Milwaukee Couple Helping Sherman Park Rebuild
It's been nearly a year since at least eight businesses in Sherman Park were looted and set on fire after a Milwaukee police officer shot and killed a man.
It's been a tough recovery process for those businesses. Jet Beauty at Fond du Lac Avenue and Burleigh Street just recently reopened. The O'Reilly Auto Parts store that burned to the ground is now an empty lot. And a George Webb that opened on Fond du Lac Avenue in the wake of the violence shut down within six months.
The violence put Milwaukee in the national spotlight. And one local couple made national headlines in an effort to help people understand the divide facing Milwaukee.
"It's really, really hard when you see people attacking our community from all over the world," said Maanaan Sabir.
Sabir, and his wife Joanne, who own The Juice Kitchen at 16th Street and North Avenue, were featured in a New York Times article titled "Affluent and Black, and Still Trapped by Segregation."
"Being a part of Milwaukee and that article grew our sense of community and connection," JoAnne said. "It rooted us in what was possible."
In the past year, they've lead many important community discussions. Always putting out a call to action.
"If you're not available when needed, it's hard to be a part of community leadership," Maanaan said.
"You must intentionally have a commitment to this community," JoAnne said. "Do what you say you're going to do."
That is just what they've done. They're part of the team developing the BMO Harris Bank in Sherman Park that was vandalized and set on fire into a hub for minority entrepreneurs. It will be called the Sherman Phoenix, and will be a community gathering space featuring restaurants, businesses, and activities.
"I think there's something to be said about people who actually put their money where their mouth is," said Joanna Brooks, the owner of Embody Yoga. "The Sabir's have shown support and made sacrifices to invest in something they believe in."
Brooks will be opening a yoga studio inside the Sherman Phoenix, with the hopes of bringing more wellness and mindfulness to an underserved neighborhood.
"To have my own business in this area, and to give back to this community, is everything to me," she said.
Through the turmoil and progress, the Sabir's plea to Milwaukee remains the same.
"Join us, be with us, share with us," JoAnne said. "But not just in conversation, in action."
The Sabirs are still looking for more community partners and investors for the Sherman Phoenix, and are hoping to start rehabbing the BMO Harris Bank this fall.