“It’s really a beautiful experience…to be surrounded by young minds in a beautiful garden, it’s a great experience,” said Jeff Brown, as we were surrounded by the same garden he mentioned. I met Brown at Alice’s Garden on a Thursday evening for Brown Boys Bonding Thru Books,”a community program that Brown inherited from the owner of the garden, Venice Williams.
Listen below to experience an evening at “Brown Boys Bonding Thru Books.”
Brown was born and raised in Milwaukee. He graduated from Rufus King High School and received his degree in architecture from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee – his love for Milwaukee is deep. “[I] also try to do whatever I can for my community,” said Brown.
He wanted to make sure he would be a strong role model for other young Black men and children in his community, so he took over Brown Boys Bonding Thru Books. The program began in Alice’s Garden—an urban community garden on Milwaukee’s north side owned by Venice Williams—and Brown took over last summer.
Every other Thursday throughout the summer, you can find him sitting under the pavilion at the garden, waiting for his young friends to join him. As moms or relatives come to tend to their plots, they send their sons to the pavilion to read with Brown.
The program focuses on providing young boys of color with a mentor of color in the community. Together, they bond over literature. They read a book together as a group and the boys each get to keep their copy of it. “It helps build their library, they can go home and finish the books after we leave here.” They digest and discuss the book slowly and sometimes, they only get through a couple of pages. “The only time reading was ever fun for me was when I took it one page at a time. It’s not about racing through a book.”
Brown encourages families to bring their sons for a session of slow-paced and thoughtful reading session where they will discuss what they’ve read and how may relate or apply to their lives. Brown will host two sessions in the garden August 16 and August 30 at 6 p.m.