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Brian Verdin

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In this month of Father’s Day, the neighbor spotlight focuses on Brian Verdin. In his soft-spoken manner, he does not exactly brag about his five sons, but he is clearly pleased with the choices they have made in their lives so far. He is one very proud father. Brian’s oldest son is Shawn, who at 34 is now working at a bank in Chicago. Next comes Fidel, 28, a graphic designer who recently launched Gorilla Productions, a company based at 804 East Center that was highlighted in last month’s Currents. Fidel and his buddies Garnel Murray and Travis McLaughlin perform together as the Taste Emcees, a hip-hop group that draws big crowds at Riverwest venues such as Onopa, Bucketworks, Quarters, Riverwest Commons and Timbuktu. The 24-year old twins come next. Gideon performs under the name Armagideon and is finishing up his college degree at UWM. Langston is a photographer and teaches computers at Harambee Community School. The youngest son is Julian; at 17, he is a student at Vincent High School. The family home on North Palmer Street must have been bursting at the seams with so many creative, energetic young men under one roof. “It was,” recalls Brian in his laid-back way. “Good thing I had so much help because I couldn’t have done it all by myself. My boys grew up with the help of a lot of extended family, especially their grandmothers.” Brian credits his own mother not only for giving him the example of being a good parent but also for stepping in and helping out when he had his hands full as a single dad. Her name was Beverly Verdin and she spent several years working right in the neighborhood as secretary at O.W. Holmes School. Brian’s father came from a Mexican family that originated in Jalisco and came up through Texas doing migrant labor. Angelo Verdin was active in his union at Briggs and Stratton during the 50s and 60s. Brian credits both his parents with teaching him values that he has tried to pass on. “Be polite. Work hard. Don’t be lazy. Put yourself out for other people. That pretty much sums it up.” They also taught him that there are political and economic policies that shape our society, our city, our neighborhoods, our families. Children do not grow up in a vacuum. So as a parent and as a citizen, Brian has always been involved in politics. An active member of the Green Party, he ran for Congress in 2000. He belongs to Peace Action. While he supports the young men who are stationed in Iraq, he vehemently disagrees with Bush’s pre-emptive war there. When he was a high school student at King in the 60s, he was active in opposing the war in Viet Nam. In the 70s he worked with the Coalition for Peaceful Schools and later he was active in the parents’ group at Riverside High School. Being political and being a parent have gone hand-in-hand for him. The violence that his kids face wrenches his gut. After the shooting death of 7-year-old Nikeemah Hubanks in April, he spoke out in a letter to the Journal Sentinel about the thousands of young boys in our city who “reach manhood without any decent prospect for jobs. How is it,” he asks, “that billions of federal dollars can be bombarded on Baghdad and there is none for Milwaukee?” In his own household, he teaches his sons how to survive. He insists that all traffic tickets be paid promptly, all registrations be kept current. He doesn’t want his sons to be pulled over and taken to the police station. When they were younger, he encouraged them to play softball and coached some of their teams. “Young people need to get together in fun, safe ways,” he says. On that score, he’s pleased that his son Fidel helped launch the Summer of Peace initiative at COA. When Brian gets discouraged, he finds inspiration in a song by Richie Havens — something which is not surprising for this father of rap performers. Oh you who are on the road/ must have a code/ that you can live by/ and so become yourself… Oh you of tender years/can’t know the fears that your parents grew by/ So help them/ help them with your youth./ They seek the truth/ before they die… Just know they love you/ just know they love you. “That song says it all” for Brian Verdin. He sums up his philosophy of being a father this way: “No matter what, don’t ever stop talking and just know they love you.”
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