A rising freshmen at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, Elijah Ashley-Youngblood, stoically walked up to the podium at a ribbon-cutting ceremony on July 31, and placed a candle on it.
He was surrounded by his peers from Our Next Generation, Mayor Barrett, Senator LaTonya Johnson, District Attorney John Chisholm, and a host of community partners including Artists Working in Education, Near West Side Partners, and Fresh Perspective Artists Collective.
He adjusted the microphone to fit his stature, and began to speak: “What you see in front of you is just a candle right? Nothing more, nothing less. You look at this and ask internally, does this have a deeper meaning than what lies on the surface? The answer is yes.”
Ashley-Youngblood’s candle metaphor draws an important connection between the beautification project recently added to a vacant, city-owned blighted building at 3907 W. Vliet St.
The Artistic Board-Up project brings together nonprofit groups, city government and Milwaukee youth to tackle the loitering, vandalism and other public safety concerns that often come with vacant properties. The Board-Up project gives new life to vacant properties all over the city. It gives the traditional green boards on vacant properties a fresh, bright overhaul on the exterior of the building and beautifying the neighborhood.
In his speech, Ashley-Youngblood, honored his friend, Syreahi Ahmed, 14, who worked in the early phases of the project but passed away before the new boards were installed.
This Board-Up project is one that neighbors and organizations hope to bring to Vliet Street as part of the transformation the street is going through, much like the blighted buildings. The revitalization of Vliet Street has been spearheaded by NWSP, and their anchor institutions Marquette University, Harley-Davidson, MillerCoors, Aurora Health Care and Potawatomi Business Development Corporation, all hoping to add more public art, and business development to the growing neighborhood.
Written by Raina Johnson