Fair and Fun, Fair Trade Day 2011

Around town last Saturday, a well-knit community of small proprietors endeavored to share their passion for global economic justice. To commemorate Fair Trade Day, Milwaukee’s shops that uphold fair trade ethics opened their doors to promote awareness of wares and edibles produced around the world. Fair Trade Day celebrates growth of consciousness that as Americans we buy a lot of goods from developing countries at deep discounts, at the expense of workers the with few labor rights, or miss out on goods from producers lacking capital and access to infrastructure to sell them Stateside. In 2007, Milwaukee became the third Fair Trade city in the United States.

Wake Up World
Efforts to break last year’s record of a 65,000 person Fair Trade Coffee Break, put the delectable coffee bean center stage. Although Fair Trade Day heightens awareness of fair trade practices in general, coffee-growing symbolizes the struggle for economic fairness worldwide. Ubiquitous in American culture, coffee drinkers can play a role in ensuring economic justice with little effort and at a marginal expense. In addition to coffee, The Milwaukee Fair Trade Coalition encouraged a variety of options to experience fair trade ranging from jewelry, clothing and artwork to household cleaning products. Outpost Foods supported Fair Trade Day by offering a free prize for making stops at six participating fair trade locations. Here’s where Local Trolley stopped.

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Grace Place Coffee Lounge
250 E. Juneau, Milwaukee
Stop one, Grace Place Coffee Lounge in Juneau Village, may seem unlikely but not so. In a quaint expansion to the main church building of Grace Lutheran Church, Grace Place Coffee serves fair trade coffee in line with the Church’s mission of promoting better livelihoods in less developed countries. Its quiet and modern, a great place to study or work on a project. Grace Place Coffee sits right in the midst of Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE) providing a convenient alternative to an otherwise coffee deprived area. During Fair Trade Day, Grace Place Coffee House featured Fair Trade Organic Coffee courtesy of Coffee with a Conscience.

Brewing Grounds for Change
2008 N. Farwell Ave, Milwaukee
Expecting a major fair trade coffee bash at Brewing Grounds for Change? As a focal point of community action and global awareness on the Lower Eastside, at Brewing Grounds for Change Fair Trade Day equates to business as usual. A great place representing a noble cause, Brewing Grounds nestles hidden gems such as alternative news sources from around the country and many announcements of local educational, creative and social causes. As one of the few later evening coffee shops, the opportunity to gather, read and converse carries on past 9pm. The non-profit status of Brewing Grounds allows much more room for social justice and human interest priorities, anchoring the ethics of non-commercialism still at home on the Lower Eastside. The volunteer staff shares their time so that more of the fair trade proceeds make it back to the coffee growers of less developed countries. WUWM 89.7 did a nice piece on Fair Trade Day that featured Brewing Grounds for Change among others. During Fair Trade Day, Brewing Grounds offered a $1 cup of Guatemalan blend coffee.

Third World Handcrafts Shoppe
5229 N. Capitol Drive, Milwaukee
As one of the oldest fair trade vendors in Milwaukee, Capitol Heights’ Third World Handcrafts Shoppe spent the last 22 years offering a quality and unique mix of jewelry, artifacts, religious icons, and clothing from around the world, including the West Bank, Kenya and India. Founders Jerry and Eunice Koepke, inspired by a sister church’s shop in Nebraska, began buying handcrafted items at prices that would support a family for a year, in countries they visited while on Lutheran Missions.

The idea of Missionaries conjures up a spectrum of opinions, however making a concerted effort to contribute to local economies while on “God’s business” deserves commendation. Third World Handcrafts operates as a non-profit ministry of the Capitol Drive Lutheran Church. Located in the heart of the Northside neighborhood Capitol Heights (Capitol Court to most locals), Third World Handcrafts is the unsung founder of the Fair Trade movement in Milwaukee. WJTM4’s Carol Meekins did a story on Third World Handcrafts as a part of her series Positively Milwaukee two years ago this week. The shop’s fair trade item of the day was Mexican silver jewelry.

Fair Trade for All
8730 W. North Avenue, Milwaukee County
Capping what could become Milwaukee’s most prominent street of continuous business activity, North Avenue, the street’s west end houses Fair Trade for All specialty gift shop. Attracting numerous curious shoppers, Fair Trade for All’s assortment of wall ornamentation, sculptures, clothing, bags and other eye and soul soothing consumables fill every display shelf vacancy. Some of FTA’s rare accessories benefit specific causes such as jewelry made from the ivory-alternative Tagua nut, crafted to combat the disgusting practice of poaching elephants. Handbags and computer cases designed from spent Cambodian rice and fish feed bags by Malia help battle the illicit sex trade. Family owned and operated, Fair Trade for All models sustainable and just business practices daily. On Fair Trade Day Fair Trade for All spot-lit Thai jewelry.

Four Corners of the World
5401 W. Vliet St, Milwaukee
On 54th and Vliet, Washington Heights cradles Four Corners of the World a non-profit fair trading post. Four Corners of the World offers many of the essential fair trade products such as accessories, chocolate and coffee. However, a few specific fair trade brands stand out at Four Corners. Available specialties include Malia Designs, Devine Chocolate, and a Four Corners of the World special blend coffee (along with many other blend varieties) by Madison-based coffee co-op Just Coffee. Good Paper, Four Corners’ featured Fair Trade Day product particularly notable for engaging an industry not readily associated with fair trade, assists communities in areas of the world like Rwanda, Manila, Philippines, and the Himalayas that have really struggled during the industrial and post-industrial era. Good Paper’s products offer an array of fine handmade greeting cards, stationary, and journals.

More than just a trading post, Four Corners of the World spawned from the desire of Southeastern Wisconsin Initiative for Fair Trade (SWIFT) to give Milwaukee a hub for environmental sustainability and high-road economic education. Links to film, periodicals and the Speakers’ Bureau (a listing of cost-free speakers that offer specialized knowledge on sustainability and economic justice topics) and many other Fair Trade resources can all be found at Four Corners of the World.

Future Green and Cafe Tarragon
2352 S. Kinnickinnic, Milwaukee
Subdued and tranquil, Future Green has an outdoor feel indoors. It’s simple, a bit rustic and frankly will bring you in touch with your natural side. Sweatshop-free forest trail or urban-adventurer-ready polo shirts and other active-wear hang out waiting to be whisked away. Contemporary and ethic styles of women’s clothing can also be purchased. Novel items like the featured Guatemalan dolls stand by preparing to brighten the recipients’ day. The sustainable products available set Future Green apart from the solely Fair Trade oriented shops. One-stop shopping for sustainable cleaning products, housewares, home flooring and Photovoltaic Cells (Solar panels) is amazingly possible at Future Green. Cafe Tarragon, tucked in the back of the boutique, attracts taste buds that hanker for vegetarian and gluten-free dishes. Cafe Tarragon’s menu offers only vegetarian cuisine, and as an added bonus, a gluten-free bread alternative to the regular baguette. Gluten-free desserts taunt you as you nibble deliciousness, and believe me their entree satisfies cravings.

The Fair Trade Community is thriving in Milwaukee and the beautiful thing about the movement is that it is truly a Citywide effort. A listing of all participating shops in Milwaukee, and surrounding areas, is available on Milwaukee Fair Trade Coalition’s website.

Breaking Beats Down, Miltown Beat Down Rd. 1

Miltown Beat Down 2011 kicks-off at the Jackalope tonight. The MTBD features a tournament format that will surely generate a buzz, and plenty rattling noises from car trunks lacking ability to absorb decibels of low-end bass emanating from the Third Ward.

Here’s a primer to the beat combatants and analysis of the match-ups tonight at 10:00pm:

TreCold vs Bubba
Menash, WI repres-… Ma- what?? TreCold will tee-off some traditional hardcore gangster bang-bang, which seems to thrive in small towns with Prison Industrial bases. I think Menasha is near Waupun or something, ah ha Fond Du Lac. I suppose it’s time for the that true gangster spirit to stop playing second scene to the hipster flood. Bubba will push back with beats leaning towards experimental pop sound. Electro-rap influenced Bubba brings fun and risk-taking behavior through the speakers.
Prediction: TreCold will lose handily from gangsta rap backlash, and claim all things Milwaukee bogus. The fakey Bubba pulls off with a track like Real will also have something to do with it.

White Russian vs OVA
Unifi Records’ White Russian is the first of several Unifi Records affiliates to perform. The Unifi camp is basically Milwaukee’s equivalent to Native Tongues, on the quality rap conglomerate level. Auto-props are turned on due to Unifi’s overall success of creating a brand-mystique and refined multi-media product. OVA offers a taste of liveness, but ultimately lacks edge. Enough credit is due to OVA for what sounds to be a sample from a Nirvana Unplugged cover.
Predicition: White Russian moves on carried by talent and three fourths of the crowd that is there to support Unifi.

Audio Pilot vs. Jungle Boy
Audio Pilot brings the good old Milwaukee rogue vibe to the table. These type of dudes keep it true to the unabashed poor and working class struggle. The sound has grit and no light and will inspire fearless thoughts. Jungle Boy definitely has a concept and matches it with the ill East vibe, as in just west of Riverwest, and delivers game. It will be hardcore rap but something out of nothing creative.
Prediction: Although tilted gangster, Jungle Boy will prevail in a narrow margin on account of rawness, commitment to unwritten principles, and getting the room hype. This one is close, Auto Pilot’s presentation of a track like Still Here could tip the scales.

DJ Heavywait vs Cash Beatz
Okay a play-on-words is presented by DJ Heavywait, something concerning waiting for my web browser to crash from lamery. I don’t want to say it but waiting is not Hip-Hop. DJ Heavywait is heavy on the electric instruments and sounding commercial. Actually, the production is not terrible given the genre, just the presentation. Cash Beatz will ensure ladies with and without booty will get twerking. Cash Beatz cashes in on video game sound effects and Casio beats, but hey this is the kind of drum hit to which I see a lot player-esque rocking backing forth with Crown on the rocks in hand taking place. These qualities are especially true of Something Crazy. Did I mention ladies going H.A.M. BOW! BOW!
Prediction: The Jackalope will briefly turn into a strip-club and nobody there will argue about that. Cash Beatz wins.

Who moves on: By the end of the night, the two producers I predict to move on to the finals are White Russian and Bubba.

Miltown Beat Down Round 2 is next Thursday May 12th.

Here are my overall power rankings of field:

1. Reason
2. Lex Luther (last year’s winner)
3. Mark Valdez
4. Mixed Up
5. White Russian
6. Bad Character
7. Champ
8. Luxi
9. BakTrax
10. Big Steve GooniTunes
11. GoodWill
12. ClassiCal
13. Audio Pilot
14. Bubba
15. 40 Mil
16. Jihad Baracas (2009 winner, confirmed)
17. Hitmayng
18. Cash Beatz
19. OVA
20. Mighty DR
21. Jooney Dubz
22. Andy Petr
23. Jungle Boy
24. TreCold
25. Sam Winters

Ranked on Principle (No Material!).
26. Saul Garza Beatz
27. Hurrikayne
28. James Jaxin
29. MC Cullah
30. Sinister Reality
31. DJ Heavywait
32. TradeMark (No online presence in 2011…?)

Related Posts
Breaking Beats Down, Miltown Beat Down Rd. 1, http://wp.me/p1hPwN-jC
Who’s Next, Miltown Beat Down Rd. 1 cont., http://wp.me/p1hPwN-lv
Kitchen hot, Miltown Beat Down Rd. 1 cont. cont., http://wp.me/p1hPwN-nO
It’s Halftime, Miltown Beat Down Final Prelim, http://wp.me/p1hPwN-oo
Local Trolley 2011 Honors!, http://wp.me/p1hPwN-13I

Cheeky Cool, Cafe Corazon

To festive Milwaukeeans, no opportunity to have the summer’s first Margarita presents itself better than Cinco de Mayo. Cafe Corazon sits as a kitsch landmark on the Beerline bike trail, happy to oblige distilled agave cravings despite Cafe Corazon’s Puerto Rican inspiration. Nestled just North of Burleigh on Bremen Street deep in Riverwest (the unofficial home of Polish flats) uninhibited good times radiate from Cafe Corazon’s craggy triangular-shaped building.

The traditional cantina spirit lives inside Cafe Corazon. Patrons converse jovially, aided by house specialty libations removing any inhibitions one might have of sharing minimal space with the maximum number bodies. There will be no cagey American sensibilities requiring acres and privacy here. Diners in wait stand, sit or lean with beverages clutched and mingle with neighbors.

Decor tinted with teal tropical ocean hues, starkly contrasted with blood-red bar and wood trim, give backdrop to the ample religious relics and Catholic keepsakes commemorating the Christ’s Passion that occupy every free nook. Enjoying more than one of the tastiest and tartest mouth searing Margaritas served on record will certainly beg an extraordinary test of self-control, to avoid unseemly acts beckoning God’s forgiveness. Fortunately the Parish Priests of this Mass, of Latin-inspired cuisine, shepherd wayward appetites with insatiable dishes.

Good things come to those who wait for a place at one of the six coveted table tops tended by the cafe staff. Part of the Cafe Corazon experience must include the faux pas of wetting your appetite by eying others’ food while on stand-by. There is no denying that every food combination appears absolutely delicious, urgently flying out of the kitchen quickly uniting with the ordering guest.

Certain details such as the thinly sliced medallions of radish garnishing the tacos, the secret house tomatillo and cilantro-based green salsa or flavorfully doctored black beans, compliment the traditional Latin menu nicely. Plates of tacos, enchiladas or quesadillas with choice of filling, including the lesser known Mechada (slow cooked pulled beef) anchor the menu. Sea Food aptly varies the menu further and all dishes have a vegetarian option. Keeping with sustainable ethics, Cafe Corazon uses Restaurant Supported Agriculture and raises its meat locally.

Cafe Corazon serves up tastiness Tuesday through Saturday 11am to 10pm. Saturday and Sunday offers brunch starting at 10am.

Gallery Night Spring 2011, Studio 420b

With significant inspiration present, growing an idea requires little space. Mark David Gray curator and resident artist of splashing new Studio 420b whips up his creative gumbo with this recipe. Born of a workspace less than 300 square feet, the gallery’s loosely carved and ample surface area now allows for nooks amenable to his artistic companions.

The raw and utilitarian stance of Studio 420b suits the theme of its current installation New Work. Adding intrigue to the theme, concrete floors hoist a sign proclaiming “All Hail Marx and Lennon” scribed in sharp-edged block letters emphasized with a profile portrait of the late John Lennon designed in pastels. It happens that one of the gallery’s artists is a Marx, Lindsay Marx.


A 50 times removed cousin of those other great Marx, using oil on canvas, Lindsay Marx explains her impressions of moments suspended by photography in the 1960’s. Her paintings adjust our perspective close enough to see the profoundness of mundanely human dramas beckoning attention, drowned out by the turmoil typically associated with the era of social change. Layering color tones, motifs, concepts and patterns, pictures of moments transform into paranormal events revealing unseen forces acting at that moment. Employing the same technique, other works divine the thoughts of the central subject matter. Exquisite, modest and sometimes eerie, Marx evokes all three with appreciated intent; nothing here perceived as weird for weird’s sake.

The World is a Marble

Perforating the main wall space, a series of small geometrically identical frames house intricately drafted illustrations by Sean Bodley. Having even the negative spaces amazingly formulated solely from strokes of a pen, Bodley demonstrates the art of constructing worlds on a fantastic scale. Glancing at craggy cliffs appearing inches tall you may notice minute human forms that, from their point-of-view, immediately and epically magnify everything around them to Grand Teton scale. Admittedly, Bodley relishes the fantasy genre brought mainstream by the Lord of the Rings motion picture trilogy. Executing with marksman precision, Bodley charts detailed maps of places existing somewhere between Milwaukee that place Atreyu tried to save, and River Styx. Expressing interest in the fantasy genre’s friendliest format, one of Bodley’s artistic channels transmits his current work in an illustrated novel entitled Guardians of Gaia.

Fighting Faux

Too busy settling the West or snatching what they could by guile or force, turn of the century rugged individuals had little time for art, unless they were making “Wanted” posters. Mark David Gray pays tribute to the period of settlement and gunslingers with several of his pieces currently covering Studio 420b walls. Ruddy sepia tones infuse age and subdued neon highlights kick pop appeal into visual renderings that pluck Teddy Roosevelt out of historical archives and place him into new contemporary interpretations. Bigger than the dimensions of the canvas that carries them, several of Gray’s precise works idolize the former President in an endearing but kindly mocking fashion. Others works more straight forward, do plain old justice to the man and the legend. Lacking remissness, Gray offers additional odes to other men or legends fitting the phonetic description “Marx” or “Lennon” for further ponder.

Treading a rare path, Gray’s serious demeanor betrays his engaging and open mind and manner; a mastermind behind a space that is truly hospitable to creativity. Milwaukee is fast going the way of “scenes”, yet here people come as they are, and work as they are. Through its atmosphere, Studio 420b takes the bit out of the mouth of being an artist. In the process, truly phenomenal art ferments.

The End, Arthur Miller: Death of a Salesman

Timely describes Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s season night-cap. A sarcastic toast to resurgent free market enthusiasm, and all the “self-making” delusions that tag along with attitudes encouraging reduction of society to no-holds-barred capitalism, Arthur Miller’s classic challenges this exuberance prophetically. Death of a Salesman reminds us all of the virtue found in honest reflection, as only theater, in comparison to contemporary mass media, seems to have the guts to do these days.

Miller opens the Loman household to scrutiny, as Willie (Lee Ernst) and long-suffering wife Linda (Laura Gordon) cope with the personal tolls exacted by professional life in the post-war business sector. When two thirty-something-aged sons appear, they rehash memories of the Loman’s child rearing years. The perceived expectations of 1950’s early onset consumer culture tack veneers on the members of the Loman family and friends. To these veneers, the characters’ past and present life experiences apply varnish or turpentine.

Progress through the scenes of Mark Clements’ production reach a point of bullying comfort; credit Ernst for his ability to take the audience past entertainment value to at least the point emotional response. The cast proved adept as usual, despite Reese Madigan, better suited for the role Hannay in 39 Steps, fidgeting a bit while finding his way into the character of Biff. Madigan’s portrayal still worked well, in caricature of the period in which Miller authored Death of a Salesman. Accurate, visionary set design, and exceptionally well-timed and in-place actors projected a polished show.

On stage until May 8, Death of a Salesman is the last production of the season at The Rep.