Last winter, we sat in Lopez Bakery with coffee, bakery, and a slice of Angela Kingsawan’s family (we met Angela through our interviews at the Gerald L. Ignace Indian Wellness Center). Their history, through generations and marriage, is a kaleidoscope of culture/nationalities/religions. They also happen to be naturally gifted storytellers, and on that cold Sunday morning, they shared a beautiful stream of adventure and conflict and their lives on the South Side of Milwaukee. One Mitchell Street memory in particular has continued to reverberate in our imaginations — a simple story laced with magic — and has become deeply influential to us and our art production process. From Angela’s aunt Angela:
On the lower level of Woolworths they had the pet department. One day somebody let all the birds out of the cages. My grandmother was wonderful with animals; she sat down on the steps leading up to the first floor and she just held her finger out and went, “Tch tch tch.” And all the birds just came to her and she got them back in their cages. I don’t remember how long it took but I remember sitting there with her. She called them and they just came to her and she put them back in their cages. They were flying all over the lower level. It must have been at least 20, 24 birds and they were all different. There were canaries. Yellow ones, blue and grey ones. I can see her sitting there now, in fact.
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On the Brew City Safari West to East walking tour this past Saturday, there were many notable moments, but one stands out. Shortly after we entered Sasta Bazaar to refuel with some mango/coconut/honey-basil drinks, a bird joined us. It wandered in through a door in back and darted to the front window before anybody knew what was happening. It was frightened as it looked out at the light and Mitchell Street and the sky. I stood there, stunned, as did most of the other tour-goers and employees of the store. Christian, the founder and leader of Brew City Safari (and also nearly seven feet tall), thought quick — he squeezed under a rack of brightly colored dresses, picked it up gently, and carried it outside. And the bird was gone just as quickly as it had come.