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Empower Gallery Night - Part 1

Below are visual and audio portraits of Black men living in Milwaukee, whose lives have changed physically and mentally as a result of violence. In this series, we learn about the moment their lives changed, and how they are moving forward.

Portraits taken by renowned photographer Kevin J. Miyazaki. Posters designed by graphic artist Patrick Castro were also on view at the gallery opening at Nō Studios. 

CLICK HERE to view Part 2

Harvey Ross

Black and white portrait of Harvey Ross, seated in a wheelchair

Black and white portrait of Harvey Ross, by Kevin J. Miyazaki

Audio Transcription: "I got shot when I was 19 years old. I died on the scene. I was taken to Froedtert Hospital, where apparently I died again and then I was resuscitated or whatever. When I woke up, I was in ICU. And the thing that I remember from that whole situation that I till this day carry with me, the doctor, my mother asked the doctor, was I going to be OK? And his response was, 'Yeah, but he’ll never walk again.'" 

Mike Wolfe

black and white portrait of mike wolfe

Black and white portrait of Mike Wolfe by Kevin J. Miyazaki

Audio Transcription: "The majority of society looks as men to be physical in this world. So if you lose the ability to be physical, it kind of gives you the feeling of worthlessness and you won't be able to add value or be equal, which is what most people with disabilities just search for--just equality. What I found is through empowerment and basically baby steps, finding more ways that you are beneficial, getting stronger, finding out your strengths despite the physical injuries. Those things will empower you to strive for more."

Ace Jenkins

black and white portrait of ace jenkins

Black and white portrait of Ace Jenkins by Kevin J. Miyazaki

Audio Transcription: "It was actually on my son’s birthday when it happened. So yeah, just dropped him off, told him I will be back and I never made it to my destination or came back. It was actually two cars racing. And I was driving. I just stopped at the stop light and something just felt different. I seen two kids walking across the intersection. And I seen two cars approaching so fast from the back. It wasn't a way for me to have time to think, to get out the way, and I was worrying about the kids, really. And before I knew it, I tried to get over myself to the right lane and it hit me. And all I heard was the kid’s voice, and all I heard, 'Did you see that?' That's all I heard. I flew down. All I heard was stuff like cracking. I just wanted, I was tumbling, I just wanted to stop."

Nicholas Johnson

Black and white portrait of Nicholas Johnson

Black and white portrait of Nicholas Johnson by Kevin J. Miyazaki

Audio transcription: "I woke up out the coma. They told me I was paralyzed. I kind of already knew, so I really wasn't sad about it. I actually was trying to be as positive as possible. Every nurse, everybody that came in like they loved me in the hospital. They was like, 'man, you got the best spirit.' I just kept telling them, like, when I was in my coma, I feel like I met God. And God told me it wasn't my time really. So I'm’a cherish that, I'm gonna use that. Sometimes things are just meant to be. Maybe this could have happened to me either way. Like maybe it wasn't going to be a shooting. I could have gotten into a car accident and I was gonna end up paralyzed. But things happen for a reason. I just gotta work with what I got. I'm able to, you know, I can mop the floor, like it's stuff that people like, you know, people will look at paralyzed people and be like, 'well, you can't really do nothing or you can't do that or you can't do this.' But I can. That's what I always say, I can."

Michael Taylor

black and white photo of michael taylor

Black and white portait of Michael Taylor by Kevin J. Miyazaki

Audio Transcription: "Yeah but the spine is way different. It’s not like bones where it takes months and then it heals. I think it get better in the future, but right now, it's gonna take a while. And I notice like with, with the legs too, like, they do really work with each other. Yeah and I trips over myself a lot too. I got, I know toddlers and babies that move faster than me, [laughs] and sometimes when I be walking and like and I get the momentum, I'm going. I'm like, oh! I have to think like, 'OK, let's step.' But if I'm not thinking about walking and I'm walking, I'm thinking about something and I'm just, sometimes I trip. Plenty of times, I did that. My legs ain't there yet."

Leviticus Lipsey

black and white portrait of leviticus lipsey

Black and white portrait of Leviticus Lipsey by Kevin J. Miyazaki

Audio Transcription: "It took me two years to talk. That was like one of the hardest things. People was trying to figure out what I'm saying or what I'm trying to say and I'm trying to let them know what I mean, but I can't talk. That was one of the hardest things of being like this. You know God made me to be alive. Thanks to my momma because everybody wanted to pull the plug though. Our family, friends, like a lot of people. You know but my mom, that's the one that said 'No, I'm not gonna pull the plug.' My momma made a way for me to be alive. She ain't pull the plug on me. Like just think about it. What if she would have pulled the plug?"

Otis Young

black and white portrait of otis young

Black and white portrait of Otis Young by Kevin J. Miyazaki

Audio Transcription: "But I'll say one of the greatest obstacles I faced was getting over the why stage of why this is happening. 'Why did this happen to me?' I think that's a really big obstacle that I have overcame. Because life still goes on, and me being just a parent with a disability, you know like, I don't think people realize how tough that is, you know. Cause I could easily just give up. So when I look at that, that's also a challenge as well. So I take very good pride in that ‘cause I am a proud father with a disability and I don't want other people with disabilities to feel like they can't take care of their child or be a parent in this world. At the end of the day, all they want is you."

Grover Williams, ii

black and white portrait of grover williams

Black and white portrait of Grover Williams, ii by Kevin J. Miyazaki

Audio Transcription: "Everybody make mistakes in life. And sometimes bad things happen to good people as well. I want just to say that you know, hey, I'm still a human being. Every individual can contribute in life in different ways, you know, some people might be a firefighter. Some people might be a bus driver or mailman or cook or whatever like that there. But if, you know, you see somebody in a wheelchair or that's a little bit different than you, still, give them a chance cause you don't never know what they can do. I seen guys in wheelchairs work on cars. I done seen doctors that's in wheelchairs. Give them a chance. You'll be surprised." 

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