MILWAUKEE — Every year the New York Times creates a "52 Places" list. It consists of some of the most spectacular places in the world people can visit from mountain destinations in the Himalayas to seaside resorts in the Caribbean to charming small towns in Europe.
This year, the NYT decided to go for a different approach to its "52 Places" list, and it included a Wisconsin destination. The list is focusing on change and how those with wanderlust can see positive change or make a most impact with their travels.
"... where endangered wild lands are being preserved, threatened species are being protected, historical wrongs are being acknowledged, fragile communities are being bolstered — and where travelers can be part of the change," a New York Times description of the article said.
On the list this year, was Milwaukee's Bronzeville neighborhood. Historically, the neighborhood was a thriving Black community. Construction projects in the 1960's displaced many residents which had a devastating impact on the neighborhood. However, the community is bouncing back thanks to major investments, the return of the Black Holocaust Museum, and more Black-owned businesses opening in the area. This is what the New York Times had to say about the neighborhood:
"At times overshadowed by its namesake neighborhood in Chicago, Milwaukee’s Bronzeville district is again distinguishing itself as a center of African American culture. From 1910 to the 1950s, the area buzzed with Black-owned businesses, but it was decimated by “urban renewal” projects that razed thriving Black neighborhoods across America. Today’s Bronzeville is supported by about $400 million of redevelopment funds from organizations like the Historic King Drive BID, P3 Development Group and Maures Development Group (all led by people of color). Symbolic of this reinvigoration is the reopening next year of America’s Black Holocaust Museum. Founded in 1988 by Dr. James Cameron, the only known survivor of a lynching, the museum attracted visitors from around the world before closing in 2008 when it lost funding during the recession. On Feb. 25, the museum will reopen in a 10,000-square-foot space that takes visitors on a journey through more than 4,500 years of African and African American history. Nearby, businesses like Gee’s Clippers (a barbershop housed in a 1930s bank) and the Bronzeville Collective (a retail space featuring local Black brands) elevate African American artistry, while the newly opened Maranta Plant Shop, Sam’s Place Jazz Cafe and soon-to-open Niche Book Bar prove that Bronzeville is back. - Shayla Martin"
Alderwoman Milele A. Coggs released the following statement about Bronzeville, which rests in the 6th District:
"I want to thank the countless people, community groups, neighborhood leaders and other stakeholders who have contributed to the revitalization of Bronzeville over recent years. This recognition is yet another way to validate the hard work and dedication of all those involved.
The momentum in Bronzeville is continuing, as a great number of additional projects and enhancements to the neighborhood are underway, and I look forward to all the great things on the horizon.
Whether you live locally or are a visitor to our great city, I would encourage everyone to heed the advice of the New York Times and make Bronzeville an addition to your travel destination list this year."
Robert Davis, the President and CEO of America's Black Holocaust Museum called Bronzeville a cultural hub. The museum is a cornerstone of the Bronzeville community and is set to reopen, for the first time since 2008, next month.
"It is a testament to the necessity of having this museum and having this museum in the United States at this time, but to have it in Milwaukee, in Bronzeville. That's why we find it so significant that the New York Times chose us and chose this community," Davis said.
Another staple of Bronzeville is Gee's Clippers, a beloved barber shop and in many way a community hub providing resources like a health clinic in the back. Owner Gauliem "Gee" Smith said it's a blessing for Bronzeville to be recognized on such a big scale.
"The world is taking notice that communities like Bronzeville are needed," Smith said. "All that's done economically, if you will, for the African American community all across the country."
But it's not just about what's been done in Bronzeville, it's about all the future has to offer. Part of that future is Niche Book Bar opening it's storefront on MLK drive this year.
"What I really liked was the feel of Bronzeville. There's residential, it's close to downtown without being too close, there's a lot of Black-owned businesses that were open to questions or collaboration," said Niche Book Bar Owner Cetonia Weston-Roy.
Weston-Roy said to her Bronzeville signifies resilience and opportunity.
So the next time you are looking for something to do, take a moment to explore this growing neighborhood. The way you decide to travel, the places you visit, and even where you eat can have a huge impact on the growth of a community.