Stories

“I’ve been here since 1998. It’s been twenty-one years. When I came here, I was the only business here. It was just me, Chevron and Kroger. I remember when I first opened up my business, the police used to be worried about me. At that time, there was a lot of crime over here. If I had a problem with the building and needed repairs, people would ask for my address and I would tell them 2015 West Broadway and they would tell me that they didn’t come this far. That was just twenty years ago, not even a long time ago.  People were scared to come to the West End. Now, people are coming back to live here and the crime is lower. People are wanting to spend money and support black businesses. I think that if they do that, it’ll help us and the community. We live here and we’ll spend money here.  It’s a lot of changes. When I first came here, it was rough and there was a lot of crime and lot of stuff. Things have changed. None of these buildings were here. It was a lot of empty lots. So, it’s a lot of changes. I think with the new developments, they could do more. Even with the little things that they do, it would make some big changes.  For example, they were supposed to put Walmart over here and people fought. Walmart would have been good. It could have brought a lot of people from a ten mile radius. With Passport, I don’t know. I hope they hire people from the West End. They said that they were gong to hire five hundred people. I hope it’s not going to be a bunch of people, from outside, that will just come to work and go home. We’re not going to benefit from it. The YMCA will be good for the neighborhood. The director said that he’s going to make sure that every kid knows how to swim, so that’s good. That’ll be a positive thing for the neighborhood.  I think the West End is headed in a good direction, if they let us do more. We have to come together and do more  instead of complaining. For example, they complained about Walmart. Now, Walmart’s gone and what do we get? We get nothing. Walmart being here, would have kept people from going so far. It would have been competition for Kroger and they would have to drop their prices. But they didn’t look at it that way. Also, they were going to hire two to three hundred people in the neighborhood. Also, people wouldn’t have to travel to ten miles. The closest one is where? Cane Run? Indiana? Instead people complained about a parking lot. Would you rather park five hundred feet or drive ten miles? It just doesn't make any sense. We gotta stop the complaining.” - Babinta Kiota, owner of Broadway Fashion & Decor , pictured with Mohamed, Russell

“I’ve been here since 1998. It’s been twenty-one years. When I came here, I was the only business here. It was just me, Chevron and Kroger. I remember when I first opened up my business, the police used to be worried about me. At that time, there was a lot of crime over here. If I had a problem with the building and needed repairs, people would ask for my address and I would tell them 2015 West Broadway and they would tell me that they didn’t come this far. That was just twenty years ago, not even a long time ago.

People were scared to come to the West End. Now, people are coming back to live here and the crime is lower. People are wanting to spend money and support black businesses. I think that if they do that, it’ll help us and the community. We live here and we’ll spend money here.

It’s a lot of changes. When I first came here, it was rough and there was a lot of crime and lot of stuff. Things have changed. None of these buildings were here. It was a lot of empty lots. So, it’s a lot of changes. I think with the new developments, they could do more. Even with the little things that they do, it would make some big changes.

For example, they were supposed to put Walmart over here and people fought. Walmart would have been good. It could have brought a lot of people from a ten mile radius. With Passport, I don’t know. I hope they hire people from the West End. They said that they were gong to hire five hundred people. I hope it’s not going to be a bunch of people, from outside, that will just come to work and go home. We’re not going to benefit from it. The YMCA will be good for the neighborhood. The director said that he’s going to make sure that every kid knows how to swim, so that’s good. That’ll be a positive thing for the neighborhood.

I think the West End is headed in a good direction, if they let us do more. We have to come together and do more  instead of complaining. For example, they complained about Walmart. Now, Walmart’s gone and what do we get? We get nothing. Walmart being here, would have kept people from going so far. It would have been competition for Kroger and they would have to drop their prices. But they didn’t look at it that way. Also, they were going to hire two to three hundred people in the neighborhood. Also, people wouldn’t have to travel to ten miles. The closest one is where? Cane Run? Indiana? Instead people complained about a parking lot. Would you rather park five hundred feet or drive ten miles? It just doesn't make any sense. We gotta stop the complaining.” - Babinta Kiota, owner of Broadway Fashion & Decor , pictured with Mohamed, Russell

“I’m just trying to promote bikes. If you get on one of these things, it’s hard to get off. You ain’t finna get in no trouble. I’m not looking for no BS. Basically, I just want to see more people in my neighborhood rides dirt bikes and hopefully, get us a trail over here, one day. I don’t wanna keep riding on the streets and worrying about the police. Once you get on one of these, you’re not getting off.  This is definitely my passion. It started when I was six years old, when my grandma got me one of those small dirt bikes. When I saw the older kids with their bigger dirt bikes, I always wanted one. The older I got, I would spend my money and buy a bigger bike. I just bought this bike. I just lost a bike, last year, and broke my leg. My leg was broken and I bought another bike and I rode with a broken leg. This is my passion. Regardless, I’m going to ride a bike.  I’m not doing nothing else. It’s not like I’m out here, doing anything bad. The police look at us like we’re doing something bad but I’m not bothering nobody. You got cars with mufflers and all extra types of exhaust modifiers and stuff. I don’t come out late at night or very early in the morning; the afternoon is good for me. I don’t bother nobody, man.  I want everyone, around me, to ride because it’s boring doing it by yourself. I want to start my own garage and work on them. Once you get everybody on it, I’ll get you running for free but after that, throw me a little something and I’ll work on your bike. I want to get me a little garage. We don’t have nothing down here that will fix this. I gotta work on this by myself. There’s no where, around here, that I can take this bike to. There’s not one professional place for it. I gotta do it myself.  Find you a passion. If you find a passion, you’ll stay out of harm's way. If you find a passion, you’re gonna wanna do it all the time; it’s like an addiction. You’re not worried about nothing else going on around you. When I’m flying through these streets, I’m having fun. I’m not even looking at what’s going on around me. All I know is me on this bike, on this road.” - Jeff, California

“I’m just trying to promote bikes. If you get on one of these things, it’s hard to get off. You ain’t finna get in no trouble. I’m not looking for no BS. Basically, I just want to see more people in my neighborhood rides dirt bikes and hopefully, get us a trail over here, one day. I don’t wanna keep riding on the streets and worrying about the police. Once you get on one of these, you’re not getting off.

This is definitely my passion. It started when I was six years old, when my grandma got me one of those small dirt bikes. When I saw the older kids with their bigger dirt bikes, I always wanted one. The older I got, I would spend my money and buy a bigger bike. I just bought this bike. I just lost a bike, last year, and broke my leg. My leg was broken and I bought another bike and I rode with a broken leg. This is my passion. Regardless, I’m going to ride a bike.

I’m not doing nothing else. It’s not like I’m out here, doing anything bad. The police look at us like we’re doing something bad but I’m not bothering nobody. You got cars with mufflers and all extra types of exhaust modifiers and stuff. I don’t come out late at night or very early in the morning; the afternoon is good for me. I don’t bother nobody, man.

I want everyone, around me, to ride because it’s boring doing it by yourself. I want to start my own garage and work on them. Once you get everybody on it, I’ll get you running for free but after that, throw me a little something and I’ll work on your bike. I want to get me a little garage. We don’t have nothing down here that will fix this. I gotta work on this by myself. There’s no where, around here, that I can take this bike to. There’s not one professional place for it. I gotta do it myself.

Find you a passion. If you find a passion, you’ll stay out of harm's way. If you find a passion, you’re gonna wanna do it all the time; it’s like an addiction. You’re not worried about nothing else going on around you. When I’m flying through these streets, I’m having fun. I’m not even looking at what’s going on around me. All I know is me on this bike, on this road.” - Jeff, California

“I feel like everybody should familiarize themselves with mental health awareness. Often times, it’s looked at as a stigma. People want to put mental illness in this box but it affects more people than you know. I’ve had it happen to me. I didn’t know anything about it and then it was like, “Boom!” and then I had to play catch-up. I think it’s something that everyone should learn about because you never know when you’re forced to deal with it. It could be you, a sibling, family member, or anybody. It’s always good to have the knowledge instead of always trusting everything the doctor is telling you. Sometimes, doctors will tell you that your kids have this and need to be put on that. That’s not necessarily the case but when you’re more informed, you can listen to the doctor, knowing your child, and acknowledging that your child may suffer with mental illness or not. It’s better to be informed than to be ignorant. I think that’s how we get ourselves in a bind and caught up in the system because we’re unaware and not informed.  We should get familiar with it. A lot of times, it’s hereditary. If we’re out here having babies, you don’t know each other’s history and it can be genetic. If we don’t know the first thing about it, we’re not going to be thinking about genes and where mental illness comes from. We won’t worry about it until it’s too late. I think it’s important because if you do have a family member or somebody does have a mental illness, you want to be able to help them. You don’t want them to be out of sight, out of mind because that’s not fair and they can’t help it. When you’re informed, you can help people that may be challenged with mental illness. You can share that information.” - Ivory, (Right) California  “I feel like everyone should pay attention to mental health because there’s more cases than you know. I think that it gets overlooked. It’s just important to keep up with your mental health. It’s important for the black community to take it serious. I have bipolar depression and I had let it get out of hand. If I let it get out of hand, it’s hard to get control of. I feel like if the community, or anyone, is aware of their mental health, it’ll save them in the long run. It can be scary if you don’t get ahold of it. It’s kind of overwhelming once you get to the state of mania and trying to come back to normal. It’s just hard when it gets out of control. Being aware is very important.” - Erriona, (Left) California

“I feel like everybody should familiarize themselves with mental health awareness. Often times, it’s looked at as a stigma. People want to put mental illness in this box but it affects more people than you know. I’ve had it happen to me. I didn’t know anything about it and then it was like, “Boom!” and then I had to play catch-up. I think it’s something that everyone should learn about because you never know when you’re forced to deal with it. It could be you, a sibling, family member, or anybody. It’s always good to have the knowledge instead of always trusting everything the doctor is telling you. Sometimes, doctors will tell you that your kids have this and need to be put on that. That’s not necessarily the case but when you’re more informed, you can listen to the doctor, knowing your child, and acknowledging that your child may suffer with mental illness or not. It’s better to be informed than to be ignorant. I think that’s how we get ourselves in a bind and caught up in the system because we’re unaware and not informed.

We should get familiar with it. A lot of times, it’s hereditary. If we’re out here having babies, you don’t know each other’s history and it can be genetic. If we don’t know the first thing about it, we’re not going to be thinking about genes and where mental illness comes from. We won’t worry about it until it’s too late. I think it’s important because if you do have a family member or somebody does have a mental illness, you want to be able to help them. You don’t want them to be out of sight, out of mind because that’s not fair and they can’t help it. When you’re informed, you can help people that may be challenged with mental illness. You can share that information.” - Ivory, (Right) California

“I feel like everyone should pay attention to mental health because there’s more cases than you know. I think that it gets overlooked. It’s just important to keep up with your mental health. It’s important for the black community to take it serious. I have bipolar depression and I had let it get out of hand. If I let it get out of hand, it’s hard to get control of. I feel like if the community, or anyone, is aware of their mental health, it’ll save them in the long run. It can be scary if you don’t get ahold of it. It’s kind of overwhelming once you get to the state of mania and trying to come back to normal. It’s just hard when it gets out of control. Being aware is very important.” - Erriona, (Left) California


“I’ve been here for about fifteen years. I spent all of my childhood here, when I moved back from Delaware, with my dad. I stayed with my grandparents. We gotta house in J-Town but I went to school off Dixie Highway because that was close to where my dad worked. I used to catch the bus here from school. I spent all my summers here and everyday after school was spent here from 4th grade until I was a senior in high school. My best friend, at that time, used to live on Larkwood, by Shawnee Park. So, I used to either walk or catch the bus. We used to play basketball and I would walk or catch the bus right back.   I remember going to Consolidated, which is now a halfway house, on the corner of 15th and Jefferson. It was like the department store. I remember getting my shoe laces getting caught on the escalator at Sears, which was on 9th and Broadway. My grandfather used to get carpet from this carpet place that used to be the Big A Shopping Center on Bolling.   Me and my cousin, who is like my brother, these are the blocks that we ran. He grew up on 24th and Jefferson. This is where we were and this is what we did. We used to go to Dairy Del, Elliot Park to play ball and would run up all through here. I still keep in contact with a lot of people that I grew up in the neighborhood with. That’s changed quite a bit because it’s no where near as nice as it was when I was growing up. Even then, there was still a lot of older people here but you know, the houses and yards were maintained. It had that typical neighborhood vibe. For instance, if me and my cousin were doing something, at the end of the block, that we weren’t supposed to be doing, my grandfather would know about it by the time we got back. From the time we walked from one block to the next, my grandfather was like, “Come here!”. We already knew what was up, so we had to keep our noses clean because everybody knew Mr. Red. Everybody knew Mr. Red.   I’m forty-five years old and my grandfather passed six or seven years ago and I’m still known as Mr. Red’s grandson. Just like guys, that are my dad’s age, they’re in their seventies and all of their kids and their kids used to get their hair cut by my grandfather. So, he’s cut about three, almost four generations of hair. It’s not too many places that I can go where somebody doesn’t know me as Mr. Red’s grandson. Of course with being a staple in Russell and living here for sixty-plus years.  My granddad is my idol. He’s taught almost all of my life lessons like the importance of owning your own business. He taught me how to manage money. He always told us to pay ourselves first before we pay anybody else. Him and my grandmother used to always read the Bible close to us all the time. As a kid, I was like, “Man, squash that!”. Now, as an adult, it makes perfect sense. You know like, “A good name is better to be chosen than gold” is true and they constantly drilled that in us. We had to take piano lessons as we would read the Bible everyday. So everyday, after school, we would read a chapter from the Bible. My cousin and I would take turns reading chapter. I read the Bible, from cover to cover, about three or four times. When I first started reading it, I didn’t understand it because it was all of that old English. As I got further in middle and high school, I better understood. It’s just that discipline. It’s just that old school discipline. My grandfather was that old school disciplinary and we had our routine. If I was here, we know that every Tuesday we were going to the barber store and the candy store. HIs barber shop sold a lot of candy. That’s when we would go get candy and do all these other things.   It wasn’t until later in life, when I was talking to my grandfather and some of this friends, that I would understand some of the things that he would do. Like, he used to always order his shoes from books. I always wondered about that. He would never really go to shoe stores and pick them out. He would order them from these little catalogs that he used to get. I thought it was because he stood for a long time and just needed special barbering shoes. Come to find out, when my dad was younger, at that time, department stores on 4th Street wouldn't let black folks try on shoes or clothes. That made my grandfather furious. He decided not to patronize those places and would order his stuff from catalogs.   It was just those life lessons that are still with me today. You know, I went to church every Sunday. My grandfather was a deacon and in the choir. He was one of the toughest dudes I knew.  This is always home. Plus, I like the bricks. I lived in J-town and had a nice apartment. I call this the bricks. I like the urban feel. I always loved the urban feel. I like having the ability just to walk up the street and walk to places. I like it. I like the density and the older homes. When I go to places like Chicago and Baltimore, I like that urban feeling. It’s not for everybody and I get that but it’s not so cookie cutter. Everything is different.  I have a little apprehension about the new development. I’m positive but I’m apprehensive because I know how these things normally go down. I like to consider myself a closet historian and once you study Louisville’s history, especially Louisville’s race relations, you kind of see the same kind of patterns repeat themselves. You see the same kind of dog and pony shows and the dangling of the carrot. You know, like, if you do this, you may get this and nothing never happens. Or it does happen but it doesn’t happen to your or your community’s benefit. So, I stay guardedly optimistic but at the same time, you have to be engaged. One of the reasons that they are able to move the carrot and play Whack-a-Mole with you is because you’re not engaged. You’re not always there. Someone’s not watching and seeing what’s going on and calling people out and telling them what’s wrong and that they shouldn’t be doing certain things.  The community needs a mechanism to get back to where we can have your locally black owned businesses. Just like you have all of those shops, clubs, and businesses on Bardstown Road, Russell was the same way. It was exactly the same way. You had Old Walnut Street, Broadway and Market Street. You had those corridors of high economic activity and that’s what we need to get back to. It’s not so much of bringing back the big boxes but we need to focus more on that aspect.  The biggest thing is getting people who care about the neighborhood, to move back into the neighborhood and take that leap of faith. Now, a lot of people don’t want to because there’s not a lot in Russell. It’s like the chicken and the egg. Nobody wants to move back here because of the services but you can’t get the services without the people. Specifically, you can’t get the services without the income. What comes first? You have the Cedar Street development, that has the new homes. They’re trying to entice people to move back with those homes and that’s a good thing but you have a lot of these older homes. One good thing about these older homes is that the way that they are made, they are infinitely repairable. It just takes the elbow grease and the resources. I try to tell a lot of people that it doesn’t take that much money to do something like get the house  and repair it. You can get some of these houses for $5,000-$10,000 and take out a mortgage for $150,000 and you’ll have just as nice of a home like one in Old Louisville and you’ll do more with it. You’ll have your granite countertops and your stainless steel appliances. You would have a home that if you could pick it up and move it NuLu, you would have a $600,000 crib. If we can get more folks to move back in and take ownership of some of these properties, you would see a big change. It’s going to be an uphill struggle because the economy in Russell no longer exists with black folks in Louisville and that’s the biggest issue.   We had a lot of newly free blacks leaving the South and other parts of the Kentucky to come to Louisville because we had those jobs, like Philip Morris, Brown-Forman and tobacco warehouses. There were plenty of places for people to work. Then you had the L&N railroads. They had pullman porters back in the 20’s, 30’s and 50’s. Being a pullman porter was a big job and L&N was right there. You could walk to Union Station and go to work and come on back. There was a lot of that type of money being generated, which made it easier for guys like your A.D. Porter, Stiths and those guys to start businesses and have candy stores and things of that nature, to kind of generate that economic mercantile class that you need. It was that solid black middle class that you need to keep things going. Once Louisville’s manufacturing base started to leave. International Harvester closed and all the tobacco companies started to move away. L&N went under. Louisville changed from a manufacturer to more of a service economy. It took a lot of that wealth with it. Then you had urban renewal come in and it destroyed the last remaining of the strong black business districts. It was a one-two punch that was hard to recover from. It’s hard to get that back but you have to figure out a way to get that back and that is Louisville’s struggle. You know Louisville has a grant, right now, and they’re using that for Beecher Terrace. Louisville also has a Place of Promise grant, which seeks to revitalize Russell, without gentrification, and focuses on homeownership and getting jobs. The trick to it is that there is a lot of jobs in Russell but they don’t hire people from Russell. The jobs in Russell actually pay above the national and Kentucky average, as far as wages. They just don’t hire anybody from West Louisville and that’s a very big problem. Half the businesses here aren’t hiring anybody here. You’re still dealing with the racial inequalities and things of that nature.” - Haven, Russell 

“I’ve been here for about fifteen years. I spent all of my childhood here, when I moved back from Delaware, with my dad. I stayed with my grandparents. We gotta house in J-Town but I went to school off Dixie Highway because that was close to where my dad worked. I used to catch the bus here from school. I spent all my summers here and everyday after school was spent here from 4th grade until I was a senior in high school. My best friend, at that time, used to live on Larkwood, by Shawnee Park. So, I used to either walk or catch the bus. We used to play basketball and I would walk or catch the bus right back. 

I remember going to Consolidated, which is now a halfway house, on the corner of 15th and Jefferson. It was like the department store. I remember getting my shoe laces getting caught on the escalator at Sears, which was on 9th and Broadway. My grandfather used to get carpet from this carpet place that used to be the Big A Shopping Center on Bolling. 

Me and my cousin, who is like my brother, these are the blocks that we ran. He grew up on 24th and Jefferson. This is where we were and this is what we did. We used to go to Dairy Del, Elliot Park to play ball and would run up all through here. I still keep in contact with a lot of people that I grew up in the neighborhood with. That’s changed quite a bit because it’s no where near as nice as it was when I was growing up. Even then, there was still a lot of older people here but you know, the houses and yards were maintained. It had that typical neighborhood vibe. For instance, if me and my cousin were doing something, at the end of the block, that we weren’t supposed to be doing, my grandfather would know about it by the time we got back. From the time we walked from one block to the next, my grandfather was like, “Come here!”. We already knew what was up, so we had to keep our noses clean because everybody knew Mr. Red. Everybody knew Mr. Red. 

I’m forty-five years old and my grandfather passed six or seven years ago and I’m still known as Mr. Red’s grandson. Just like guys, that are my dad’s age, they’re in their seventies and all of their kids and their kids used to get their hair cut by my grandfather. So, he’s cut about three, almost four generations of hair. It’s not too many places that I can go where somebody doesn’t know me as Mr. Red’s grandson. Of course with being a staple in Russell and living here for sixty-plus years.

My granddad is my idol. He’s taught almost all of my life lessons like the importance of owning your own business. He taught me how to manage money. He always told us to pay ourselves first before we pay anybody else. Him and my grandmother used to always read the Bible close to us all the time. As a kid, I was like, “Man, squash that!”. Now, as an adult, it makes perfect sense. You know like, “A good name is better to be chosen than gold” is true and they constantly drilled that in us. We had to take piano lessons as we would read the Bible everyday. So everyday, after school, we would read a chapter from the Bible. My cousin and I would take turns reading chapter. I read the Bible, from cover to cover, about three or four times. When I first started reading it, I didn’t understand it because it was all of that old English. As I got further in middle and high school, I better understood. It’s just that discipline. It’s just that old school discipline. My grandfather was that old school disciplinary and we had our routine. If I was here, we know that every Tuesday we were going to the barber store and the candy store. HIs barber shop sold a lot of candy. That’s when we would go get candy and do all these other things. 

It wasn’t until later in life, when I was talking to my grandfather and some of this friends, that I would understand some of the things that he would do. Like, he used to always order his shoes from books. I always wondered about that. He would never really go to shoe stores and pick them out. He would order them from these little catalogs that he used to get. I thought it was because he stood for a long time and just needed special barbering shoes. Come to find out, when my dad was younger, at that time, department stores on 4th Street wouldn't let black folks try on shoes or clothes. That made my grandfather furious. He decided not to patronize those places and would order his stuff from catalogs. 

It was just those life lessons that are still with me today. You know, I went to church every Sunday. My grandfather was a deacon and in the choir. He was one of the toughest dudes I knew.

This is always home. Plus, I like the bricks. I lived in J-town and had a nice apartment. I call this the bricks. I like the urban feel. I always loved the urban feel. I like having the ability just to walk up the street and walk to places. I like it. I like the density and the older homes. When I go to places like Chicago and Baltimore, I like that urban feeling. It’s not for everybody and I get that but it’s not so cookie cutter. Everything is different.

I have a little apprehension about the new development. I’m positive but I’m apprehensive because I know how these things normally go down. I like to consider myself a closet historian and once you study Louisville’s history, especially Louisville’s race relations, you kind of see the same kind of patterns repeat themselves. You see the same kind of dog and pony shows and the dangling of the carrot. You know, like, if you do this, you may get this and nothing never happens. Or it does happen but it doesn’t happen to your or your community’s benefit. So, I stay guardedly optimistic but at the same time, you have to be engaged. One of the reasons that they are able to move the carrot and play Whack-a-Mole with you is because you’re not engaged. You’re not always there. Someone’s not watching and seeing what’s going on and calling people out and telling them what’s wrong and that they shouldn’t be doing certain things.

The community needs a mechanism to get back to where we can have your locally black owned businesses. Just like you have all of those shops, clubs, and businesses on Bardstown Road, Russell was the same way. It was exactly the same way. You had Old Walnut Street, Broadway and Market Street. You had those corridors of high economic activity and that’s what we need to get back to. It’s not so much of bringing back the big boxes but we need to focus more on that aspect.

The biggest thing is getting people who care about the neighborhood, to move back into the neighborhood and take that leap of faith. Now, a lot of people don’t want to because there’s not a lot in Russell. It’s like the chicken and the egg. Nobody wants to move back here because of the services but you can’t get the services without the people. Specifically, you can’t get the services without the income. What comes first? You have the Cedar Street development, that has the new homes. They’re trying to entice people to move back with those homes and that’s a good thing but you have a lot of these older homes. One good thing about these older homes is that the way that they are made, they are infinitely repairable. It just takes the elbow grease and the resources. I try to tell a lot of people that it doesn’t take that much money to do something like get the house  and repair it. You can get some of these houses for $5,000-$10,000 and take out a mortgage for $150,000 and you’ll have just as nice of a home like one in Old Louisville and you’ll do more with it. You’ll have your granite countertops and your stainless steel appliances. You would have a home that if you could pick it up and move it NuLu, you would have a $600,000 crib. If we can get more folks to move back in and take ownership of some of these properties, you would see a big change. It’s going to be an uphill struggle because the economy in Russell no longer exists with black folks in Louisville and that’s the biggest issue. 

We had a lot of newly free blacks leaving the South and other parts of the Kentucky to come to Louisville because we had those jobs, like Philip Morris, Brown-Forman and tobacco warehouses. There were plenty of places for people to work. Then you had the L&N railroads. They had pullman porters back in the 20’s, 30’s and 50’s. Being a pullman porter was a big job and L&N was right there. You could walk to Union Station and go to work and come on back. There was a lot of that type of money being generated, which made it easier for guys like your A.D. Porter, Stiths and those guys to start businesses and have candy stores and things of that nature, to kind of generate that economic mercantile class that you need. It was that solid black middle class that you need to keep things going. Once Louisville’s manufacturing base started to leave. International Harvester closed and all the tobacco companies started to move away. L&N went under. Louisville changed from a manufacturer to more of a service economy. It took a lot of that wealth with it. Then you had urban renewal come in and it destroyed the last remaining of the strong black business districts. It was a one-two punch that was hard to recover from. It’s hard to get that back but you have to figure out a way to get that back and that is Louisville’s struggle. You know Louisville has a grant, right now, and they’re using that for Beecher Terrace. Louisville also has a Place of Promise grant, which seeks to revitalize Russell, without gentrification, and focuses on homeownership and getting jobs. The trick to it is that there is a lot of jobs in Russell but they don’t hire people from Russell. The jobs in Russell actually pay above the national and Kentucky average, as far as wages. They just don’t hire anybody from West Louisville and that’s a very big problem. Half the businesses here aren’t hiring anybody here. You’re still dealing with the racial inequalities and things of that nature.” - Haven, Russell 

“I’ve been in the West End my whole life. I was born and raised here. We lived in California Square. When I was six or seven, we moved to 42nd. Yeah, I’ve been here my whole life.  Growing up in the West really ain’t as bad as people think it is. It depends on the people that you involve yourself around and the people in your household. It’s a lot deeper than just the streets. The streets don’t turn people into monsters, people turn people into monsters. It’s who they go look to find leadership in and who they feel like is giving them the most love at the time. It’s deeper than just your surroundings and where you live at. I feel like it’s the stuff on tv, the social media, the stuff that people are portraying is what’s the best. It’s making the youth turn into what they are. I feel like it’s a lot of different outlets that people could use if they really care. People say that they care about a person but don’t really feel the way that they say that they feel. They care more about what they could get out of the relationship instead of really helping a young person.  Ain’t nothing wrong with the streets of the West. I don’t feel like there’s anything wrong. I’ve lived here my whole life. My mom loves the West End. She’s been a respiratory therapist for twenty-something years. She’s retired now and doing really well and she still lives in the West. She enjoys being around the people that she’s around, not the streets.  I feel like they’re changing the streets but they’re not changing the streets. Just cause they’re putting down new pavement and putting up a YMCA, it’s not really going to be for the youth of the West End, you know, the people that they make look bad on the news. I feel like the government is putting everybody, that they feel like is a problem, in a certain situation anyway. If a person needs help, they’re going to put them around a lot of people, who also need help, which makes a lot of bad shit happen. Even with the projects, they put people who needs assistance in a certain area. That’s going to create problems in that area because everybody needs help. Everybody is trying to come up on something. Everybody’s trying to come up on some money. Everybody’s trying to figure out how they’re going to feed their kids. A lot of negative stuff happens when you put anyone’s back against the wall. That’s how I feel.  It’s more than just gentrification that’s happening. It’s not just happening in West Louisville, but around the world. It’s happening on a high level. They raise the prices, around here, on everything. They do that on purpose to make who’s down stay down. It’s not just black people in the West End now. You can ride down the street and see just as many white people as you do black people. They need help and when they go to the government for assistance, they’ll just put them down here. They’re hurting us and they’re doing it on purpose. The majority of Section 8 houses is in the West End of Louisville. There’s a small percentage of Section 8 houses in different areas of this city beside maybe Newburg. Nobody who is upper class is out in these areas, where the majority is black people.  Hell yeah, gentrification is going on. I don’t use that as a crutch nor do I think that anyone else should use it as a crutch, either. Like I said, when your back is against the wall, you’re gonna do whatever you gotta do to make your situation the best you can. So, even when the odds are against you, you can’t use that as a crutch or feel like you could have a bad life and just blame it on gentrification. Nah, you gotta change you. You gotta change what’s going on around you.  A lot of people aren’t as mentally strong as others but a lot of people are out here in these streets and those are the people who really need help, whether they fall victim to heroin, which is not only an epidemic. They’re giving people heroin. They give out heroin when someone breaks their leg and they have to take Perc-10’s. They’re giving them heroin when they break a leg and tell the people to take Lortab 5’s. Then once these people like how these narcotics like how they make them feel, they wonder if it gets better.  Then you got young teenagers out here, looking up to the wrong people and rap videos and dude that’s on the corner with the big rims on his car, that doesn’t work a job and hasn’t his whole life. They see that dude is getting his money real quick. That’s when them H players come into play and serve them a pill and put them back in the West End. One of them lil kids will serve him. Lock him up and he’ll tell on one of them. It’s a cycle. They keep that shit going. It’s deep.  The people that they continue to place in the West End will continue with the cycle. I really feel like it’ll continue because people with weak minds do weak things. It’s going to keep going down until they take the West End back. They’ll eventually take it back because of the location and that’s what they’re working on doing now by changing the streets. That’s why I said that they are changing the streets but not the streets. If they wanted to change the streets, they would have added a Boys & Girls Club or put $100,000 in renovation in this Boys & Girls Club around the corner. They could have the local rap musicians come to these places and show these kids that, “Just because I rap, it doesn’t make me a bad guy. Just because I say I do this, it doesn’t mean I’m out here really doing this, G.” A lot of people don’t know that the Migos went to college. Them dudes ain’t no trappers. They really not out here in these streets but yet that’s the type of music that they really want our kids to listen to because if they hear it, they’ll do it. They know that.  I feel like the West End would be doing so much better if the people came together. The only time we come together is when the police is beating up on us and that’s because we’re sick of that shit. That shit’s been going on forever and we’re sick of that shit. Other than that, they not coming together saying that nobody is down here in the Boys & Girls Club, reading books to the kids. Ain’t nobody down here, standing on corners, making sure that people got food in their house. When it’s freezing outside, they ain’t opening up a building, talking about anybody can come down here if they need a place to stay. They’re not doing any of that but they’re changing streets.” - Terrance, Parkland

“I’ve been in the West End my whole life. I was born and raised here. We lived in California Square. When I was six or seven, we moved to 42nd. Yeah, I’ve been here my whole life.

Growing up in the West really ain’t as bad as people think it is. It depends on the people that you involve yourself around and the people in your household. It’s a lot deeper than just the streets. The streets don’t turn people into monsters, people turn people into monsters. It’s who they go look to find leadership in and who they feel like is giving them the most love at the time. It’s deeper than just your surroundings and where you live at. I feel like it’s the stuff on tv, the social media, the stuff that people are portraying is what’s the best. It’s making the youth turn into what they are. I feel like it’s a lot of different outlets that people could use if they really care. People say that they care about a person but don’t really feel the way that they say that they feel. They care more about what they could get out of the relationship instead of really helping a young person.

Ain’t nothing wrong with the streets of the West. I don’t feel like there’s anything wrong. I’ve lived here my whole life. My mom loves the West End. She’s been a respiratory therapist for twenty-something years. She’s retired now and doing really well and she still lives in the West. She enjoys being around the people that she’s around, not the streets.

I feel like they’re changing the streets but they’re not changing the streets. Just cause they’re putting down new pavement and putting up a YMCA, it’s not really going to be for the youth of the West End, you know, the people that they make look bad on the news. I feel like the government is putting everybody, that they feel like is a problem, in a certain situation anyway. If a person needs help, they’re going to put them around a lot of people, who also need help, which makes a lot of bad shit happen. Even with the projects, they put people who needs assistance in a certain area. That’s going to create problems in that area because everybody needs help. Everybody is trying to come up on something. Everybody’s trying to come up on some money. Everybody’s trying to figure out how they’re going to feed their kids. A lot of negative stuff happens when you put anyone’s back against the wall. That’s how I feel.

It’s more than just gentrification that’s happening. It’s not just happening in West Louisville, but around the world. It’s happening on a high level. They raise the prices, around here, on everything. They do that on purpose to make who’s down stay down. It’s not just black people in the West End now. You can ride down the street and see just as many white people as you do black people. They need help and when they go to the government for assistance, they’ll just put them down here. They’re hurting us and they’re doing it on purpose. The majority of Section 8 houses is in the West End of Louisville. There’s a small percentage of Section 8 houses in different areas of this city beside maybe Newburg. Nobody who is upper class is out in these areas, where the majority is black people.

Hell yeah, gentrification is going on. I don’t use that as a crutch nor do I think that anyone else should use it as a crutch, either. Like I said, when your back is against the wall, you’re gonna do whatever you gotta do to make your situation the best you can. So, even when the odds are against you, you can’t use that as a crutch or feel like you could have a bad life and just blame it on gentrification. Nah, you gotta change you. You gotta change what’s going on around you.

A lot of people aren’t as mentally strong as others but a lot of people are out here in these streets and those are the people who really need help, whether they fall victim to heroin, which is not only an epidemic. They’re giving people heroin. They give out heroin when someone breaks their leg and they have to take Perc-10’s. They’re giving them heroin when they break a leg and tell the people to take Lortab 5’s. Then once these people like how these narcotics like how they make them feel, they wonder if it gets better.

Then you got young teenagers out here, looking up to the wrong people and rap videos and dude that’s on the corner with the big rims on his car, that doesn’t work a job and hasn’t his whole life. They see that dude is getting his money real quick. That’s when them H players come into play and serve them a pill and put them back in the West End. One of them lil kids will serve him. Lock him up and he’ll tell on one of them. It’s a cycle. They keep that shit going. It’s deep.

The people that they continue to place in the West End will continue with the cycle. I really feel like it’ll continue because people with weak minds do weak things. It’s going to keep going down until they take the West End back. They’ll eventually take it back because of the location and that’s what they’re working on doing now by changing the streets. That’s why I said that they are changing the streets but not the streets. If they wanted to change the streets, they would have added a Boys & Girls Club or put $100,000 in renovation in this Boys & Girls Club around the corner. They could have the local rap musicians come to these places and show these kids that, “Just because I rap, it doesn’t make me a bad guy. Just because I say I do this, it doesn’t mean I’m out here really doing this, G.” A lot of people don’t know that the Migos went to college. Them dudes ain’t no trappers. They really not out here in these streets but yet that’s the type of music that they really want our kids to listen to because if they hear it, they’ll do it. They know that.

I feel like the West End would be doing so much better if the people came together. The only time we come together is when the police is beating up on us and that’s because we’re sick of that shit. That shit’s been going on forever and we’re sick of that shit. Other than that, they not coming together saying that nobody is down here in the Boys & Girls Club, reading books to the kids. Ain’t nobody down here, standing on corners, making sure that people got food in their house. When it’s freezing outside, they ain’t opening up a building, talking about anybody can come down here if they need a place to stay. They’re not doing any of that but they’re changing streets.” - Terrance, Parkland

“I’ve been in Beecher since 2012. My experience has been up and down. I almost lost my place about four or five times. Utilities have been cut off and I haven’t had food sometimes. I’ve been stressed and depressed. I had to get over those humps. I lost my kids in 2008. I’ve been trying to get them back and getting everything in order to get them back. I’m just trying to do what I need to do to succeed and get them back. This was supposed to get me up and it’s here. Everything is coming about. The only thing that I can say is that it was a tragedy at first, but now it’s triumph. I’m glad to be where I’m at and to be able to move. I’m glad to show people that even though I got my kids taken, I can still make a turnabout. I don’t have to worry about what I’m going to do because God’s got it.   In 2008, I ended up losing my kids because of a guy, who I thought really loved me and he didn’t. I turned around and messed up. He started abusing me. I thought it was love and it wasn’t. I ended up having to get myself over that. It took me about two or three years but I got over it. I lost my apartment. I was in New Direction housing and ended up losing my apartment. I ended up being in the streets for about three or four years and then I got here in 2012. I’ve been here and have been holding it down. It’s been rocky because of the different bills that they say we have to pay extra for. We still get the help that we gotta get but sometimes it’s hard, it really is. Not only that, I’m on disability and I don’t want to be on it anymore. My master’s degree is getting ready to make me money. It’s a blessing. With that, God’s been doing everything for me by opening up so many doors. I got into hair school and I’m getting ready to graduate. I’m getting ready to move and it triumph and I got my foot in the door. It’s time to shine and show and prove that I’m still here and I still got this. I’m here and I made it. I didn’t fall.   What kept me motivated? Sometimes, I talked to my kids. I really did. I found out my son graduated and he’s going to the navy. My daughter, she sings for the St. Stephens. My other daughter sings in her elementary choir. My sister works for corrections and helps and supports me. That’s all I can say. I am a champion and that’s all that matter.   I think the new development in Beecher Terrace is going to be okay. As long as they’re going to be here and help us by showing us new opportunities and showing people that don’t know what’s going on. They’ve been showing us a lot. They just told us that we can get home ownership through the Urban League, so that’s what I plan on doing. I plan on going with the Urban League, so I can get a house. I plan on holding down my place. Not only that, I want to open up my own salon and come back and give back to my community. I wanna give back to the same community who helped and supported me by telling me that they weren’t going to let me fall and that they were going to be here with me. Ms. Ebony, Ms. Kathy and Ms. Wendy helped and supported me. They did everything they needed to do for me. They helped keep me from losing my place. Sometimes, I didn’t have money because I had to spend it on food, I had to go over there and tell them that I didn’t have it. They helped me, no matter what, to prove that they weren’t gong to let anybody fall. That’s what kept me going and happy and excited for the opportunities that’s coming.   Don’t give up on hope, faith and God. When you think that you need to throw in the towel, you don’t need to. There’s still another door that’s right there and will open, even when you see everything closed. There’s still a door that’s like, “I’m here and I got you. I’m going to make sure that you’re going to survive and succeed.” That’s motivation!” - Elizabeth, Russell 

“I’ve been in Beecher since 2012. My experience has been up and down. I almost lost my place about four or five times. Utilities have been cut off and I haven’t had food sometimes. I’ve been stressed and depressed. I had to get over those humps. I lost my kids in 2008. I’ve been trying to get them back and getting everything in order to get them back. I’m just trying to do what I need to do to succeed and get them back. This was supposed to get me up and it’s here. Everything is coming about. The only thing that I can say is that it was a tragedy at first, but now it’s triumph. I’m glad to be where I’m at and to be able to move. I’m glad to show people that even though I got my kids taken, I can still make a turnabout. I don’t have to worry about what I’m going to do because God’s got it. 

In 2008, I ended up losing my kids because of a guy, who I thought really loved me and he didn’t. I turned around and messed up. He started abusing me. I thought it was love and it wasn’t. I ended up having to get myself over that. It took me about two or three years but I got over it. I lost my apartment. I was in New Direction housing and ended up losing my apartment. I ended up being in the streets for about three or four years and then I got here in 2012. I’ve been here and have been holding it down. It’s been rocky because of the different bills that they say we have to pay extra for. We still get the help that we gotta get but sometimes it’s hard, it really is. Not only that, I’m on disability and I don’t want to be on it anymore. My master’s degree is getting ready to make me money. It’s a blessing. With that, God’s been doing everything for me by opening up so many doors. I got into hair school and I’m getting ready to graduate. I’m getting ready to move and it triumph and I got my foot in the door. It’s time to shine and show and prove that I’m still here and I still got this. I’m here and I made it. I didn’t fall. 

What kept me motivated? Sometimes, I talked to my kids. I really did. I found out my son graduated and he’s going to the navy. My daughter, she sings for the St. Stephens. My other daughter sings in her elementary choir. My sister works for corrections and helps and supports me. That’s all I can say. I am a champion and that’s all that matter. 

I think the new development in Beecher Terrace is going to be okay. As long as they’re going to be here and help us by showing us new opportunities and showing people that don’t know what’s going on. They’ve been showing us a lot. They just told us that we can get home ownership through the Urban League, so that’s what I plan on doing. I plan on going with the Urban League, so I can get a house. I plan on holding down my place. Not only that, I want to open up my own salon and come back and give back to my community. I wanna give back to the same community who helped and supported me by telling me that they weren’t going to let me fall and that they were going to be here with me. Ms. Ebony, Ms. Kathy and Ms. Wendy helped and supported me. They did everything they needed to do for me. They helped keep me from losing my place. Sometimes, I didn’t have money because I had to spend it on food, I had to go over there and tell them that I didn’t have it. They helped me, no matter what, to prove that they weren’t gong to let anybody fall. That’s what kept me going and happy and excited for the opportunities that’s coming. 

Don’t give up on hope, faith and God. When you think that you need to throw in the towel, you don’t need to. There’s still another door that’s right there and will open, even when you see everything closed. There’s still a door that’s like, “I’m here and I got you. I’m going to make sure that you’re going to survive and succeed.” That’s motivation!” - Elizabeth, Russell 

“I moved to Virginia Beach when I was five. Then I was about nine years old and all of a sudden, I had to move back to Louisville, when my mother got sentenced. My sister was in Virginia Beach, too, but she decided to stay with her boyfriend, so I had to come here and stay with my grandmother. I didn't know anyone else and I was brought to the West End. I just had to start making my way, but then I went back to Virginia and we came back here when I was thirteen. It was like I was on my own because my grandma had five kids in her house to take care of. Even though we had discipline in our household, I still found myself in the streets.  When I was in 12th grade, there were times I would come out and would see my mother outside, stumbling down the street, from doing drugs. There were a few times when I would take her to rehab before school. I was so frustrated and depressed and I started drinking during my senior year in high school. Seeing my mother like that, took a toll on me. I was drinking a lot at eighteen.  So I didn't go right off to college and didn't graduate high school. I did end up going back and got my high school diploma. As a kid, I was always very smart and made straight a's. I have always been intelligent, but the trauma with my mother and not having a father, had me depressed. I ended up going to some college and but I had a record. I quit college because I was like, " Why am I going to college? I can't get a job. I'm gonna have to make my own way.” From the age of twenty-five, I decided to make it on my own.  My turning point came when I was living in Nashville. I bumped into a lady at the gas station and she told that something brought her to me and she prayed for me. I never seen anything like that happen to anyone. We were at a gas station and it made a difference. I moved back to Louisville and started to wake up and started reading a lot and opening my mind to different things. The shift started. I started learning about myself and loving myself. I was lost and hurt and then it just started clicking. I was getting back to who I was before I moved back to Louisville, after losing my mother to the penitentiary. I was getting back to me.  My mother got clean and has remained clean since. Her strength to overcome her addiction really inspired and taught me so much about overcoming adversity. I would not be the man that I am today, if it were not for her. She’s solid and she never gave up on me. We will always have each other’s back and for that I am grateful.  I owned two businesses and it came to a point, where I felt successful but it was all about the money. It was a money chase. I thought money would change my life and help me but I wanted purpose. I thought that the money would make me happy but I needed to find my purpose in life. After losing a lot of friends to the penitentiary, death and bad health, I was seeing a lot of what could happen when living in a poor community. It’s a lot of violence and everything. It’s deadly and not livable. It’s not cool to feel comfortable in poverty because it’s not really that comfortable. I realized that it’s a mentality that leads to the physical environment. Poverty kills; it’s not cool. No one should have to rest in poverty. You shouldn’t feel comfortable in a poverty state.  I decided to do something with that and I was always into art and my cousin was into designing clothes. We came together and created Poverty Kills and we’re pushing this message. We’ve worked with different programs throughout the city, like Deeply Rooted. We made it so that a percentage of every purchase went to their program. We’ve also taken some clothes to the homeless and others in need. I even had the chance to go to Jamaica and speak to children at a school about entrepreneurship and poverty and building wealth from creativity.  I would love to wake up as many people as I can. I want them to realize that they can be more than their environment. You can change your mind, your environment and you can overcome your circumstances, no matter where you’re at. I would like to wake up a lot of dudes that go through the streets and poverty and let them know that it was never them. Like, you was never a street dude, but it was just your environment and your mind. That was never you. I want people to be their higher self, while they’re here, instead of living a lower life. You have a chance to really be whatever and your circumstances are mental and causing you to take to the streets.  Through your mind, anything is possible. At anytime, you can change your life and accomplish anything with willpower, patience and staying focused. You can really direct yourself and create the life that you want. You don't have to live it another way, you can really do it your way and you don't have to feel bad for being yourself. I dealt with tons of regrets from taking the wrong route. Knowing that I was intelligent, I could have been a doctor or a lawyer. I had tons of regrets from skipping college but now, I’m at a place where I no longer have any regrets because I love who I am and I’m happy with that.” - Anthony, Co-Founder of Poverty Kills Clothing, Chickasaw

“I moved to Virginia Beach when I was five. Then I was about nine years old and all of a sudden, I had to move back to Louisville, when my mother got sentenced. My sister was in Virginia Beach, too, but she decided to stay with her boyfriend, so I had to come here and stay with my grandmother. I didn't know anyone else and I was brought to the West End. I just had to start making my way, but then I went back to Virginia and we came back here when I was thirteen. It was like I was on my own because my grandma had five kids in her house to take care of. Even though we had discipline in our household, I still found myself in the streets.

When I was in 12th grade, there were times I would come out and would see my mother outside, stumbling down the street, from doing drugs. There were a few times when I would take her to rehab before school. I was so frustrated and depressed and I started drinking during my senior year in high school. Seeing my mother like that, took a toll on me. I was drinking a lot at eighteen.

So I didn't go right off to college and didn't graduate high school. I did end up going back and got my high school diploma. As a kid, I was always very smart and made straight a's. I have always been intelligent, but the trauma with my mother and not having a father, had me depressed. I ended up going to some college and but I had a record. I quit college because I was like, " Why am I going to college? I can't get a job. I'm gonna have to make my own way.” From the age of twenty-five, I decided to make it on my own.

My turning point came when I was living in Nashville. I bumped into a lady at the gas station and she told that something brought her to me and she prayed for me. I never seen anything like that happen to anyone. We were at a gas station and it made a difference. I moved back to Louisville and started to wake up and started reading a lot and opening my mind to different things. The shift started. I started learning about myself and loving myself. I was lost and hurt and then it just started clicking. I was getting back to who I was before I moved back to Louisville, after losing my mother to the penitentiary. I was getting back to me.

My mother got clean and has remained clean since. Her strength to overcome her addiction really inspired and taught me so much about overcoming adversity. I would not be the man that I am today, if it were not for her. She’s solid and she never gave up on me. We will always have each other’s back and for that I am grateful.

I owned two businesses and it came to a point, where I felt successful but it was all about the money. It was a money chase. I thought money would change my life and help me but I wanted purpose. I thought that the money would make me happy but I needed to find my purpose in life. After losing a lot of friends to the penitentiary, death and bad health, I was seeing a lot of what could happen when living in a poor community. It’s a lot of violence and everything. It’s deadly and not livable. It’s not cool to feel comfortable in poverty because it’s not really that comfortable. I realized that it’s a mentality that leads to the physical environment. Poverty kills; it’s not cool. No one should have to rest in poverty. You shouldn’t feel comfortable in a poverty state.

I decided to do something with that and I was always into art and my cousin was into designing clothes. We came together and created Poverty Kills and we’re pushing this message. We’ve worked with different programs throughout the city, like Deeply Rooted. We made it so that a percentage of every purchase went to their program. We’ve also taken some clothes to the homeless and others in need. I even had the chance to go to Jamaica and speak to children at a school about entrepreneurship and poverty and building wealth from creativity.

I would love to wake up as many people as I can. I want them to realize that they can be more than their environment. You can change your mind, your environment and you can overcome your circumstances, no matter where you’re at. I would like to wake up a lot of dudes that go through the streets and poverty and let them know that it was never them. Like, you was never a street dude, but it was just your environment and your mind. That was never you. I want people to be their higher self, while they’re here, instead of living a lower life. You have a chance to really be whatever and your circumstances are mental and causing you to take to the streets.

Through your mind, anything is possible. At anytime, you can change your life and accomplish anything with willpower, patience and staying focused. You can really direct yourself and create the life that you want. You don't have to live it another way, you can really do it your way and you don't have to feel bad for being yourself. I dealt with tons of regrets from taking the wrong route. Knowing that I was intelligent, I could have been a doctor or a lawyer. I had tons of regrets from skipping college but now, I’m at a place where I no longer have any regrets because I love who I am and I’m happy with that.” - Anthony, Co-Founder of Poverty Kills Clothing, Chickasaw

“Dr. King in his "Drum Major Instinct” speech spoke on being a servant. The type of service that he did, he wasn’t well paid as a lot of the activists are today. He was looking for his reward in heaven. I really think that’s what inspired me the most, is the serve. The greatest amongst you should be your servant. That’s what he said in his “Drum Major Instinct” speech and I agree.  I would give advice to the black community, specifically. I’m not versed on every issue in the world. I do know that Dr. Martin Luther King fought for negroes’ rights and I think that we have split, to some extent, between family breakdowns and addictions within the community. There’s a whole lot of different things that separate us and the unity we had, under his one voice, is what I hope we go back to. Right now, we’re celebrating Martin Luther King Day and just last night, Kamala Harris announced that she’s running for president. There’s not a unified black community behind her. There are identity politics, which she represents more so than the community that wants her to be in office. I want that unity to be restored. I want the community to be restored. I want the families to be restored, so that we as a collective, can be whole.  We can fight heroine if we stop selling it to ourselves. We can fight homelessness if we open our doors to one another. We can fight starvation if we treat each other as brothers and sisters. We have to stop discounting each other. We still have a long way to go before we find equality in America. We need to go back and reclaim lost values, like Dr. King spoke on. When he said that, he was saying that when they left Jesus, a day’s journey away, they had to go back to reclaim Jesus, so they can go forward. We’re in the same situation. Our community is a lot more secular than it used to be. The black church isn’t the pillar, like it used to be. In fact, it’s more so identity politics and focus groups that take our charge. So, going back to reclaim Jesus is a big thing, which means we need to re-identify in love . ” - Dereck (pictured left), California   “There’s so much to think about when you listen to all of the people that hung out with Dr. King, like J.W. Stokes, Rev. Elliott and all of these guys in this community. They talk about how he inspired them and you try to live in that shadow. We were the dream. We are the dream. To live under that inspiration and to hear these men talk about him, for me, is to be that kind of man. That’s what most inspired him. He could see me, in the future, being that man.  The strength and the power of the force of unity is something that, if ever needed, I hope we have it, collectively, regardless of who we are. My advice is for us to not see ourselves as separate and get fragmented in our own viewpoints and find that collective unity. The strongest force is unity. There’s no other force stronger. Find that strength and voice in unity. We need to be whole to carry and shoulder each other’s burdens.” - Martin (pictured right), California

“Dr. King in his "Drum Major Instinct” speech spoke on being a servant. The type of service that he did, he wasn’t well paid as a lot of the activists are today. He was looking for his reward in heaven. I really think that’s what inspired me the most, is the serve. The greatest amongst you should be your servant. That’s what he said in his “Drum Major Instinct” speech and I agree.

I would give advice to the black community, specifically. I’m not versed on every issue in the world. I do know that Dr. Martin Luther King fought for negroes’ rights and I think that we have split, to some extent, between family breakdowns and addictions within the community. There’s a whole lot of different things that separate us and the unity we had, under his one voice, is what I hope we go back to. Right now, we’re celebrating Martin Luther King Day and just last night, Kamala Harris announced that she’s running for president. There’s not a unified black community behind her. There are identity politics, which she represents more so than the community that wants her to be in office. I want that unity to be restored. I want the community to be restored. I want the families to be restored, so that we as a collective, can be whole.

We can fight heroine if we stop selling it to ourselves. We can fight homelessness if we open our doors to one another. We can fight starvation if we treat each other as brothers and sisters. We have to stop discounting each other. We still have a long way to go before we find equality in America. We need to go back and reclaim lost values, like Dr. King spoke on. When he said that, he was saying that when they left Jesus, a day’s journey away, they had to go back to reclaim Jesus, so they can go forward. We’re in the same situation. Our community is a lot more secular than it used to be. The black church isn’t the pillar, like it used to be. In fact, it’s more so identity politics and focus groups that take our charge. So, going back to reclaim Jesus is a big thing, which means we need to re-identify in love . ” - Dereck (pictured left), California


“There’s so much to think about when you listen to all of the people that hung out with Dr. King, like J.W. Stokes, Rev. Elliott and all of these guys in this community. They talk about how he inspired them and you try to live in that shadow. We were the dream. We are the dream. To live under that inspiration and to hear these men talk about him, for me, is to be that kind of man. That’s what most inspired him. He could see me, in the future, being that man.

The strength and the power of the force of unity is something that, if ever needed, I hope we have it, collectively, regardless of who we are. My advice is for us to not see ourselves as separate and get fragmented in our own viewpoints and find that collective unity. The strongest force is unity. There’s no other force stronger. Find that strength and voice in unity. We need to be whole to carry and shoulder each other’s burdens.” - Martin (pictured right), California

"We were born and raised down here. A similar pain brought us together and we really gotta hell of a friendship. Basically, being misunderstood, we understand each other. It’s not a relationship but we’re starting with the foundation. Like iron sharpens irons, as too, a friend sharpens a friend. It’s pure respect and buildup. I’d be sucka if I was trying to get with her and she ain’t at her fullest and I’m not at my fullest, ya dig? We’re just trying to build and it’s a beautiful friendship.   We gotta body that can’t digest drugs and a mind that can’t digest life, so we're thoroughly misunderstood because we self medicate. Family looks at it like we’re doing drugs and so we’re both outcasts. I feel like I’m supposed to be a blessing to my family and not a burden. The devil, like the lawyer he his, knows scripture and accuses us like a lawyer. So, like it’s a third party voice, my dad’s wife, who is propaganda. However, propaganda is like hocus locus, right? However, my self medication makes my propaganda look true, ya dig? Those real close ties start to fade and we seek comfort anyway we can, in each other. People don’t like drugs, it’s just a release. Alcohol isn’t nothing but a drink. It’s about thinking. Take the drugs and drink away and we’re still broken. This shit goes back to my childhood. It’s deeply engraved.   With me, it started when my parents broke up. I came from a broken-home the devil divided it. I was ten years old. I took my first drink at ten. I told my brother to give me a beer and he said, “If you kill it, I won’t tell moms. If you don’t kill it, I’ll tell her.” So, I killed it and boom, I had arrived. I felt like I needed to feel. I didn’t miss mom no more. I didn’t miss dad no more. I felt like a ladies’ man. I knew at ten years old that I could change my reality with no harm meant. I always sought God, though. I knew that when people failed me, God didn’t. However, my flesh was never satisfied. I developed mentally and physically but didn’t develop emotionally. Emotionally, I’m like an adolescent. That’s not easy to admit but you know.  My daddy’s wife mounted me two nights in a row, when I was fifteen. I laid there frozen and mortified. I didn’t know if I had sex with an older chick or if I was getting molested. What the fuck was it? The role I played in that was that I held that shit in for twenty-something years. I got real sick in my spirit. I was numb. I stayed away from my family and they thought it was just drugs and shit.  I went to treatment and they want you to be honest about everything, so I told my dad what happened, while his wife was there. She came across the room and clawed me in my face and never said sorry. My dad told me that I should’ve took that shit to grave. That’s some real sick shit. Now, I know why these girls don’t tell people.  So, a week after that, I’m a single daddy. At the time, I had my three year old little boy and my two year old little girl, by myself. Their mama was gone on ice. My daddy’s wife called CPS and had my kids taken away. Now, I have nothing, I’m stripped, I’m bare. Human contact is critical. I had no one and when you don’t have that, it fucks with your psyche. I went to do nine months of treatment. I was only supposed to do thirty days but I did nine months. CPS was ready to close, my lawyer ready to close, and my baby mama never showed up to court. I didn’t take one drug test, I took a trillion. My baby mama’s public defender stood up and said that he don’t feel comfortable giving me the kids when she wasn’t present. She ain’t present? She’s never been present. I should’ve had my kids, that day, bruh! Mind you, I have a body that doesn’t properly digest drugs; I react abnormally. I have a mind that can’t digest life. So, when that happened, the best thing I could do was numb it. By numbing that pain, it made her look right. I’m misunderstood to the fullest. It’s a cruel and unusual punishment. I don’t want no pity or nothing, it’s just hard.   My outlook on life is that God is everything. God is gonna turn this around. The work he started in me, he’s going to finish in me. It don’t matter what it looks like. I was left in the street, in that park, when I was ten. I’m a product of this neighborhood. I’m just trying to work on myself, ya dig? All my faith comes from God. Any of my wisdom comes from pain and experience. If somebody gets something from it, I’m praising God. I’m only something when I allow him to work in me and when I get out of the way.   There’s two roads in front of you: life and death. Choose life. Row, row, row your boat gently down the stream. Merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream. Take it easy, man. Stay out of your own way and have some humility. Humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less. When you aren't thinking about you, you’re helping someone else and God’s working on you. See, I suffer from self and self can’t fix self. I’m real sick and I need help. I’m just working on it.” - Bub Sosa, pictured with Juju in Portland

"We were born and raised down here. A similar pain brought us together and we really gotta hell of a friendship. Basically, being misunderstood, we understand each other. It’s not a relationship but we’re starting with the foundation. Like iron sharpens irons, as too, a friend sharpens a friend. It’s pure respect and buildup. I’d be sucka if I was trying to get with her and she ain’t at her fullest and I’m not at my fullest, ya dig? We’re just trying to build and it’s a beautiful friendship. 

We gotta body that can’t digest drugs and a mind that can’t digest life, so we're thoroughly misunderstood because we self medicate. Family looks at it like we’re doing drugs and so we’re both outcasts. I feel like I’m supposed to be a blessing to my family and not a burden. The devil, like the lawyer he his, knows scripture and accuses us like a lawyer. So, like it’s a third party voice, my dad’s wife, who is propaganda. However, propaganda is like hocus locus, right? However, my self medication makes my propaganda look true, ya dig? Those real close ties start to fade and we seek comfort anyway we can, in each other. People don’t like drugs, it’s just a release. Alcohol isn’t nothing but a drink. It’s about thinking. Take the drugs and drink away and we’re still broken. This shit goes back to my childhood. It’s deeply engraved. 

With me, it started when my parents broke up. I came from a broken-home the devil divided it. I was ten years old. I took my first drink at ten. I told my brother to give me a beer and he said, “If you kill it, I won’t tell moms. If you don’t kill it, I’ll tell her.” So, I killed it and boom, I had arrived. I felt like I needed to feel. I didn’t miss mom no more. I didn’t miss dad no more. I felt like a ladies’ man. I knew at ten years old that I could change my reality with no harm meant. I always sought God, though. I knew that when people failed me, God didn’t. However, my flesh was never satisfied. I developed mentally and physically but didn’t develop emotionally. Emotionally, I’m like an adolescent. That’s not easy to admit but you know.

My daddy’s wife mounted me two nights in a row, when I was fifteen. I laid there frozen and mortified. I didn’t know if I had sex with an older chick or if I was getting molested. What the fuck was it? The role I played in that was that I held that shit in for twenty-something years. I got real sick in my spirit. I was numb. I stayed away from my family and they thought it was just drugs and shit.

I went to treatment and they want you to be honest about everything, so I told my dad what happened, while his wife was there. She came across the room and clawed me in my face and never said sorry. My dad told me that I should’ve took that shit to grave. That’s some real sick shit. Now, I know why these girls don’t tell people.

So, a week after that, I’m a single daddy. At the time, I had my three year old little boy and my two year old little girl, by myself. Their mama was gone on ice. My daddy’s wife called CPS and had my kids taken away. Now, I have nothing, I’m stripped, I’m bare. Human contact is critical. I had no one and when you don’t have that, it fucks with your psyche. I went to do nine months of treatment. I was only supposed to do thirty days but I did nine months. CPS was ready to close, my lawyer ready to close, and my baby mama never showed up to court. I didn’t take one drug test, I took a trillion. My baby mama’s public defender stood up and said that he don’t feel comfortable giving me the kids when she wasn’t present. She ain’t present? She’s never been present. I should’ve had my kids, that day, bruh! Mind you, I have a body that doesn’t properly digest drugs; I react abnormally. I have a mind that can’t digest life. So, when that happened, the best thing I could do was numb it. By numbing that pain, it made her look right. I’m misunderstood to the fullest. It’s a cruel and unusual punishment. I don’t want no pity or nothing, it’s just hard. 

My outlook on life is that God is everything. God is gonna turn this around. The work he started in me, he’s going to finish in me. It don’t matter what it looks like. I was left in the street, in that park, when I was ten. I’m a product of this neighborhood. I’m just trying to work on myself, ya dig? All my faith comes from God. Any of my wisdom comes from pain and experience. If somebody gets something from it, I’m praising God. I’m only something when I allow him to work in me and when I get out of the way. 

There’s two roads in front of you: life and death. Choose life. Row, row, row your boat gently down the stream. Merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream. Take it easy, man. Stay out of your own way and have some humility. Humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less. When you aren't thinking about you, you’re helping someone else and God’s working on you. See, I suffer from self and self can’t fix self. I’m real sick and I need help. I’m just working on it.” - Bub Sosa, pictured with Juju in Portland

“Well, we will go back to the fifties, where it first started. This used to be a grill, it happened due to urban renewal. It came through and wiped out all the businesses. It wiped out all the black businesses on Muhammad Ali. The people that had the spot, made it a bakery. I think it was called Givens Catering and they were known for their pies and sweets and stuff like that. They had the business on Muhammad Ali, but when urban renewal came through, they moved over here. They built this little place and had a grill here instead of the bakery. So it was called Mills. Their last name was Mills, Homer and Juanita Mills, and they named it Mills Grill and it was a grill for quite awhile. Then Mr. Mills was stationed at Fort Knox. He was in the army and he had a lot of buddies that came in from Fort Knox and they were looking for a quaint little place to gather and have drinks and be in a safe environment. So he decided to change the grill to a lounge. So, it became Mills Lounge. He’d done very well with the Fort Knox crowd and then as time wound down and the guys began to leave the area, they lost a lot of the soldiers coming into Louisville. Then he and his wife decided that they were going to go their separate ways. So that was the end of the business. One wanted to keep this place and the other one wanted out and they could not afford to buy each other out. So, they came to the decision that they would sell the business and split it. My husband had retired from the Marine Corps. This was back in 1971 and he came back from Korea and got a job at Ford. He worked at Ford for twenty years. He was only thirty-seven when he retired from the Marine Corps because he went in when he was 17 and he had done 20 years, came out of the Marine Corps, got a job at Ford. I got a job at American Standard. That was a popular bathtub faucet and commode place that was on Seventh and Hill. So we landed good jobs and we'd done real well, you know, the pay was much better than being in the service. So, my husband did his 20 years at Ford and then he thought about retiring. He began to have a little heart problem and he thought, “I’d better come out, now, while I can enjoy myself.” So, he had a friend that was in real estate, Mr. Carl Hines, who was a very good realtor. He was talking to him, one day, talking about how he always wanted a quaint little bar or something. Carl looked at him and said, "I have just the place for you.", which was this place, here, and it was up for sale. So, the owners wanted a lot more than what we had, but the realtor said to make them a cash offer and that they just might take it because they're splitting up. They were gong their separate ways and they wanted out. So we made the offer and they took it. They were asking for $95,000, we offered them $50,000, they took it and walked out. They left everything just like it was. We used to have these little jukeboxes, along the bar, when I first came here. They were from the fifties. You'd put your quarters in and play music. When the computerized jukeboxes came along and all, there was no way to keep up with changing the records and everything. So, that was the end of that. They just became antiques and a guy came here one year, a white guy, on his way somewhere out west. He was going to open a diner and he wanted these little jukeboxes to be in the diner. He asked if I'd be interested in selling them and I told him that it depended on what he was going to give me. So, he made me an offer and I told him that he could take them the same day. So, we disassembled them off the bar, loaded him up, with his little trailer, and he was on his way. I wondered how it panned out, but I never heard anything from it. So, the bar deal went through but when I came up here, I looked at a business that really fell off and I could see why the old owner was getting out There wasn't a soul in here during the day. I told my husband that I didn't know about it. We were going to put every dime we got in this place and we didn't know if it would sink or swim. He really wanted to do it and we jumped right in.  When my husband retired from Ford, he bought this. I came out of American Standard because they were scaling down. I came out in '88 and we bought this bar in '90. He ran it during the day and it really wasn't good, at first. We weren't making it. Then he had a lot of friends that were musicians, very good musicians, that had played with big bands all over and everything. But they really hadn't gotten their due. You know, they should have really made out and been big time, with big people, but they played around and then they came back to Louisville. One of his friends was in here, one day, an organ player. He just died about three or four months ago, his name was Billy Madison and he was phenomenal and he wanted to know if he could play organ in here. He'd get a couple of guys with him. He had a drummer and a saxophone player and they came and set up right in that corner, over there. It would be crowded when they played.  The original owners had been closed on Thursdays, so Thursday was our worst day. People were not coming on Thursday so we didn't do anything. So we're like, you know, let's try the band on Thursday and see if that'll loose things up. A lot of naysayers said we would never make it. Well, we tried it and it took off. Thursday was our best night. It would be running over. Thursday was so good that we decided to go to Friday and then Saturday. So after awhile Thursday, Friday and Saturday we had jazz here. We never charged a cover charge because the same people came all the time. They were regulars and they didn't feel comfortable paying to come in to spend. They felt that if they would come here, they were going to help pay utilities and everything. A cover charge would have helped because it always helps you to fray the costs of the band. You gotta sell a lot of lot of drinks to pay your band and your waitress and your bar maid and everything and then make something, you know. But they made it work and I had some regulars that came. I called them my utility people because they kept the lights on and stuff on all the time.  In 1994, my husband began to have a problem with his heart. They diagnosed him as a diabetic. He never had a problem with his health. He had diabetes and a heart problem. He had a slow heart beat and unbeknownst to me, his doctor told him it was cardiomyopathy, which is irreversible heart failure. He knew this and did not tell me this. So from '90 to '95, he worked the bar and then he'd begin to slow down and get kind of sick. I was here one night, I went home, he said he didn't feel good so he didn't come to the bar and I went home and I have fixed dinner and everything and he didn't eat. I said, "Well, what was wrong with the food? You didn't like it?". I didn't get a response, and then I heard a weird noise. Have you ever heard a person die and they make a loud, like a gurgling sound? And I went in there and I thought, “What in the world is that?”. I looked and he was laid back and had this gazed look. I shook him and there was no response, so I called 911. It didn’t take them long to get there. They came in full force and they tried everything. They tried the electric shock and everything. They said, "Well this is not working and we're gonna take him onto the hospital." They went to Jewish. I called my son and he met me at the hospital. Thank goodness my son was there with me. They told me that as soon as they got him stable, they’ll let us go back there. We sat in that waiting room for an hour, just waiting. After a while, I'd told my son that something was wrong. It was taking them too long. So we went up to desk and the guy told us that the chaplain was getting ready to come out and talk to us because my husband didn't make it. It was a low blow. You know how a balloon loses its air after it’s been popped? That’s how I felt. He was gone. My husband told me that if anything happened to him, to get rid of this place. Everything was going so well and I didn’t have anything else to do and I was in love with this place. So I was like, let’s try to keep it going. So for almost two years I ran this place by myself. I'd come in at 2:00 in the afternoon to 2:00 in the morning. I had a girl that helped me during the day and then I was here. I didn't have anything else to do, you know, and it helped me get through it. I was married for like 42 years to my husband. And then for him to go like that was just something that I didn’t plan but we survived it.  So from like ’95 up until now, I've been in here every night and I think it helps keep me young.” - Ms. Syl, owner of Syl’s Lounge in Russell

“Well, we will go back to the fifties, where it first started. This used to be a grill, it happened due to urban renewal. It came through and wiped out all the businesses. It wiped out all the black businesses on Muhammad Ali. The people that had the spot, made it a bakery. I think it was called Givens Catering and they were known for their pies and sweets and stuff like that. They had the business on Muhammad Ali, but when urban renewal came through, they moved over here. They built this little place and had a grill here instead of the bakery. So it was called Mills. Their last name was Mills, Homer and Juanita Mills, and they named it Mills Grill and it was a grill for quite awhile. Then Mr. Mills was stationed at Fort Knox. He was in the army and he had a lot of buddies that came in from Fort Knox and they were looking for a quaint little place to gather and have drinks and be in a safe environment. So he decided to change the grill to a lounge. So, it became Mills Lounge. He’d done very well with the Fort Knox crowd and then as time wound down and the guys began to leave the area, they lost a lot of the soldiers coming into Louisville. Then he and his wife decided that they were going to go their separate ways. So that was the end of the business. One wanted to keep this place and the other one wanted out and they could not afford to buy each other out. So, they came to the decision that they would sell the business and split it.
My husband had retired from the Marine Corps. This was back in 1971 and he came back from Korea and got a job at Ford. He worked at Ford for twenty years. He was only thirty-seven when he retired from the Marine Corps because he went in when he was 17 and he had done 20 years, came out of the Marine Corps, got a job at Ford. I got a job at American Standard. That was a popular bathtub faucet and commode place that was on Seventh and Hill. So we landed good jobs and we'd done real well, you know, the pay was much better than being in the service.
So, my husband did his 20 years at Ford and then he thought about retiring. He began to have a little heart problem and he thought, “I’d better come out, now, while I can enjoy myself.” So, he had a friend that was in real estate, Mr. Carl Hines, who was a very good realtor. He was talking to him, one day, talking about how he always wanted a quaint little bar or something. Carl looked at him and said, "I have just the place for you.", which was this place, here, and it was up for sale. So, the owners wanted a lot more than what we had, but the realtor said to make them a cash offer and that they just might take it because they're splitting up. They were gong their separate ways and they wanted out. So we made the offer and they took it. They were asking for $95,000, we offered them $50,000, they took it and walked out.
They left everything just like it was. We used to have these little jukeboxes, along the bar, when I first came here. They were from the fifties. You'd put your quarters in and play music. When the computerized jukeboxes came along and all, there was no way to keep up with changing the records and everything. So, that was the end of that. They just became antiques and a guy came here one year, a white guy, on his way somewhere out west. He was going to open a diner and he wanted these little jukeboxes to be in the diner. He asked if I'd be interested in selling them and I told him that it depended on what he was going to give me. So, he made me an offer and I told him that he could take them the same day. So, we disassembled them off the bar, loaded him up, with his little trailer, and he was on his way. I wondered how it panned out, but I never heard anything from it.
So, the bar deal went through but when I came up here, I looked at a business that really fell off and I could see why the old owner was getting out There wasn't a soul in here during the day. I told my husband that I didn't know about it. We were going to put every dime we got in this place and we didn't know if it would sink or swim. He really wanted to do it and we jumped right in.

When my husband retired from Ford, he bought this. I came out of American Standard because they were scaling down. I came out in '88 and we bought this bar in '90. He ran it during the day and it really wasn't good, at first. We weren't making it. Then he had a lot of friends that were musicians, very good musicians, that had played with big bands all over and everything. But they really hadn't gotten their due. You know, they should have really made out and been big time, with big people, but they played around and then they came back to Louisville. One of his friends was in here, one day, an organ player. He just died about three or four months ago, his name was Billy Madison and he was phenomenal and he wanted to know if he could play organ in here. He'd get a couple of guys with him. He had a drummer and a saxophone player and they came and set up right in that corner, over there. It would be crowded when they played.

The original owners had been closed on Thursdays, so Thursday was our worst day. People were not coming on Thursday so we didn't do anything. So we're like, you know, let's try the band on Thursday and see if that'll loose things up. A lot of naysayers said we would never make it. Well, we tried it and it took off. Thursday was our best night. It would be running over. Thursday was so good that we decided to go to Friday and then Saturday. So after awhile Thursday, Friday and Saturday we had jazz here. We never charged a cover charge because the same people came all the time. They were regulars and they didn't feel comfortable paying to come in to spend. They felt that if they would come here, they were going to help pay utilities and everything. A cover charge would have helped because it always helps you to fray the costs of the band. You gotta sell a lot of lot of drinks to pay your band and your waitress and your bar maid and everything and then make something, you know. But they made it work and I had some regulars that came. I called them my utility people because they kept the lights on and stuff on all the time.

In 1994, my husband began to have a problem with his heart. They diagnosed him as a diabetic. He never had a problem with his health. He had diabetes and a heart problem. He had a slow heart beat and unbeknownst to me, his doctor told him it was cardiomyopathy, which is irreversible heart failure. He knew this and did not tell me this. So from '90 to '95, he worked the bar and then he'd begin to slow down and get kind of sick.
I was here one night, I went home, he said he didn't feel good so he didn't come to the bar and I went home and I have fixed dinner and everything and he didn't eat. I said, "Well, what was wrong with the food? You didn't like it?". I didn't get a response, and then I heard a weird noise. Have you ever heard a person die and they make a loud, like a gurgling sound? And I went in there and I thought, “What in the world is that?”. I looked and he was laid back and had this gazed look. I shook him and there was no response, so I called 911. It didn’t take them long to get there. They came in full force and they tried everything. They tried the electric shock and everything. They said, "Well this is not working and we're gonna take him onto the hospital." They went to Jewish.
I called my son and he met me at the hospital. Thank goodness my son was there with me. They told me that as soon as they got him stable, they’ll let us go back there. We sat in that waiting room for an hour, just waiting. After a while, I'd told my son that something was wrong. It was taking them too long. So we went up to desk and the guy told us that the chaplain was getting ready to come out and talk to us because my husband didn't make it. It was a low blow. You know how a balloon loses its air after it’s been popped? That’s how I felt. He was gone.
My husband told me that if anything happened to him, to get rid of this place. Everything was going so well and I didn’t have anything else to do and I was in love with this place. So I was like, let’s try to keep it going. So for almost two years I ran this place by myself. I'd come in at 2:00 in the afternoon to 2:00 in the morning. I had a girl that helped me during the day and then I was here. I didn't have anything else to do, you know, and it helped me get through it. I was married for like 42 years to my husband. And then for him to go like that was just something that I didn’t plan but we survived it.
So from like ’95 up until now, I've been in here every night and I think it helps keep me young.” - Ms. Syl, owner of Syl’s Lounge in Russell

“It’s about faith, family, and tradition. That’s how we got started with the Santa. We started doing it at home with our families and then we expanded and to doing private sessions in the studio, because we’re photographers by trade. This year, we branched out to the Lyles Mall and brought Santa to the public.  I’m not a West End native, I’m from Jeffersonville, Indiana. I do live in the West End, on Shawnee Terrace. West Louisville is not a bad place to live. I think that there are things that we can do in our community to make it better. I know, I’m on the stores all of the time, to make sure that we have what other stores have. I do notice that things tend to be cheaper in other places than they are in West Louisville. We have to use voices to make sure that we’re getting the same services and products for the same prices that other folks are getting in other communities.   If you look around, you’ll see that it’s changing. I’ve been living down here since 2011. When I first moved down here, there were very few people of other races in the West End. Now, there’s people from all backgrounds. It’s like, we’re deciding to give up on the West and move to other places and other folks are buying up the property that we’re leaving. I’m hoping that we wake up and understand that we have value and power and that we need to stick and stay to make sure that things are better for us and our people.” - Santa George, Parkland

“It’s about faith, family, and tradition. That’s how we got started with the Santa. We started doing it at home with our families and then we expanded and to doing private sessions in the studio, because we’re photographers by trade. This year, we branched out to the Lyles Mall and brought Santa to the public.

I’m not a West End native, I’m from Jeffersonville, Indiana. I do live in the West End, on Shawnee Terrace. West Louisville is not a bad place to live. I think that there are things that we can do in our community to make it better. I know, I’m on the stores all of the time, to make sure that we have what other stores have. I do notice that things tend to be cheaper in other places than they are in West Louisville. We have to use voices to make sure that we’re getting the same services and products for the same prices that other folks are getting in other communities.

If you look around, you’ll see that it’s changing. I’ve been living down here since 2011. When I first moved down here, there were very few people of other races in the West End. Now, there’s people from all backgrounds. It’s like, we’re deciding to give up on the West and move to other places and other folks are buying up the property that we’re leaving. I’m hoping that we wake up and understand that we have value and power and that we need to stick and stay to make sure that things are better for us and our people.” - Santa George, Parkland

“She’s my youngest of four. She’s my baby. We have a really good connection, too. I don’t know what else to say but she’s just the last one. She’s special and she’s different.  When you start having kids, you don’t realize what your job really is but it’s to prepare them to come out here and survive. It’s bad out here and I’m hoping that I’m able to give her life skills to go out here and do well. That’s with all four of my kids. I have one that I’m getting ready to send off to college, so I’m scared. I have one son and I’m scared for him. I try to do the right thing. I’m hoping that I do enough for them to have the survival skills.  Being a parent is hard because you’re doing the best you can. You send your kids to school and the majority of their day is spent with kids who may not be getting what my kids get. That’s the bigger influence. I just hope that whatever I do sticks with them and they are able to not be led astray by it. My oldest is in private school. People always ask me why I did that. I don’t want her in class with a classmate whose dad was just shot. We’re at Assumption, where some kids may be affected by a different type of crime but you have to pick your poison. Although this is our community, I have to, sometimes, send them outside of the community to get a better education for survival. I’m really scared for my kids.  I have a son that catches the bus, right here at Shorty’s. I take him to the bus stop every morning. I let him walk home but I take him every morning. Am I coddling him? No, I’m protecting him. I see him and he’s twelve. I also see other kids, who are twelve, and doing different shit. He knows that but it’s hard. I want him to love where he comes from but at the same time, he has to find balance. They have to get outside of the neighborhood to see other things happening and that’s why I sent my daughter to Assumption. She hates it but the survival skills she’s learning there are things that we learn when we get older and in the workplace. She gets to see how they move and how they play. The education that she’s getting is top of the line and getting her ready for college. She hates it but it’s okay. When she gets to college, it’ll be a cakewalk. I have to make decisions for them, now, that they’ll benefit from later. They just don’t understand it, right now.  Do the best you can. Live with no regrets and know that what they do to you is their karma and you respond is yours. That’s what I teach my kids. You may wanna get even but how you respond is what matters. That’s how I live my life.” - Ebony, pictured with her daughter Adira, Parkland

“She’s my youngest of four. She’s my baby. We have a really good connection, too. I don’t know what else to say but she’s just the last one. She’s special and she’s different.

When you start having kids, you don’t realize what your job really is but it’s to prepare them to come out here and survive. It’s bad out here and I’m hoping that I’m able to give her life skills to go out here and do well. That’s with all four of my kids. I have one that I’m getting ready to send off to college, so I’m scared. I have one son and I’m scared for him. I try to do the right thing. I’m hoping that I do enough for them to have the survival skills.

Being a parent is hard because you’re doing the best you can. You send your kids to school and the majority of their day is spent with kids who may not be getting what my kids get. That’s the bigger influence. I just hope that whatever I do sticks with them and they are able to not be led astray by it. My oldest is in private school. People always ask me why I did that. I don’t want her in class with a classmate whose dad was just shot. We’re at Assumption, where some kids may be affected by a different type of crime but you have to pick your poison. Although this is our community, I have to, sometimes, send them outside of the community to get a better education for survival. I’m really scared for my kids.

I have a son that catches the bus, right here at Shorty’s. I take him to the bus stop every morning. I let him walk home but I take him every morning. Am I coddling him? No, I’m protecting him. I see him and he’s twelve. I also see other kids, who are twelve, and doing different shit. He knows that but it’s hard. I want him to love where he comes from but at the same time, he has to find balance. They have to get outside of the neighborhood to see other things happening and that’s why I sent my daughter to Assumption. She hates it but the survival skills she’s learning there are things that we learn when we get older and in the workplace. She gets to see how they move and how they play. The education that she’s getting is top of the line and getting her ready for college. She hates it but it’s okay. When she gets to college, it’ll be a cakewalk. I have to make decisions for them, now, that they’ll benefit from later. They just don’t understand it, right now.

Do the best you can. Live with no regrets and know that what they do to you is their karma and you respond is yours. That’s what I teach my kids. You may wanna get even but how you respond is what matters. That’s how I live my life.” - Ebony, pictured with her daughter Adira, Parkland

“My life has been rough. Shit, I got stabbed in my knee when I was ten. They stood over me when I was ten. I was just trying to be grown. I jumped off the porch and started fuckin with the older dudes. When I started fucking with them, I started doing older shit. That’s about it. I done been through a lot.  I’m trying to find something. Plus, I rap. I want to do that and have a clothing company. I’m trying to get some money, so I can buy the whole hood. I want us to own more of these houses. You got people coming down here and wanting to take over. They don’t even want us out there.  I feel like we, as blacks, already gotta strike. People just want us to do something bad and when you mess up once, that fucks up everything. That don’t mean we’re bad people, it’s just that when we do that one little thing, everyone else thinks we’re the devil. We don’t get second chances. They on our ass. The money’s low down here and people feel like they gotta trap. People got charges and shit and can’t get a job. You gotta come out here and get it. Don’t nobody wanna be broke.  Why can’t everyone succeed? It’s people, that only have straight histories, that come up. There’s a lot of good people, that I know, that have bad histories.They’re good people and with a past.  Man, stay in school. When you’re in school, they love you. Stay in school and stay out the streets. Ain’t shit goin’ on out here, for real. That’s what I be trying to tell kids. I done been through all this shit. Ain’t nothin’ going on.” - Mikey, Chickasaw

“My life has been rough. Shit, I got stabbed in my knee when I was ten. They stood over me when I was ten. I was just trying to be grown. I jumped off the porch and started fuckin with the older dudes. When I started fucking with them, I started doing older shit. That’s about it. I done been through a lot.

I’m trying to find something. Plus, I rap. I want to do that and have a clothing company. I’m trying to get some money, so I can buy the whole hood. I want us to own more of these houses. You got people coming down here and wanting to take over. They don’t even want us out there.

I feel like we, as blacks, already gotta strike. People just want us to do something bad and when you mess up once, that fucks up everything. That don’t mean we’re bad people, it’s just that when we do that one little thing, everyone else thinks we’re the devil. We don’t get second chances. They on our ass. The money’s low down here and people feel like they gotta trap. People got charges and shit and can’t get a job. You gotta come out here and get it. Don’t nobody wanna be broke.

Why can’t everyone succeed? It’s people, that only have straight histories, that come up. There’s a lot of good people, that I know, that have bad histories.They’re good people and with a past.

Man, stay in school. When you’re in school, they love you. Stay in school and stay out the streets. Ain’t shit goin’ on out here, for real. That’s what I be trying to tell kids. I done been through all this shit. Ain’t nothin’ going on.” - Mikey, Chickasaw

“I love poetry. I love to write and that’s why I carry my laptop everywhere. I do nothing but write my raw thoughts all day. My passion is poetry. It’s like music without the instruments. I love it. I found that passion when I was fifteen, I’m twenty-three, now. I wasn’t out here in these streets, so I had to find a way to express myself. Instead of being out here, doing dumb shit, I decided to pick up a pen. I want to be able to talk about the subjects that people are afraid to talk about.  Being out on my own has been a struggle. I’m out here on my own, with nobody. I feel like nobody really is supporting my craft. At the end of the day, if nobody is supporting you, your passion will get you there. You got yourself. I have me and that’s all.  Do what you love, no matter what. If money never existed, what would you be doing?” - Kendrick, Russell

“I love poetry. I love to write and that’s why I carry my laptop everywhere. I do nothing but write my raw thoughts all day. My passion is poetry. It’s like music without the instruments. I love it. I found that passion when I was fifteen, I’m twenty-three, now. I wasn’t out here in these streets, so I had to find a way to express myself. Instead of being out here, doing dumb shit, I decided to pick up a pen. I want to be able to talk about the subjects that people are afraid to talk about.

Being out on my own has been a struggle. I’m out here on my own, with nobody. I feel like nobody really is supporting my craft. At the end of the day, if nobody is supporting you, your passion will get you there. You got yourself. I have me and that’s all.

Do what you love, no matter what. If money never existed, what would you be doing?” - Kendrick, Russell

“Going to jail and going to through the criminal justice system changed my life. How unfair it was definitely made me look at how I needed to change my life, so that I would never go through this system again. I want to make it so that the people in my family will never have to experience this. I want to be a better example for young men and my future sons. What I went through was a really bad experience.   I was eighteen years old and I was arrested for assault on a police officer. I was in Walmart with my younger brother and he had picked up an open box of Pop-Its and when we walked outside of the store, one of the security guards grabbed my brother and he didn’t announce himself as a police officer. You know, naturally, when someone grabs your family like that, you defend your family. The charges were eventually dropped but I ended up getting theft by unlawful taking. The fact that I was still charged with assault on a police officer, even though I didn’t assault a police officer or did he announce himself as such, really changed my perspective on law and justice.  Now, my mission is to better the community. I want to teach these young black men, in what they try to label as the ghetto, the better way. I want to tell them my testimony and show them a better way to live. There is a better way to live instead of selling drugs and gang banging. It’s not cool because at the end of the day, you’ll get caught up in the system. They want you to get caught up. The system was built for black men and for us to destroy ourselves. So, if we are in our communities encouraging our kids to sell drugs and join these gangs, we’re encouraging them to go to prison and be slaves for the rest of their lives. That’s pretty much what's going on in America.   My advice to the world? Man, love all people and go back to the ways of God. We’re losing God’s principles, so if we get back to that, we’ll be good. No man above the next man. As long as we do that, our country will thrive but if not, we’ll continue to fail.” - Tyrell, California

“Going to jail and going to through the criminal justice system changed my life. How unfair it was definitely made me look at how I needed to change my life, so that I would never go through this system again. I want to make it so that the people in my family will never have to experience this. I want to be a better example for young men and my future sons. What I went through was a really bad experience. 

I was eighteen years old and I was arrested for assault on a police officer. I was in Walmart with my younger brother and he had picked up an open box of Pop-Its and when we walked outside of the store, one of the security guards grabbed my brother and he didn’t announce himself as a police officer. You know, naturally, when someone grabs your family like that, you defend your family. The charges were eventually dropped but I ended up getting theft by unlawful taking. The fact that I was still charged with assault on a police officer, even though I didn’t assault a police officer or did he announce himself as such, really changed my perspective on law and justice.

Now, my mission is to better the community. I want to teach these young black men, in what they try to label as the ghetto, the better way. I want to tell them my testimony and show them a better way to live. There is a better way to live instead of selling drugs and gang banging. It’s not cool because at the end of the day, you’ll get caught up in the system. They want you to get caught up. The system was built for black men and for us to destroy ourselves. So, if we are in our communities encouraging our kids to sell drugs and join these gangs, we’re encouraging them to go to prison and be slaves for the rest of their lives. That’s pretty much what's going on in America. 

My advice to the world? Man, love all people and go back to the ways of God. We’re losing God’s principles, so if we get back to that, we’ll be good. No man above the next man. As long as we do that, our country will thrive but if not, we’ll continue to fail.” - Tyrell, California

“When I had my son, it was a happy moment and it was a wake up call. I realized that I had to teach this young man that he can do anything that he sets his mind to and be independent and not to rely on anyone to take care of him. Knowing that I had the responsibility of taking care of him was motivation to me. I was a young mom. I wasn’t eighteen, yet. I had to have the motivation to finish school and go to college. I went to college and still went to hair school, while I was raising this baby. I had to show him that if you start something, you have to finish it. Having him was a lot for me. I had to stay focused because I knew that he was watching.  Being a young mom can be very scary. I had gestational diabetes with my son and I had to eat healthier and give myself shots. It was bothering his heart rate. As a young mother, it was a lot and I was still in school. It was one of those moments where I couldn’t stop and had to keep going, so that I could have a healthy baby. He’s nineteen and at Tennessee State University, now. He’s doing very well and independent. Him watching me raise him and making sure that he was good, taught him so much.  In 2013, I lost my sister. My sister and I were always close. Growing up, my mother would dress us alike. She passed away from a car accident, so it was sudden. It’s the worst because we were caught off guard with it. When you go through something like that, it makes you want to give up but you have to think about what your loved one would’ve wanted. Doing hair and owning a business is something that she would've wanted me to do. She wanted me to continue to do what I love and not to give up. She did hair, too. It made me go at it stronger and stick with it.   You deal with those things but life goes on. There’s people out here that have goals and dreams and they need to know that regardless of what life throws at your way, you can still follow your passion. You’re still going to have obstacles but it’s all about how you come out. You have to hold on to the good memories. That’s how I move forward. You just have to think about the good times and be grateful for the close relationships you have with the people that you love. It makes things better because life happens.  Always have faith and never give up. We’ll always have our times but you have to come out with your head held up. Have a positive attitude and don’t let situations shake your faith. You have to come out stronger. If you get down, it’s hard to come out but you have to hold on to the positive things. Continue to show love to your loved ones that are still here. Don’t focus on holding grudges. You have to create those bonds.  My strength comes from God. It has to be God. I wouldn’t even give anyone that responsibility to give me that strength. My family and my boyfriend, who is my son’s father, are a great support system. They are my backbone. We just try to stick together.” - Tomira, co-owner of Trend Setters Hair & Nail Salon in Russell

“When I had my son, it was a happy moment and it was a wake up call. I realized that I had to teach this young man that he can do anything that he sets his mind to and be independent and not to rely on anyone to take care of him. Knowing that I had the responsibility of taking care of him was motivation to me. I was a young mom. I wasn’t eighteen, yet. I had to have the motivation to finish school and go to college. I went to college and still went to hair school, while I was raising this baby. I had to show him that if you start something, you have to finish it. Having him was a lot for me. I had to stay focused because I knew that he was watching.

Being a young mom can be very scary. I had gestational diabetes with my son and I had to eat healthier and give myself shots. It was bothering his heart rate. As a young mother, it was a lot and I was still in school. It was one of those moments where I couldn’t stop and had to keep going, so that I could have a healthy baby. He’s nineteen and at Tennessee State University, now. He’s doing very well and independent. Him watching me raise him and making sure that he was good, taught him so much.

In 2013, I lost my sister. My sister and I were always close. Growing up, my mother would dress us alike. She passed away from a car accident, so it was sudden. It’s the worst because we were caught off guard with it. When you go through something like that, it makes you want to give up but you have to think about what your loved one would’ve wanted. Doing hair and owning a business is something that she would've wanted me to do. She wanted me to continue to do what I love and not to give up. She did hair, too. It made me go at it stronger and stick with it. 

You deal with those things but life goes on. There’s people out here that have goals and dreams and they need to know that regardless of what life throws at your way, you can still follow your passion. You’re still going to have obstacles but it’s all about how you come out. You have to hold on to the good memories. That’s how I move forward. You just have to think about the good times and be grateful for the close relationships you have with the people that you love. It makes things better because life happens.

Always have faith and never give up. We’ll always have our times but you have to come out with your head held up. Have a positive attitude and don’t let situations shake your faith. You have to come out stronger. If you get down, it’s hard to come out but you have to hold on to the positive things. Continue to show love to your loved ones that are still here. Don’t focus on holding grudges. You have to create those bonds.

My strength comes from God. It has to be God. I wouldn’t even give anyone that responsibility to give me that strength. My family and my boyfriend, who is my son’s father, are a great support system. They are my backbone. We just try to stick together.” - Tomira, co-owner of Trend Setters Hair & Nail Salon in Russell

“In this program, our school chose a handful of people for barista training with Heine Brothers. In the beginning, we learned the basics about different types of coffee and where it came from. There’s actually a lot of different ways to wash coffee, which I was surprised about. It really does effect the flavor. We tried coffee with different wash types and I loved it. Overtime, we learned how to make the coffee and other drinks. I struggled at first, but after while I calmed down and eventually got the hang of it all. It took some getting used to but it got so much easier.  Not only did I learn a lot about coffee, but I learned a lot about teamwork. This program has definitely improved my skills, especially when working with teams. When working with my team, everything just flowed. It was so much fun working with them. I’m not shy but I would usually get frustrated when it comes to working in groups, but I really learned how to work better with others. What used to be stressful became calming and a good experience. Being apart of the program has certainly improved how I interact with others. I’m sure that’s going to be a great skill to have in the future, which I really appreciate. I enjoyed it a lot.  I want to get a job at one of the Heine Bros. coffee shops because I love the way the company interacts with people. They want to make everybody feel welcomed and less stressed. I love how lively it gets, too. I want to work in a place like this because the positive attitude is just contagious.” - Thalia, Western High School & Heine Bros. Coffee Barista Certification Celebration in Portland

“In this program, our school chose a handful of people for barista training with Heine Brothers. In the beginning, we learned the basics about different types of coffee and where it came from. There’s actually a lot of different ways to wash coffee, which I was surprised about. It really does effect the flavor. We tried coffee with different wash types and I loved it. Overtime, we learned how to make the coffee and other drinks. I struggled at first, but after while I calmed down and eventually got the hang of it all. It took some getting used to but it got so much easier.

Not only did I learn a lot about coffee, but I learned a lot about teamwork. This program has definitely improved my skills, especially when working with teams. When working with my team, everything just flowed. It was so much fun working with them. I’m not shy but I would usually get frustrated when it comes to working in groups, but I really learned how to work better with others. What used to be stressful became calming and a good experience. Being apart of the program has certainly improved how I interact with others. I’m sure that’s going to be a great skill to have in the future, which I really appreciate. I enjoyed it a lot.

I want to get a job at one of the Heine Bros. coffee shops because I love the way the company interacts with people. They want to make everybody feel welcomed and less stressed. I love how lively it gets, too. I want to work in a place like this because the positive attitude is just contagious.” - Thalia, Western High School & Heine Bros. Coffee Barista Certification Celebration in Portland

“Having kids and wanting to do better has changed my life. You're either gonna end up in the dirt or behind bars. I got grandkids. I got two jobs, man. I done did and done it all, it ain’t worth it. All the money you spend, from getting that fast money, is going right to the lawyer and then you got life. Stick to your job, man. Life is short. Life’s temporary, man. We don’t live forever, it’s temporary. Real talk.   About seven years ago, when I got out of the penitentiary, I said that I’ll never go back and I’m not. It’s not worth it. It’s a purpose for life. What’s the meaning? My purpose is to take care of my family. We was born to die, you might as well ride it til the wheels fall off. You can’t take money with you. You might as well spend it and give it to your family. You can’t take anything with you.  I gotta get right. I’ve done it big and it wasn’t worth it after I did the math, when I got older. I’m thirty-seven years old and it’s almost over. I lived a rough life and did it all. Like, this can’t be life. It has to be better, so I just work two jobs to stay out of trouble.   My advice to the world is to stay humble and love your family. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Treat people better. All this robbing and stuff ain’t cool. You’ll mess around and do life or end up in the dirt. It’s not worth it. Black people killing black people is not even cool. That’s why we're coming up short. We all gotta come together. It’s time for a change.” - Victor, pictured with his granddaughter, Rhylie in Shawnee

“Having kids and wanting to do better has changed my life. You're either gonna end up in the dirt or behind bars. I got grandkids. I got two jobs, man. I done did and done it all, it ain’t worth it. All the money you spend, from getting that fast money, is going right to the lawyer and then you got life. Stick to your job, man. Life is short. Life’s temporary, man. We don’t live forever, it’s temporary. Real talk. 

About seven years ago, when I got out of the penitentiary, I said that I’ll never go back and I’m not. It’s not worth it. It’s a purpose for life. What’s the meaning? My purpose is to take care of my family. We was born to die, you might as well ride it til the wheels fall off. You can’t take money with you. You might as well spend it and give it to your family. You can’t take anything with you.

I gotta get right. I’ve done it big and it wasn’t worth it after I did the math, when I got older. I’m thirty-seven years old and it’s almost over. I lived a rough life and did it all. Like, this can’t be life. It has to be better, so I just work two jobs to stay out of trouble. 

My advice to the world is to stay humble and love your family. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Treat people better. All this robbing and stuff ain’t cool. You’ll mess around and do life or end up in the dirt. It’s not worth it. Black people killing black people is not even cool. That’s why we're coming up short. We all gotta come together. It’s time for a change.” - Victor, pictured with his granddaughter, Rhylie in Shawnee

“Finding out that my son had autism changed my life. I call that my diagnosis day. That was the moment that changed everything about who Gina was. I was a new person, a new mom, and a wife. That moment changed me forever.  My husband and I struggled to have a child for many years. The doctors told us that we shouldn’t have a child but it was that important for us. We decided to keep trying and count on faith. We did and were blessed with a miracle baby. The pregnancy was very rough but it was so worth it. I knew pretty early on that my baby was different, so I really struggled with people trying to hear me tell them that there was something different about my baby. At that time, autism wasn’t really on the map like it is now. A pediatrician heard me out and sent me to Weisskopf Center, here in Louisville. At this time he was three and we took him to be evaluated.  I knew in my heart, what the doctors were going to tell me. They told me that he had autism. For a parent to hear that something is going on with your child, is devastating. You have all of these goals and things in place that you have planned in the future. To hear that it won’t be the case was devastating. I went into a mourning stage, which is common, because you have to mourn the child that you thought you were going to have and then embrace your new normal. He’s eleven now. It did change me. Having a child with a disability teaches you patience and unconditional love. I see the world differently. It taught me how to love. That moment changed me for the better.  I researched myself to death. I was trying all of these things to make my son normal. I was trying all of the fads out there like eating gluten free and putting him in a certain type of mud water. I was trying to help my son but in reality, I was trying to help myself because he was already happy. He was fine. After putting him on the gluten free diet and putting him through so much stuff, I decided to embrace his autism as our new normal. I had to put all of those fads aside. I had to make sure that he was happy and we were happy.  I have always been into creating and writing. I used to write plays and stuff like that. Three years ago, I lost both of my parents to cancer within five months of each other. I looked inside myself and had to figure out my passion. At that time, I thought that cancer was my life sentence. When you lose both of your parents to cancer, you get to thinking that you’re going to be next. So, I had to think that if I’m close to the end of my days, what would my passion be? What’s something that I would want to do? I started writing. I’m a hopeless romantic and started writing a romance novel. I wanted to have something with my name on it, where my family can pick it up and say that I wrote it. Writing became my thing and it became something that I love doing. I sent my work to all of these publishers and kept getting yes, which I didn’t expect to get. I was really doing it. I don’t have the same mindset, as I had when I first started but to see my name on things makes me so proud, regardless if two or a thousand people read it.  Faith and family keeps me going. My husband is my support system. There’s days when I can’t and he keeps me going. I have a lot of things on my plate, so I have to keep moving. If I don’t do it, it’ll take me out. Having this business keeps me going. I still have my days. Me and my mother were super close. My father and I weren’t as close but I always wanted to be a daddy’s little girl and when that was off the table, it was devastating. I was thinking that one day we were going to build this relationship and be tight but when he passed, it was no longer an option. I was thirty-seven and thought to myself that I was an orphan because my parents were gone.” - Gina, co-owner of Trend Setters Hair & Nail Salon in Russell

“Finding out that my son had autism changed my life. I call that my diagnosis day. That was the moment that changed everything about who Gina was. I was a new person, a new mom, and a wife. That moment changed me forever.

My husband and I struggled to have a child for many years. The doctors told us that we shouldn’t have a child but it was that important for us. We decided to keep trying and count on faith. We did and were blessed with a miracle baby. The pregnancy was very rough but it was so worth it. I knew pretty early on that my baby was different, so I really struggled with people trying to hear me tell them that there was something different about my baby. At that time, autism wasn’t really on the map like it is now. A pediatrician heard me out and sent me to Weisskopf Center, here in Louisville. At this time he was three and we took him to be evaluated.

I knew in my heart, what the doctors were going to tell me. They told me that he had autism. For a parent to hear that something is going on with your child, is devastating. You have all of these goals and things in place that you have planned in the future. To hear that it won’t be the case was devastating. I went into a mourning stage, which is common, because you have to mourn the child that you thought you were going to have and then embrace your new normal. He’s eleven now. It did change me. Having a child with a disability teaches you patience and unconditional love. I see the world differently. It taught me how to love. That moment changed me for the better.

I researched myself to death. I was trying all of these things to make my son normal. I was trying all of the fads out there like eating gluten free and putting him in a certain type of mud water. I was trying to help my son but in reality, I was trying to help myself because he was already happy. He was fine. After putting him on the gluten free diet and putting him through so much stuff, I decided to embrace his autism as our new normal. I had to put all of those fads aside. I had to make sure that he was happy and we were happy.

I have always been into creating and writing. I used to write plays and stuff like that. Three years ago, I lost both of my parents to cancer within five months of each other. I looked inside myself and had to figure out my passion. At that time, I thought that cancer was my life sentence. When you lose both of your parents to cancer, you get to thinking that you’re going to be next. So, I had to think that if I’m close to the end of my days, what would my passion be? What’s something that I would want to do? I started writing. I’m a hopeless romantic and started writing a romance novel. I wanted to have something with my name on it, where my family can pick it up and say that I wrote it. Writing became my thing and it became something that I love doing. I sent my work to all of these publishers and kept getting yes, which I didn’t expect to get. I was really doing it. I don’t have the same mindset, as I had when I first started but to see my name on things makes me so proud, regardless if two or a thousand people read it.

Faith and family keeps me going. My husband is my support system. There’s days when I can’t and he keeps me going. I have a lot of things on my plate, so I have to keep moving. If I don’t do it, it’ll take me out. Having this business keeps me going. I still have my days. Me and my mother were super close. My father and I weren’t as close but I always wanted to be a daddy’s little girl and when that was off the table, it was devastating. I was thinking that one day we were going to build this relationship and be tight but when he passed, it was no longer an option. I was thirty-seven and thought to myself that I was an orphan because my parents were gone.” - Gina, co-owner of Trend Setters Hair & Nail Salon in Russell

“See, I got out of the army in ’69, so I’ve been here since October 1969. It’s still the same old Portland. Everyone gets along pretty good. There’s still a few fights, every once in a while, but it’s still Portland. I love the people here. A lot of them are straight-forward. If you gotta a problem, they’ll tell you and you get it worked out. That’s what it’s all about.   There’s a lot of houses getting tore down and there’s a few new businesses coming. Of course, there used to be a lot of businesses here. This house here, may have been a store or something. There was a lot of mom and pops stores and restaurants and stuff. A lot of them are gone but there’s a lot more coming back and that’s good. The neighborhood needs a little more courtesy. We need people to start saying ‘hello’ or ‘how ya doing?’. All in all, this is a pretty good neighborhood.   I had a heart attack and died and the paramedic shocked me back to life. That was the real eye opener. That happened in ’97. I had to make a lifestyle change. I quit smoking and drinking. I had to let go of a lot of things. That made a big difference.  I even talked to an angel when I was dead. I kept asking her about my wife and kids and she told me not to worry about it and that they were taken care of. She told me that there was two things that God wanted me to do.   When I was brought back to life, I sat at home for two years and couldn’t figure out what God wanted me to do. He wanted me to do two things, not one. I kept thinking about what it was that God wanted. I sat there and watched tv and there was an evangelist on and he said, “There’s two things that God wants you to do.”. He told me to get saved and worship God. I was already saved but it blew me away. It was something so simple and I was trying to make it out to be something else. It was so simple.   I’m happy with life. I’m very happy. I’m poor but I’m happy!  Everybody needs to listen to each other. We all got different views of things, so just listen to each other. It’s so much easier and simpler. Listen to each other because someone else might have a point.”- Richard & Bruno, Portland

“See, I got out of the army in ’69, so I’ve been here since October 1969. It’s still the same old Portland. Everyone gets along pretty good. There’s still a few fights, every once in a while, but it’s still Portland. I love the people here. A lot of them are straight-forward. If you gotta a problem, they’ll tell you and you get it worked out. That’s what it’s all about. 

There’s a lot of houses getting tore down and there’s a few new businesses coming. Of course, there used to be a lot of businesses here. This house here, may have been a store or something. There was a lot of mom and pops stores and restaurants and stuff. A lot of them are gone but there’s a lot more coming back and that’s good. The neighborhood needs a little more courtesy. We need people to start saying ‘hello’ or ‘how ya doing?’. All in all, this is a pretty good neighborhood. 

I had a heart attack and died and the paramedic shocked me back to life. That was the real eye opener. That happened in ’97. I had to make a lifestyle change. I quit smoking and drinking. I had to let go of a lot of things. That made a big difference.

I even talked to an angel when I was dead. I kept asking her about my wife and kids and she told me not to worry about it and that they were taken care of. She told me that there was two things that God wanted me to do. 

When I was brought back to life, I sat at home for two years and couldn’t figure out what God wanted me to do. He wanted me to do two things, not one. I kept thinking about what it was that God wanted. I sat there and watched tv and there was an evangelist on and he said, “There’s two things that God wants you to do.”. He told me to get saved and worship God. I was already saved but it blew me away. It was something so simple and I was trying to make it out to be something else. It was so simple. 

I’m happy with life. I’m very happy. I’m poor but I’m happy!

Everybody needs to listen to each other. We all got different views of things, so just listen to each other. It’s so much easier and simpler. Listen to each other because someone else might have a point.”- Richard & Bruno, Portland