Light jazz mingled with the soft chatter of voices as people stood in little groups, clutching hot Stone Creek coffee. Early-morning sun filtered through the windows of Radio Milwaukee’s community room and performance space, casting light on the juice carafes. Bouquets of autumnal Willoway Farm flowers and jars of locally made jam adorned each table (from Bayview husband and wife team, Tandem Foods). There was an ambiance of expectation and optimism as this collaboration-themed Breakfast Jazz Jam started.
I could smell the faint syrupy scent of breakfast as we took our seats. My table was near the stage and I had a great view of the dynamic jazz guitarists, the Davis / Peplin Duo. Conversation grew naturally out of the welcome question at each table. I was seated with five amazing women and the topic of personal strengths buzzed around the table.
“What qualities do you bring to a collaboration?”
I had to think for a second — it wasn’t a simple question and definitely not something I was used to being asked. While listening to the others’ stories, I drew inspiration about my own strengths and soon enough I had my answer. I took a sip of orange juice.
“I guess I’d have to say that I bring leadership to a collaboration as well as inclusivity. I like to make people feel included so that there’s a work environment free of judgement and ridicule.”
My answer was met with nodding heads and listening ears. It sparked a conversation about our personal weaknesses, and how important they are to recognize, especially when working collaboratively. Other groups discussed how projects instigating long-term change take a long time to grow, so knowing and trusting your team is very important!
Soon, plates of Chic Café’s old fashioned, authentic, soulful Southern breakfast started to fill the tables. Pancakes, fried chicken, grits, scrambled eggs, turkey sausage, fresh fruit & Stone Creek coffee!
My new friends and I were invited to join a lager fishbowl conversation, convened by Genyne Edwards, Chair of the Cultural Commons initiative and Co-Founder of P3 Development Group. On the stage were:
- Joaquin Altoro, Vice President for Commercial Banking at Town Bank
- Danae Davis, Executive Director at Milwaukee Succeeds
- Kristi Luzar, Executive Director at Urban Economic Development Association of Wisconsin, Inc. (UEDA)
- Dominique Samari, Attorney and Community and International Development Consultant at P3 Development Group
- LaShawndra Vernon, Collective Impact Leader at United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County
Each leader had a unique perspective on their own collaborative projects, and unique angle on how to foster positive, productive relationships that can move Milwaukee forward. A discussion was launched about diversity and class in our city and how we must build up others, invest in education and focus on equality in order to see positive changes. In brief, the answer to how to make Milwaukee better has to include collaboration with and celebration of all the people in our city!
This early-morning event was intellectually stimulating and very insightful.I left with a new mindset, an optimistic outlook and a stomach full of breakfast. Stay tuned for more Cultural Commons events in 2016!
Words: Emily Talapa is a journalism student at UWM who will use her degree for good and not for evil. She is a lover of hummus and a passionate storyteller.
Photos: Maegan Eli is a Milwaukee photographer and visual media producer at Radio Milwaukee.
With thanks to our Cultural Commons partners who helped us plan and host this event.