"Growing Up Milwaukee" documentary debuts nationwide on HBO Max

NOW: “Growing Up Milwaukee“ documentary debuts nationwide on HBO Max

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- A feature length documentary called Growing Up Milwaukee" debuted this month on HBO Max.  It follows the journey of three black youths as they struggle to avoid becoming just another statistic.

On CBS 58 Sunday Morning, Kim Shine introduced the woman behind the film, and the people sharing their personal stories.

“To be a part of this project was, it was everything honestly. ‘Cause I could actually tell my story to those who don’t understand and to those who do understand to help them in a positive way,” said Marquell Jenkins.

The creators of Growing Up Milwaukee found Jenkins as a sophomore at Vincent High School.

He’s 18 now.

He says segregation, poverty and police brutality impact young lives in his city.

“Living that everyday life of being a Black man and going through the struggles of being stopped by police officers or even accused anything, of what you go through on a daily basis, it’s just like, you can’t keep your mind off of the negativity when you’re trying to think positive or trying to be positive,” explained Jenkins.

Dealing with at-home struggles, he often found solace in a mentoring group at his MPS school.

A group led by his mentor Richard Polk – or as everyone calls him “Uncle Rick”.

“If you really take time and give our kids some attention, and let them in, that you can learn a lot from them,” said Polk.

Polk believes people hear what happens in Milwaukee, but the impact on its children is overlooked. He wants leaders and lawmakers to be more present.

“They need to come in with the students and see how our students work, see how they walk, see how they tick, see how they talk. They are doing some good things, but I just think they need to come inside the buildings,” he added.

Growing Up Milwaukee also follows two other young people, covering topics as teen pregnancy and youth incarceration.

In exploring their stories of trauma, adversity and hope, the film’s director wants viewers to see beyond the statistics.

Tyshun Wardlaw is from Milwaukee. She’s director and producer at Wardlaw Productions.

“You know Milwaukee is a lot of things, and we see a lot of negativity, but also Milwaukee has a lot of beauty,” said Wardlaw.

Wardlaw counters the negative with perspectives from many different city and county leaders.

She says youth need to be supported and set up for success.

She wants her film to be a call to action.

“What can I do? Or what can I continue to do? Potentially even getting more funding for local organizations – whether they’re existing or they’re new grassroots organizations – but allowing people to continue to do that pivotal work that will help continue to change the narrative in the city,” she said.

It’s a narrative that Jenkins, Polk and others in the city are building up each and every day.

“Milwaukee’s got so much great things, great mentors, great students, great kids, great youth, great communities, you just gotta come together as a community to make your community better and make your city better,” said Jenkins.

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