Stories

“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

“I feel good about this election. I hope everything turns out positively. It’s quite a big turnout, this year. There’s a lot of people who haven’t been or thought about voting and are first time voters, today. They’re getting out more than ever. It’s definitely a bigger turn out, based off the hype. I’m feeling good about myself and everyone else’s vote. I think this will effect our community in a positive way. If everyone is more aware, it will always be positive because people are doing something that they should do.   The elected officials really need to be in tune with the community, that they want to represent, by knowing what the needs are. That can be financial needs, resources, new buildings, and even education. That’s the main thing I hope for because a lot of people are misinformed about stuff. Some people feel like their votes and opinions don’t count. We need somebody that’ll listen. That’s my main concern. If everybody would listen, good things can be done and change can happen.   Don’t believe everything you hear because someone says it. Go out and do your research and form your own opinion. Don’t believe what people say or what you read. Read up on your resources and who they got their resources from. Be informed and educated. Don’t allow others to dictate how you think.” - Miles, Portland

“I feel good about this election. I hope everything turns out positively. It’s quite a big turnout, this year. There’s a lot of people who haven’t been or thought about voting and are first time voters, today. They’re getting out more than ever. It’s definitely a bigger turn out, based off the hype. I’m feeling good about myself and everyone else’s vote. I think this will effect our community in a positive way. If everyone is more aware, it will always be positive because people are doing something that they should do. 

The elected officials really need to be in tune with the community, that they want to represent, by knowing what the needs are. That can be financial needs, resources, new buildings, and even education. That’s the main thing I hope for because a lot of people are misinformed about stuff. Some people feel like their votes and opinions don’t count. We need somebody that’ll listen. That’s my main concern. If everybody would listen, good things can be done and change can happen. 

Don’t believe everything you hear because someone says it. Go out and do your research and form your own opinion. Don’t believe what people say or what you read. Read up on your resources and who they got their resources from. Be informed and educated. Don’t allow others to dictate how you think.” - Miles, Portland

“Nope, I’m not voting. I got previous conviction charges from over ten years ago. I did fifteen months and years later, I did ten. That’s a lot of time to me. I do wanna vote, though. I wouldn’t mind it. It’s been long enough. My vote would matter, just like everyone else's.  I changed a whole lot, since then. I read my bible and pray every morning. I’m just trying to be a better person. I was in some pain, when I was down there. I missed my freedom, my family and friends - just being away. I found my purpose and that’s to be here for my kids and my loved ones. I try to make a difference.   Try to stay on the right path in life. Work to be the best that you can. Put a little time and effort in it and and let it work. If you got positive stuff to do, you’ll turn out positive. If you’re doing negative, it’s only going to lead you to more negative things.  Just try to be a good role model.” - Darrell, Shawnee

“Nope, I’m not voting. I got previous conviction charges from over ten years ago. I did fifteen months and years later, I did ten. That’s a lot of time to me. I do wanna vote, though. I wouldn’t mind it. It’s been long enough. My vote would matter, just like everyone else's.

I changed a whole lot, since then. I read my bible and pray every morning. I’m just trying to be a better person. I was in some pain, when I was down there. I missed my freedom, my family and friends - just being away. I found my purpose and that’s to be here for my kids and my loved ones. I try to make a difference. 

Try to stay on the right path in life. Work to be the best that you can. Put a little time and effort in it and and let it work. If you got positive stuff to do, you’ll turn out positive. If you’re doing negative, it’s only going to lead you to more negative things.  Just try to be a good role model.” - Darrell, Shawnee

“I can’t vote, but next year, I’ll be able to. I think it’s important. If I don’t, I think that it’s defeating the purpose of our people doing what they did. To not use that right, just defeats the purpose.” - Amanda, Russell

“I can’t vote, but next year, I’ll be able to. I think it’s important. If I don’t, I think that it’s defeating the purpose of our people doing what they did. To not use that right, just defeats the purpose.” - Amanda, Russell

“Shit, life has been hard. I be going through so much but don’t tell nobody, so people will never know. You know, I just be going through a lot, like going to jail and losing my people in these streets. I done been through a whole lot. Life’s a struggle. It’s just certain predicaments that you have to try to make it out of. You never know what’s going to happen. You can drop dead at anytime or something bad can really happen.   My biggest success has been finding out who I am, as a person. You gotta know yourself, before you interact with others. You never know who you’re hanging out with, unless you know yourself. I don’t think I found my purpose but I’m getting there. I’m still working on myself.   Keep going. Don’t let it stop you. Time ain’t gonna stop for nobody.” - G-Baby (Right) pictured with Caston, Chickasaw

“Shit, life has been hard. I be going through so much but don’t tell nobody, so people will never know. You know, I just be going through a lot, like going to jail and losing my people in these streets. I done been through a whole lot. Life’s a struggle. It’s just certain predicaments that you have to try to make it out of. You never know what’s going to happen. You can drop dead at anytime or something bad can really happen. 

My biggest success has been finding out who I am, as a person. You gotta know yourself, before you interact with others. You never know who you’re hanging out with, unless you know yourself. I don’t think I found my purpose but I’m getting there. I’m still working on myself. 

Keep going. Don’t let it stop you. Time ain’t gonna stop for nobody.” - G-Baby (Right) pictured with Caston, Chickasaw

“I’ve been here since 2006. The impact that the West End has had on my life has been bumpy. Sometimes, they’ll do good for the community. There’s also too many abandoned houses, that they could do something with, and they’re always taking things away from us. They closed down a lot of boys and girls clubs. I grew up in those. For years, my granny used to work in one of them. I hate that they’re gone. That’s why the kids are out here.  I used to hang with the wrong crowd and get into stuff. I was young and out here in the streets. I can now say that I’ve improved a lot. I graduated and got my high school diploma, with a child. A lot of people aren’t able to do that. I went to TAPP, a pregnancy school, which helped me a lot. They helped me graduate with my regular high school.   My daughter is getting ready to be seven and I’m pregnant again. I was fifteen when I was pregnant with my daughter. I’m twenty-three now. It was kind of hard and a bad experience but I had to mature and make some changes. There were times when I wanted to give up and not go to school but I still went. It was hard but my granny stayed on my back. If she didn’t do that, I’d be out here in the streets.  I got kicked out at seventeen. I had a bad attitude and shit like that. I was always welcomed back home but I had to stay out of the streets. When I came back, I chose to stay home and do school work instead of being out here. It was always tough. My choices were to go to school or be out in the streets. It’s your main two options in the West End. I got accepted into college but I had to deal with my daughter. I was too young. Now that she’s older, I’m wanting go back to school. It’s a wake up call, now that I’m older. I had wake up to reality and snap back.  Being a teen mother was hard, especially when you’re doing everything on your own. My daughter’s father was there in the beginning, for a few months, but then he wasn’t. He was about that street life and we were both really young. I had no choice but to be independent and keep working hard for my daughter.  My strength comes from my family. I had a lot of support and a lot of help. Most people don’t have family. They just have themselves and their child and have to go sleep under bridges and at shelters with their baby.   When you stress more, you won’t find where you’re trying to go in life. It’s harder when you’re always stressed. Just stay on the right path. If it’s a goal for you to achieve something, make sure no one is in the way of stopping you from reaching it. If you’re a teen mom, stay in school and don’t let anybody steal your shine.” - Sky, Russell

“I’ve been here since 2006. The impact that the West End has had on my life has been bumpy. Sometimes, they’ll do good for the community. There’s also too many abandoned houses, that they could do something with, and they’re always taking things away from us. They closed down a lot of boys and girls clubs. I grew up in those. For years, my granny used to work in one of them. I hate that they’re gone. That’s why the kids are out here.

I used to hang with the wrong crowd and get into stuff. I was young and out here in the streets. I can now say that I’ve improved a lot. I graduated and got my high school diploma, with a child. A lot of people aren’t able to do that. I went to TAPP, a pregnancy school, which helped me a lot. They helped me graduate with my regular high school. 

My daughter is getting ready to be seven and I’m pregnant again. I was fifteen when I was pregnant with my daughter. I’m twenty-three now. It was kind of hard and a bad experience but I had to mature and make some changes. There were times when I wanted to give up and not go to school but I still went. It was hard but my granny stayed on my back. If she didn’t do that, I’d be out here in the streets.

I got kicked out at seventeen. I had a bad attitude and shit like that. I was always welcomed back home but I had to stay out of the streets. When I came back, I chose to stay home and do school work instead of being out here. It was always tough. My choices were to go to school or be out in the streets. It’s your main two options in the West End. I got accepted into college but I had to deal with my daughter. I was too young. Now that she’s older, I’m wanting go back to school. It’s a wake up call, now that I’m older. I had wake up to reality and snap back.

Being a teen mother was hard, especially when you’re doing everything on your own. My daughter’s father was there in the beginning, for a few months, but then he wasn’t. He was about that street life and we were both really young. I had no choice but to be independent and keep working hard for my daughter.

My strength comes from my family. I had a lot of support and a lot of help. Most people don’t have family. They just have themselves and their child and have to go sleep under bridges and at shelters with their baby. 

When you stress more, you won’t find where you’re trying to go in life. It’s harder when you’re always stressed. Just stay on the right path. If it’s a goal for you to achieve something, make sure no one is in the way of stopping you from reaching it. If you’re a teen mom, stay in school and don’t let anybody steal your shine.” - Sky, Russell

"I've been living here all my life. I've done a few years but other than that, I've been here all my life. West is the best end. I ain't got no complaints.   What inspired me to be an entrepreneur was going to jail and having people telling me what to do and when to do it. I would never like that. I never liked someone telling me what to do. I had many other ventures and failures and this is what it led me to. I sell dogs, too. I just didn't want to work for anybody.    It's important for young black people to be entrepreneurs. Well to me, because first of all, you're working for you and yours. You ain't making no other person rich, whether they're white or black, period. They're making a million a week and you're making $20 an hour? Fuck outta here, I'll make my own business. Put my own on and I'm here at 8:00 every morning. This is where I'm at.   Do what you wanna do and work for yourself. Find something that you like to do and find a way for you to make some money off of it. That's all I'm trying to do. I’d even sell candy bars all day. I can’t have it any other way.” - Corey, co-owner of C & E Food Mart, Algonquin

"I've been living here all my life. I've done a few years but other than that, I've been here all my life. West is the best end. I ain't got no complaints.


What inspired me to be an entrepreneur was going to jail and having people telling me what to do and when to do it. I would never like that. I never liked someone telling me what to do. I had many other ventures and failures and this is what it led me to. I sell dogs, too. I just didn't want to work for anybody.


It's important for young black people to be entrepreneurs. Well to me, because first of all, you're working for you and yours. You ain't making no other person rich, whether they're white or black, period. They're making a million a week and you're making $20 an hour? Fuck outta here, I'll make my own business. Put my own on and I'm here at 8:00 every morning. This is where I'm at.


Do what you wanna do and work for yourself. Find something that you like to do and find a way for you to make some money off of it. That's all I'm trying to do. I’d even sell candy bars all day. I can’t have it any other way.” - Corey, co-owner of C & E Food Mart, Algonquin

“I’ve been in the West End for twenty-five years. My experience has been good and bad. As a teenager, everything was great. They don’t have anything down here for these 2000 babies. I was able to go to different camps and centers. I’m from Victory, it’s on 22nd & Grand. I gotta little Park Hill in me, too. That’s where my daddy’s from. I went off to college in Cincinnati and I’m back home.   Right now, I’m passionate about music and I want to go back to school to be a computer technician. What’s holding me back is that I’m a felon. I caught a case when I lost my son’s father. I went crazy. You know, people just grieve differently. I was in and out of jail and then I caught a serious case. So, when that happened, I was put on papers and I’m about to serve that out.  I paid all my debt off. It was money. It wasn’t street related, but money. That’s what happened. It’s not the downfall. I just have to work harder. You gotta go through things. I just want to be a great mother and be able to give my son the resources that he needs.  If you don’t love yourself, then who will? Always love yourself. That will keep you pushing. You’re not the only one. You can turn anything around. Anything is possible.” - Ieeshia, Parkland    “I’m trying to live to prosper. I don’t want a job, but a career. To be honest, I want to own my own business. I want to go to school and open my own nail shop. I just graduated in May with my GED. The only thing that’s holding me back is the school that I want to go to cost $4000. Once I get up on my feet, I’ll be thinking smarter, not harder. I’ll get there. I don’t want to work for anybody. With the way life is going, I have to but I don’t want to keep doing that. When I’m up on my feet, I’m going to stay up on my feet.  My dream and taking care of these kids keeps me going. I’m just living and thanking God for waking me up to see another day. You wake up and it’s a different day. So, what are you going to do that’s new that'll make you better for the next day?  I can overthink things and that’ll mess me up. So, I try to slowly plan out my goals and write it down. I have to visualize it. Write your goals down so you know it’s real. Even if say that you have to get brakes for your car on Friday, when you get paid, that’s a goal! So whatchu gon’ do?   The key to living your best life is to mind your business and take care of yourself. Don’t be selfish but take care of yourself. I’m the type of person that would help everyone out but I found that it didn’t get me anywhere. I gotta quit doing that because I’m forgetting about myself. I love myself too much to keep battling with that. To live your best life is to live your best life, not everybody else's. Stay prayed up, too. You gotta keep God first. He’s in order of your steps and your life.  If there’s someone that’s older than you, with some wisdom, listen to them! You don’t know everything. I’m about to be twenty-six in twenty-two days and I still don’t know what I think I know. Only a fool won’t listen. Open up your ears and listen.” - Roderica, Parkland   

“I’ve been in the West End for twenty-five years. My experience has been good and bad. As a teenager, everything was great. They don’t have anything down here for these 2000 babies. I was able to go to different camps and centers. I’m from Victory, it’s on 22nd & Grand. I gotta little Park Hill in me, too. That’s where my daddy’s from. I went off to college in Cincinnati and I’m back home. 

Right now, I’m passionate about music and I want to go back to school to be a computer technician. What’s holding me back is that I’m a felon. I caught a case when I lost my son’s father. I went crazy. You know, people just grieve differently. I was in and out of jail and then I caught a serious case. So, when that happened, I was put on papers and I’m about to serve that out.

I paid all my debt off. It was money. It wasn’t street related, but money. That’s what happened. It’s not the downfall. I just have to work harder. You gotta go through things. I just want to be a great mother and be able to give my son the resources that he needs.

If you don’t love yourself, then who will? Always love yourself. That will keep you pushing. You’re not the only one. You can turn anything around. Anything is possible.” - Ieeshia, Parkland

“I’m trying to live to prosper. I don’t want a job, but a career. To be honest, I want to own my own business. I want to go to school and open my own nail shop. I just graduated in May with my GED. The only thing that’s holding me back is the school that I want to go to cost $4000. Once I get up on my feet, I’ll be thinking smarter, not harder. I’ll get there. I don’t want to work for anybody. With the way life is going, I have to but I don’t want to keep doing that. When I’m up on my feet, I’m going to stay up on my feet.

My dream and taking care of these kids keeps me going. I’m just living and thanking God for waking me up to see another day. You wake up and it’s a different day. So, what are you going to do that’s new that'll make you better for the next day?

I can overthink things and that’ll mess me up. So, I try to slowly plan out my goals and write it down. I have to visualize it. Write your goals down so you know it’s real. Even if say that you have to get brakes for your car on Friday, when you get paid, that’s a goal! So whatchu gon’ do? 

The key to living your best life is to mind your business and take care of yourself. Don’t be selfish but take care of yourself. I’m the type of person that would help everyone out but I found that it didn’t get me anywhere. I gotta quit doing that because I’m forgetting about myself. I love myself too much to keep battling with that. To live your best life is to live your best life, not everybody else's. Stay prayed up, too. You gotta keep God first. He’s in order of your steps and your life.

If there’s someone that’s older than you, with some wisdom, listen to them! You don’t know everything. I’m about to be twenty-six in twenty-two days and I still don’t know what I think I know. Only a fool won’t listen. Open up your ears and listen.” - Roderica, Parkland