Jane Jacobs
Photo: Phil Stanziola

In The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jane Jacobs castigated “urban renewal” for how it was destroying the fabric of neighborhoods, both physically and socially. 

The 1961 book has become a guide for anyone interested in fostering healthy, successful cities. Jacobs’ legacy will be celebrated throughout May in Milwaukee at free events promoted by Jane’s Walk MKE. It’s part of a worldwide movement honoring Jacobs, who would have been 102 May 4.

An observation-based journalist who traveled widely, Jacobs wrote that a city has “the capability of providing something for everybody, only because and only when, (it is) created by everybody.” She intuited that the foundation of successful cities is residents getting to know their neighborhoods and each other. To that end, many citizen-led, free walks — and other “self-propelled group excursions” — are being planned citywide. About a dozen volunteers on the Jane’s Walk MKE organizing committee hope it will also “motivate participation in making proactive changes to connect Milwaukeeans, improve urban infrastructure and encourage civic engagement and activism.” 

The Milwaukee Turners  and ZIP MKE are Jane’s Walk MKE’s co-sponsors, and other organizations have signed on as community partners. 

Although Jane’s Walks take place around the world on the first weekend in May, Jane’s Walk MKE, now in its third year, has enough events planned to expand to the entire month. 

The Jane’s Walk MKE Kickoff is May 2, 5:30–8:30 p.m. at the Turner Hall Ballroom, 1040 N. Fourth St., Milwaukee. The public is invited to learn about walks and to mingle with people promoting neighborhoods and support for community building, pedestrians and bicyclists. There will be free light fare, live music and opportunities for creative expression. 

The kickoff also features a discussion among citizen advocates, small-scale developers and others involved in city-building projects. Michael Carriere — Milwaukee School of Engineering associate history professor and co-coordinator of the ReciproCITY arts collective — moderates “Sowing Seeds to Grow Grass Roots.” Panelists include Adam Carr, Antoine Carter, Mikal Floyd Pruitt, Tatiana Maida, Tim Syth, Ruth Weill and Venice Williams. 

On May 19, author Jamin Creed Rowan heads an afternoon of events at Boswell Book Company, 2559 N. Downer, Milwaukee. In The Sociable City: An American Intellectual Tradition, Rowan “unearths an expansive body of work dedicated to exploring and advocating the social configurations made possible by the city,” according to the University of Pennsylvania Press. 

Rowan leads a walk in the bookstore’s neighborhood beginning at 2:30 p.m., which is followed by a 4:30 p.m. lecture. The MSOE University Scholars Honors Program is co-hosting the event with Jane’s Walk MKE, and it is co-sponsored by Marquette University, UWM and ReciproCITY.

The 2017 documentary Citizen Jane was shown at sold-out screenings at last fall’s Milwaukee Film Festival and is available on DVD. There are plans underway to offer a free showing at least once in May.

To purchase tickets for the Jane's Walk MKE kickoff event, click here. 

Editor’s note: Virginia Small is a member of the Jane’s Walk MKE organizing committee.

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