This past weekend, #Milwaukee was trending on Twitter. If you clicked on the hashtag, you’d find media outlets and people on the street covering images and videos of a city ablaze. You would also find a lot of reactive chatter.
As our community took to social media to discuss emotions of the events in Sherman Park, local artists and musicians also searched for words.
Radio Milwaukee asked some of those artists to share their thoughts and reactions from the weekend. These are just some of the voices. If you are an artist or musician, and would like to share your thoughts, let us know by emailing email@example.com. Read them below:
Kellen “Klassik” Abston
“There are people, entities, ideas, and forces that do not want us to live peacefully as humans and as one united progressive power. I don’t know their names or titles, nor do I pretend to; however, if you know your energy and how it flows and how to find peace,you must also realize that that in and of itself is a privilege not afforded to everyone. Therefore we must be held accountable for that privilege, just like any other privilege, using it instead for the betterment and equalization of those suffering and of whom deal with a struggle and circumstances we could in no way truly relate.
There is no peace and there is no guide for the youth. We are failing them and this is what we get. We are all accountable for the happiness and well-being of all people, especially those that must carry on after us. F**k pointing fingers and blame, we have to get way past that. Blame yourself, let’s blame ourselves, and find a way to make our future and our peace and well-being universal, or as close as we can diligently get close to.”
Jake Wylie Hess of Ahab’s Ghost/Wylie Jakobs
“There is a lot I’d like to say, but I don’t think it’s my turn to speak. I think the last thing we need right now is more white voices. What we need right now is white ears. I’m here to listen and I’m here to help bring change. I don’t think the reaction to the shooting on Saturday was correct, but sometimes correct doesn’t align with necessary. This is by no means a reaction to one incident. This is something much bigger and deeper. We need to do all we can to listen and help.
I love this city very much and my heart weighs heavy. I hope this cry, this giant scream for help, does not fall on deaf ears. We need change and we need it now.”
“Reading books and essays by African American authors such as W.E.B. DuBois and James Baldwin has helped me gain insight about the lives and plights of the black citizens of this country. This literature gives the opportunity to delve into something I could never possibly understand otherwise, given my whiteness. Sure, I understand sexism and live under the reign of the Patriarchy, but sexism and racism are not the same thing. I will never completely understand, but educating myself has affirmed my desire to dissolve the racism that exists in me–and if you are white, it exists in you, too. Racism is a systemic problem. Racism is an American institution. The veil that DuBois describes isn’t simply a curtain that divides two worlds but a living, breathing, parasite that can feed on itself and increases its destructive capabilities as it grows–and it grows both in strength and in stealth. Privilege is something that is invisible unless you don’t have it. Covert racism brings us Milwaukee’s segregation, brings blanket statements about poverty and bootstraps, brings murder and a police state.
It is our civic duty to educate ourselves and put an end to the institution of racism. Be hard on yourself. Find where racism lives in you and crush it into powder–let it be carried away by the wind, let it sink to the bottom of the sea. Don’t stop there. Keep reading. Keep supporting. Keep listening. Be vigilant, be humble. Love yourself and your neighbors enough to take an honest look in the mirror and criticize the hate you find. Do not expect the oppressed to carry this burden for you. Make yourself uncomfortable– it is the very least you can do. People down the street from you are being evicted, being abused, being forced into poverty and kept there, they are being murdered.
Burn the veil.”
Cat Ries of Pleasure Thief, NO/NO, Rio Turbo
“I’m not an advocate of violence, I’ll start off saying that. No one should fear being violated because of the color of their skin, no one. But in regards to the recent Milwaukee riots, the anger cannot be subdued right now because it’s the eruption of a pain that’s been mounting for a very, very long time. I’m looking at this psycho-emotional-spiritually. So when someone tells me that by seeing the riots as a necessary action that I’m condoning violence and perpetuating a system of hate, I tell them that I can’t tell a group of people that have been psychologically, emotionally, physically abused for centuries, and still are in a very real way, how to handle the unimaginable emotions that flood their system every time systemic violence is experienced. This isn’t about the recent police shooting, it’s a long history of abuse that is manifesting as riots. It’s because hatred based on skin color exists at all and does so quite heavily in the form of oppression of black people in Milwaukee at this time on this planet.
The issue runs deep. It goes as deep as poverty, as deep as racism, as deep as classism… it is fear-based ignorance and complete denial of the fact we are all humyn. The issue is a lack of exercising the muscles of compassion and kindness. We need to continue to move away from our obsessive cultural programming of toxic masculinity in the forms of aggression, war, isolation, selfishness, power-greed. A balance of the scales is of paramount importance; to move towards harmony with acts of love, care, community, kindness, connection, creation- that is where we put our hope, our power, and our practice. Otherwise, we will set the world on fire and burn with it. Perhaps though, complete collapse is essential to new growth and progress.”
Jeremy Ault of NO/NO
“I simply do not understand what is happening. As a privileged white male, I am unable to comprehend what it is like to live in a community that suffers from an employment rate that is nearly 50%. I don’t know what it’s like to live in a community that has some of highest incarceration rates in the country. I do not know what it is like to live in a community that has been marginalized through decades of economic indifference, cultural racism, and educational neglect. I do not know what it is like to have my history and my stories ignored or denied. I do not know what it is like to be judged by the color of my skin, by the sound of my name, by the look of my pants, by the style of my hair, by the pattern of my speech. I do not know what it is like to live in a community where merely surviving is a success. Until I know what it is like, I refuse to place my judgement upon those who are rioting, upon those who have committed acts of violence against buildings and a justice system that has failed them. At this time, I am trying to listen and search where I am needed, as a witness of solidarity, as a peace advocate, and as someone who wants to use my talents to unite the community. I ask that you join me in this journey of reflection. And please, please do not make this into a political story about police violence, for while it is a part, something much deeper is going on here in MKE and you all should respect that.”