Riverwest and Harambee have something of a contested familial relationship; they're sister neighborhoods with similar ideas, values and goals but still often find themselves at odds with each other. The 53212 Unity Ride, which is put together by Connect 53212 and scheduled for Saturday, July 25 at 2:00 p.m., hopes to improve that relationship.
The demographic breakdowns of the two neighborhoods have a lot in common. The cost of living is similar between the two neighborhoods, as is employment status and crime statistics. Harambee tends to be slightly older and Riverwest makes slightly more money.
The greatest difference, however, is in the racial demographic. There may not be a more distinct racial divide in the city than the one that runs along Holton Street.
And yet, despite this stark contrast, Harambee and Riverwest (in particular) are among the most diverse neighborhoods in the city.
The 53212 Unity Ride hopes to help bridge that demographic gap with an slow-rolling, exploratory bike ride that will bring together numerous community organizations from several diverse neighborhoods to look at gardens, murals, and other historic points of interest.
"Each individual neighborhood has it's own history, it's own feel and it's own assets be that historic houses, community gardens, black-owned businesses, cooperatives or community organizations," stressed organizer Shea Schachameyer, "Yet, when you look at 53212 as one community you see that all the assets compliment each other and really provide all the necessities of a healthy community."
The ride has been organized in conjunction with the Riverwest 24, but it is not officially part of that race, and is therefore open to anybody to participate. The reason for this, says Schachameyer is "it's a way for folks who are unable to take off of work or leave their families to be able to participate in an event that embodies the same spirit and fun as the RW24. Plus, youth are able to ride with us."
Participating groups include Connect 53212, Red, Bike & Green MKE, DreamBikes, Black Girls Do Bike, Women Empowering Women and the ride will hit up the neighborhoods of Riverwest, Harambe, Brewers Hill, Halyard Park and Williamsburg Heights.
The Unity Ride also hopes to enhance the conversation around transportation and community strength. As Schachameyer explained, "An important component of combating gentrification is to be deeply engaged in the community. The intent of Connect 53212 is not to change the neighborhood, it is to reach the current residents and connect them with the tools and resources so that they can organize and strengthen their own neighborhood or block."
"For the last two months we've given residents flyers while going door to door doing outreach for the program. We're a part of a network of a dozen of so community organizers in these neighborhoods who have also helped us to get the word out about the event."
The 53212 Unity Ride meets up at 1:30 p.m. at DreamBikes, located at 2021A N. Dr. Martin Luther King Dr., on Saturday, July 25 for bike decoration and safety checks. The ride leaves at 2:00 p.m. If you don't have a bike, DreamBikes will rent bikes for the event. "For the Unity Ride people can rent a bike for $10, which can also go to the purchase of that bike if it turns out they like it," said Schachameyer.
Connect 53212 is a neighborhood-based outreach program that aims to residents within the 53212 area code through walking, biking and busing.
Jason McDowell grew up in central Iowa and moved to Milwaukee in 2000 to attend the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design.
In 2006 he began working with OnMilwaukee as an advertising designer, but has since taken on a variety of rolls as the Creative Director, tackling all kinds of design problems, from digital to print, advertising to branding, icons to programming.
In 2016 he picked up the 414 Digital Star of the Year award.
Most other times he can be found racing bicycles, playing board games, or petting dogs.