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ZIP MKE Looks at Milwaukee Neighborhood by Neighborhood

Off the Cuff with Dominic Inouye

Apr. 4, 2017
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Dominic Inouye, Photo credit: Helene Fischman
The police shooting in Sherman Park last August shook a lot of people in Milwaukee. It also shook Dominic Inouye, who lived just a few blocks from where the incident occurred. Inouye decided to do something about it. He started ZIP MKE, which began as an online project and moved to physical galleries of photos submitted by Milwaukeeans that portray every ZIP code in the city and can be seen at multiple Milwaukee Public Library locations. Inouye is also excited to begin walkthroughs with residents through specific Milwaukee communities while sharing photos and stories along the way. Off the Cuff recently spoke with Inouye about why he chose to start this project and what he hopes to do along the way.

What is the mission of ZIP MKE?

Our main mission is to engage and involve others to represent the people and places in all 28 ZIP codes in order to broaden our scope and perspective, while attempting to change the perception of the city. We want to change the perception of Milwaukee from one of segregation or isolation, and find the strengths of our city.

Why did you decide to start ZIP MKE?

The big reason why was because I believe we don’t look at each other enough. We are all caught in our own little bubbles and don’t see each other on real human levels. I believe this is one of the biggest problems we face in the world today. So we at ZIP MKE are trying to harness the ubiquity of the camera to try to show Milwaukee in a different way. The genesis moment of the project was August 13, 2016 at Sherman Park. I was disgusted by the way that people were talking about the situation, and about how many people felt hopeless. I don’t want to wallow about the Sherman Park incident anymore, because I don’t want that picture of Sherman Park to be the only one that exists.

How did this project move from just you, to having collected more than 1,100 photos from multiple people?

Originally the idea was to put pictures on a website, but then I thought we could all contribute to it through crowdsourcing. We wanted people to submit photos to our online gallery and we got a ton of photos in just a few months. The next step was partnering with the Milwaukee Public Library, who is hosting five of our exhibits. We are able to use this space to make it public. We want to figure out how to get people to take action after seeing these exhibits in order to broaden their perspective. We want to make this project emotionally moving in order to get people to take action.

How do people react to it when you tell them about it?

Many people latch on when they hear about it. The more I tell people about it, the more they get it. Some people need a nudge to get out of their comfort zone in order to make some kind of change in their city.

Why do you feel this project is important now?

The city is wide and there are more than 600,000 people who live here. For any one of us to make any one assumption without knowing them is wrong. Lately I have asked who our intended audience is. It’s fine if the only people coming and seeing these photos are people who are already of like mind, but we want to reach and move the people who are scared or ignorant or already have assumptions. This project is to help see each other in a different way.

To view ZIP MKE’s online photo galleries, make submissions and find out about exhibits at the Milwaukee Public Library, visit zipmke.com.

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