create a domino effect of positive cycles and connections that engage younger generations. She provides useful information to people who may be stuck in rough circumstances that cause them to make bad decisions in life. McKinney found that people in adverse life-situations often don’t have access to resources, and they don’t know where the jobs are. As a result she focuses on making resources available and accessible to the community.
Tamesha McKinney works to empower people to live their best lives, and she believes that her impact will create long-term change. It starts with dialogue, which is why she organizes seminars and community events. Dialogs leave people feeling empowered and give them an ability to think openly.
She helps plan job fairs where employers show up to talk to potential employees. She promotes driver-recovery and record-expungement workshops. She organizes dialogs around what to do when one is stopped by the police. She encourages conversations around citizen’s rights and responsibilities and helps organize inequality seminars and human trafficking forums. She organizes events where experts teach the youth that they need to be mindful and stay on the right track. These seminars show people what to do if they are stuck in bad situations.
A strong leader in the community, Tamesha McKinney works relentlessly to create positive change for generations to come!
What is Peace?