The “No War” sign on Marty Horning’s front door is a good indication of what Horning might stand for, but it doesn’t tell the whole story.
Horning is a longtime Riverwest resident, activist, and, according to Amy Peterson (his girlfriend, or as Horning says, “I prefer ‘sweetheart’ or ‘baby’…”), bon vivant.
Horning admits to an encyclopedic knowledge of Riverwest bars, taverns and restaurants, but more important to him are social justice and equality. Over the years, he’s done everything from volunteering at Peace Action Wisconsin to working with high school dropouts to dousing neo-Nazis at a civil rights march with sauerkraut.
For the past 10 years, Horning has worked at the New School for Community Service, a teacher-run high school that he co-founded. The school, an auxiliary of MPS, is an alternative public high school that allows students to build their own study programs and do community based internships. Horning, who has experience working with non-traditional students, also teaches social studies, computer and business classes.
Horning is a strong believer in public education. “For all of its warts, it’s one of the last truly public contributions to democracy and an inclusive society,” he says. His children, Isabella, 20, and Juliana, 16, attended MPS and received a quality education, he adds.
Horning works with many local organizations. He has been involved with the Gordon Park co-op, a baby-sitting co-op and the Riveredge housing co-op, among others. “I’m into grass roots,” he says simply.
He’s also interested in global justice. For the past several years Horning has worked with Wisconsin Coalition to Normalize Relations With Cuba and the Pastors of Peace Caravan. “We’re making the point that U.S. policy toward Cuba is absurd,” he says. Pastors for Peace, who travel to Cuba with school and health supplies, is “led by tough ministers,” he says appreciatively. His own work with the group includes educating people about the embargo and participating in fundraisers. “My involvement fits with my whole global perspective,” he says.
The responsibility for his social activism “falls squarely on the laps of my parents,” Horning says with a laugh. “They were very progressive and radical Catholics.” His parents were involved in Milwaukee’s civil rights and anti-war movements in the ‘60s and ‘70s; they’re still active in supporting their church’s food pantry and in hunger issues. Horning’s 75-year-old father was arrested several years ago for entering Fort Benning, Georgia to protest School of the Americas, a combat-training school for Latin-American soldiers that has been accused of teaching torture methods. “That was an inspiration to me,” Horning says.
As for a local perspective, Horning finds it in Riverwest, where he’s lived since the 1970s. Riverwest, he says, is going through a Renaissance after a lackluster period. For a while there was “too much real estate speculation; too much poorly run rental property,” Horning explains.
These days, however, “new businesses and new clubs are opening. There’s new energy, and it’s very affordable.” Despite Riverwest’s bohemianism, the neighborhood is a good place to raise a family and has a sense of togetherness, he says. For example, part of living in Riverwest is looking out for your neighbors and being on your toes. If the garage door is left open at night, his neighbors let him know. Instead of calling the cops when teenagers get too loud, he recommends talking to the kids or their parents.
Horning is in Riverwest for the long haul. Many of his friends moved in and started families around the time he did, so he’s got “a lot of geezer friends who I wouldn’t part with in a million years.” He is looking forward to summer in Riverwest, which includes street festivals, the Cuban Caravan fund-raiser at Club Timbuktu and community work. It’ll be nothing unusual for him, though. When his parents heard that he and his friends dumped sauerkraut on neo-Nazis, they just said, “Oh, there goes Marty again.”
Pastors for Peace Benefit
Saturday, July 9, 5-8 pm
Club Timbuktu - 520 E. Center St.
More info: 273-1040 x12 or www.wicuba.org
Do you know someone who lives in Riverwest or who has had an impact on our neighborhood? We want your suggestions for unsung heroes, quirky characters, and interesting people for our “Neighbor Spotlight” feature. Call 265-7278 or send ideas to email@example.com.
Riverwest Currents online edition - July, 2005