The snow has melted and springtime has arrived. Usually for Milwaukee, this means beautiful rainy days and the smell of blossoming flowers. For the south and north side of Milwaukee, it means all the trash that sat under the snow is now revealed, showing the city’s neglect for communities of color. The streets are strewn with trash, and there is a period where the community comes together to begin a weekly trash pick-up, usually spearheaded by the same people who volunteer at food pantries and provide people with information regarding COVID vaccines and energy assistance information.

Among these proactive community members is Sypher Lady X, a local hip-hop artist and organizer, who has been coordinating weekly cleanups with the help of volunteers since September 2020. Residents of various south side neighborhoods have come together thanks to the help of a social media page, “La Comunidad Mke,” currently managed and directed by SLX and Muskego Way neighborhood resident Michelle Alvarado.

The page was originally a movement created to provide Spanish-speaking residents with important information and resources available in Milwaukee County. In efforts to help keep streets clean, local businesses have also taken a proactive approach and have partnered with La Comunidad MKE and OnTheRize414 (also directed by SLX), providing volunteers with incentives such as gift certificates, prizes, vouchers, and products and services in hopes that more people join the mission.

“I am hoping to get the support from JoCasta Zamarripa, who currently holds the seat in the Clarke Square district,” says Sypher Lady X. “I would like to have the street sweepers come through on the days that we are cleaning. I think maybe she can help with bringing them to the neighborhood so we can tackle the side streets at the same time as they sweep the main streets like National Avenue.”

The cleanup schedule is every Saturday from 2-4 p.m. The goal is to visit a new neighborhood every week—sometimes twice a week, depending on the need for service. March 20 marked the first day of spring, but it also symbolized the beginning of the weekly community cleanups in the Muskego Way neighborhood. This week, the cleanup will take place on Sunday, March 28, from 2-4 p.m., due to a rainy weather forecast on Saturday. Volunteers will begin on the corner of 26th and National. Masks are required and social distancing is also suggested. There are also gloves, hand sanitizer, and garbage picks provided to all volunteers during the cleanup.

Once the cleanup comes to an end, winners of the various prizes and giveaways are announced. Last week’s lucky winners took home $50 and $25 gift certificates from sponsors Todo Postres, $30 from El Sazon de Jalisco, and $20 to Restaurant y Taqueria La Esperanza, as well as FREE TACOS AND TORTAS from the owner of the “El Cabrito” taco truck. This Sunday’s cleanup has already gained the support of 10 sponsors.

Community organizations such as Muskego Way Forward and the Southside Organizing Center have voiced their support for the cleanup project. “I am hoping to team up with Unforgettable Moments Flower Shop in order to get more flowers planted around the south side, create more green spaces in our blocks, and grow garden initiatives by connecting with programs like the Victory Garden Initiative,” Sypher Lady X explains.

SLX has worked tirelessly with local food pantries and coat drives in order to make sure that those in need are truly getting what they need. “My area of knowledge has always been in working with organizations that get things done,” she says. “Too many tax-payer dollars are being wasted in ‘administrative costs’ and ‘research or surveys.’ Our people know what they need and we need it now.

“Slowly but surely we are reclaiming our spaces and utilizing all available resources we need on Milwaukee’s south side,” she adds. “Through strategic and community-based efforts, we can keep our city beautiful.”

About The Author

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Juan Miguel Martinez is a writer from the south side of Milwaukee. He only writes until he can land a role as the mechanic friend of the handsome lead in a telenovela. His favorite movie is Repo Man.