How to use your privilege as a white person or POC to help the Black Lives Matter movement

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If you are like me, you’ve probably spent a lot of the past week thinking “How can I help?” in regards to the calls-to-action following the murder of George Floyd.

As a white man who grew up in a predominantly small, white town and attended a university where more than 80% of the student body was white, I was rarely confronted with the black experience through anything but the lens of entertainment or the news. Since moving to Milwaukee two years ago, I have grown to have black friends and co-workers and reach a greater, personal understanding of black culture but the past week has challenged the notion that I was doing enough by doing so.

A scene from one of June 3rd’s Milwaukee protests

I began asking myself what more I could do and how I could use my privilege to help — but, I didn’t know where to begin and was paralyzed by the fear that I wouldn’t be taking the right action or the idea that my voice would be silencing the black voices which should be heard instead. After expressing these feelings, I found out I am not alone and white people and people of color close to me felt the exact same.

One of these individuals was 88Nine’s own audio producer, Salam Fatayer. As a result of this, we connected with the Milwaukee chapter of the organization Showing Up For Racial Justice (SURJ), which specifically aims to help non-black allies find their place in this fight through education, community organizing and mobilizing.

Founded in Milwaukee following the 2014 shooting of Dontre Hamilton and the ensuing uprisings, SURJ was formed to provide a space for white protestors to become better allies and shift the focus away from them and onto the black community. In the years since, they have become a trusted resource for non-black supporters of BLM in the city with close to 4,700 members in their Facebook group as of this writing.

We spoke with group organizer Stephanie Roades who answered our questions and provided a laundry list of resources and guidelines to help us and other individuals become better allies.

What are good first steps for joining the movement?

One of the biggest hurdles in tackling this issue is learning where to start. However, doing so may be simpler than you think. Roades suggested that it helps to first acknowledge that this is a complex situation where there is often no clear right or wrong answers. Therefore, you have to open yourself up to the fact that you may be criticized for your actions and be ready to make changes if need be.

To make a more informed decision, Roades suggests first following the guidance and asking questions of non-black organizations like SURJ and other individuals who have been long ingrained in the black community and can be trusted. This is because they believe that it isn’t the responsibility of the black community to educate allies, that’s on us.

Moreover, simple steps like following black leaders on social media, consuming black entertainment like movies and books and checking in on black friends can help connect you with the black experience and challenge preconceptions you may have.

Where should you look to in Milwaukee?

One of the organizations and leaders which SURJ specifically cites is The African American Civic Engagement Roundtable, or AART. Led by Markasa Tuckerat, the org serves to “…empower and organize our community to transform policies so African Americans can thrive and live at their greatest potential.”

In order to stay connected to the Milwaukee Public School system, the Black Educators Caucus MKE is another dependable resource referred to by SURJ. The group, made up entirely of black educators highlights the voices of teachers and students and the issues they face within MPS.

Organizers for Black Educators Caucus MKE from the Chalk the Walk event on May 31| facebook.com/BlackEducatorsCaucusMke

Recognizing that there are tons of other sources, Roades also advised people to follow SURJ MKE on Facebook as they seek to only amplify voices of trusted leadership.

How can you contribute to the protests if you can’t be on the ground?

If for whatever reason you cannot join the protests which have been sweeping the city and striving for systemic change, there are plenty of ways you can still help out.

While the most obvious means is donating money, this doesn’t have to be in the form of donating directly to a cause which is collecting funds. Instead, SURJ suggests donating medical supplies, first aid, water, food and other supplies for protestors through groups that are organizing events.

Further, supporting black businesses, especially in areas where protests have been occurring, is a huge help. Resources like the mobile app and site MKE Black highlight black-owned businesses through a large database which also includes job postings and events.

Featured businesses on the MKE Black app | Courtesy of MKE Black

Some methods of assisting which we didn’t even consider beforehand were offering rides to individuals from jail who may be without money or a phone, offering childcare for those protesting and even remaining available as an emergency contact who can create a plan of action if a person is detained and needs to relay info to friends, family and employers.

How can you make sure your social media posts are helpful?

Although “Silence is Compliance,” Roades still recommends that you are deliberate about what you post on social media. Posting a selfie at a cleanup will accomplish very little, but using your post to call for others to do what you’re doing and contribute to your efforts can create a snowball effect of impact.

How can you hold those close to you accountable for their anti-blackness?

One of the most obvious but difficult ways to make a difference is by confronting those close to you when they express anti-black sentiments. In Roades personal opinion, the most effective means of doing so is not by trying to explain the black experience but by tackling the systemic problems which surround an issue instead. By focusing on what someone defines as their conflict with the movement and helping them understand what conflict the movement is making visible through that expression and why it exists, it is likely they will realize their own logical fallacies in confronting their thoughts, Roades believes.

SURJ as a whole operates on a similar philosophy of “Call people in, don’t cast people out”. This stems from the fact that racism isn’t inherent to people’s nature, but learned and can thus be “unlearned” over time.

For more on our conversation with Roades, listen to our audio story with her below.

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Recognizing our responsibility

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Earlier this week we participated in Black Out Tuesday, an initiative started in the music industry, by playing the music of only Black artists all day. It was a statement of solidarity, advocating for a more just and inclusive community. 

Inclusivity is woven into the fabric of what we do at Radio Milwaukee, as you can see in the image of our mission statement above. It’s our “why.” And it’s why we’ll keep standing and keep informing. 

We recognize the responsibility of having a microphone, radio signal, website and social following right now. We intend to use these assets to inform our community about what’s happening around them and ways to get involved.

However, the world we are living in right now demands more action than informing our community. We are working through that as an organization as we speak. 

We are listening. We are organizing. And we will continue standing against hate. 

Thank you for being a part of the Radio Milwaukee family, and engaging in our mission of working toward a more inclusive Milwaukee. 

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So, there’s a pet cemetery from 1910 on the South side

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File this one under “weird.” Did you know there is a private pet cemetery and monument on the South Side of Milwaukee?

It sits on a triangle of land on 12th and Bow Street. The obelisk-like, stone monument has a bronze plaque depicting a horse, the words “Erected by R.D. Whitehead” underneath.

The Whitehead monument at 16th and Bow in Milwaukee. Photo credit: Bobby Tanzilo/OnMilwaukee.

On the other side, names of Whitehead’s horse, dogs, cats and birds are engraved in stone, and evidence suggests several of his pets are actually buried on site.

So who is Whitehead? Why did he commission this private monument in a public setting in 1910?

OnMilwaukee’s Bobby Tanzilo shares the bizarre story with us on this outdoor edition of Urban Spelunking. Take a listen to the podcast, and go deeper in Bobby’s complete story at OnMilwaukee.

Photo credit: Bobby Tanzilo/OnMilwaukee.
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Listen to the names of the lives lost to police violence

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These are 100 names of victims that have lost their lives due to systematic racism and police brutality. This is a limited list of deaths, curated by NPR, since Eric Garner’s death in July 2014. We are taking the time to #saytheirnames because it is more than a hashtag. To create transformative change and acknowledge that racism and mass violence is prevalent. Say their names and remember their stories. 

#saytheirnames | Courtesy of NRP
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Hundreds of Milwaukee protesters demand justice for George Floyd

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Protests erupted across the nation this week in response to the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man from Minneapolis who was killed while in police custody on Monday, May 25. Today, one of the officers involved was charged with third degree murder and manslaughter.

Earlier this week, bystander video of his death circulated online, where multiple officers were seen kneeling on Floyd’s body. In the days following, protesters hit the streets in Minneapolis, with the situation eventually escalating to riots and looting in some areas.

But here in Milwaukee today, it was a much different picture.

Hundreds of protesters turned out — peacefully — at 27th and Center streets Friday afternoon. Community leaders led the crowd in chants at the busy intersection, prompting those driving by to sound their horns in solidarity.

After the assembly, the group marched in the streets, walking for miles along Fond Du Lac Avenue and assembling at the Milwaukee County Courthouse. As of the time of this writing, all protests have remained nonviolent.

88Nine was on scene at the beginning of the gathering and talked to participants. Listen to the audio story below.

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Elevating Milwaukee’s Asian Pacific Americans doesn’t end with the close of Asian Pacific Heritage Month

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While Asian Pacific American Heritage Month is coming to a close, there are organizations and groups working in our city to continue to raise the visibility of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders all year long. One such group is ElevAsian

Founded four years ago by local advocates May yer Thao, Erik Kennedy, Shary Tran, and Jessica Boling, ElevAsian’s mission statement reads, “ElevAsian is a collective of Asian Pacific Americans in Greater Milwaukee coming together to elevate the visibility and success of our Asian community.”

Before the group was officially formed, the local advocates often saw one another at events around the city and noticed that they were frequently being asked to join committees or boards as representatives of Milwaukee’s Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) population. After building a friendship, they decided that they wanted to help open doors for other AAPI professionals and to create a sense of community and unity among AAPIs in Milwaukee and, thus, ElevAsian was created.

Using a private Facebook group, ElevAsian has over 100 members who utilize the Facebook page to “show up and stand together as a group.” Their page also offers a way for Milwaukee’s AAPI professionals to connect and build relationships based on trust, community, and a shared purpose, which is why the group remains private. 

ElevAsian also works with community partners, key stakeholders and local businesses to educate and advocate for representation and visibility of AAPI professionals across sectors in a variety of ways. The group has adopted the hashtag #ElevAsian that they utilize to show their support for events and groups that are in alignment with their mission and who offer reciprocal support, with the intention of creating community.

Kennedy states that they “didn’t realize how fast the group would organically grow” and that numerous people have reached out to learn more about ElevAsian and to highlight the organization on their platforms – from podcasters to local media organizations. AAPIs from outside of Milwaukee are also taking notice of ElevAsian. Individuals from the Fox Valley, Eau Claire, and Central Wisconsin have reached out to the group to learn about the impact that they’re having here in our city and how those successes can span to other parts of our state.

For Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, the group has used social media to raise awareness regarding the history and leadership of AAPIs both in Milwaukee and in the United States. During May, the group posted once per day, highlighting stories that aimed to reflect all the different cultures within the Asian identity and leveraging other things that were happening to celebrate the month, like PBS’s month-long programming, to create conversation.

ElevAsian has received copious amounts of positive feedback from their posts, often shared on founders’ personal Facebook pages, which, in turn, has created conversation, awareness, and sharing.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, anti-Asian sentiments and xenophobic attacks towards AAPIs have been on the rise. Because of this, Boling states that she, along with many AAPIs, are feeling on-edge and are unsure of how to navigate this unfamiliar environment. In response to this, members of ElevAsian have worked with other community members to create a task force called the AAPI Coalition of Wisconsin. Boling states that the coalition is meant to be “proactive instead of reactive to the situation. Bringing the coalition together allows us to really have some sense of control over the situation.”

Thao says, “This is probably the first time in our history here in Milwaukee that as many, as diverse of a group within our Asian American community that we’ve come together to form this coalition. I am really excited to see the relationships because this isn’t just to address the anti-Asian sentiments. We hope that it will be sustainable so that we can all support each other…. And how that contributes to our Asian American movement here in Milwaukee.”

When asked what ways others can support our AAPI population, Tran says, “…being open to learning and open to hearing our stories, seeking out those stories and those opportunities to learn about the different cultures, and also to stand as an ally with us when you do hear comments or things that are happening to people that are discriminatory and being able to speak up….”

In addition to these action items, Kennedy states that “…removing your lens to understand others and who they are as individuals is important.” Purchasing from local Asian-owned businesses and restaurants is another way to support Milwaukee’s AAPI community. Check out ElevAsian’s website for a full catalog of Asian-owned restaurants and businesses to support.

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Peek backstage at the Washington Park bandshell

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With the weather getting warmer, you might be spending more time — at a safe distance, of course — in the local parks.

And if Washington Park is on your list of parks to visit this summer, be sure to check out the Blatz Temple of Music, better known as the Washington Park Bandshell, a beautiful art-deco attraction in one of Milwaukee largest parks.

Washington Park Bandshell. Photo credit: Bobby Tanzilo, OnMilwaukee.com.

The bandshell was constructed in in 1938 thanks to a donation from Emil Blatz. A lifelong music lover, he aimed to attract a professional orchestra to Milwaukee, on par with fine arts found in larger cities.

In its nearly 100 year history, the bandshell has welcomed former president Barack Obama, plus jazz legends, live opera and theater. Recently, it found new use with an ongoing concert series, Washington Park Wednesdays, which is currently on pause.

Backstage, there are dressing rooms for performers and orchestra members, enough to accommodate larger casts and productions.

Photo credit: Bobby Tanzilo, OnMilwaukee.com.
Photo credit: Bobby Tanzilo, OnMilwaukee.com.

OnMilwaukee’s Bobby Tanzilo dug into the history of the Milwaukee landmark, and we spend this entire episode of Urban Spelunking on its history and use.

Listen to the episode, and read much more in Bobby’s expanded story posted at OnMilwaukee.

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Milky Way Drive-In will screen ‘Jurassic Park,’ ‘Knives Out, ‘Shrek’ and more its opening week

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It’s opening day for Franklin’s Milky Way Drive-In. Last week the Milwaukee Milkmen baseball team announced it was hosting the first Milwaukee-area drive-in theater in nearly 20 years at Franklin’s Ballpark Commons starting Memorial Day weekend, and now we know what’s playing. Its opening week schedule features classic and recent blockbusters including “Jurassic Park,” “Knives Out,” “Shrek” and “Sonic The Hedgehog.”

Admission is $35 per car. Tickets can be purchased at the theater’s website, and food and drinks will be sold through the ballpark’s concessions stands and from food trucks via app. There will be several ways to listen to the movies, either through outdoor speakers, the radio or an app.

More information is available at the drive-in’s website; the complete opening week schedule is below.

Some of the opening week movies

May 22

6 p.m. – “Abominable”
8:45 p.m. – “Hobbs & Shaw”

May 23

5 p.m. – “Shrek”
7:45 p.m. – “Super 8”
10:30 p.m. – “The Gentlemen”

May 24

3 p.m. – “The Boss Baby”
6 p.m. – “Sonic the Hedgehog”
8:45 p.m. – “Knives Out”

May 25

3 p.m. – “The Secret Life of Pets 2”
6 p.m. – “Men in Black International”
8:45 p.m. – “Jurassic Park”

May 26

6 p.m. – “Hotel for Dogs”
8:45 p.m. – “The Gentlemen”

May 27

6 p.m. – “Sonic the Hedgehog”
8:45 p.m. – “Knives Out”

May 28

6 p.m. – “The Secret Life of Pets 2”
8:45 p.m. – “Hobbs & Shaw”

May 29

6 p.m. – “Shrek”
8:45 p.m. – “The Goonies”

May 30

5 p.m. – “The Boss Baby”
7:45 p.m. – “Men in Black International”
10:30 p.m. – “The Lodge”

May 31

3 p.m. – “Abominable”
6 p.m. – “Mamma Mia”
8:45 p.m. – “Ted”

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50 years ago, Jimi Hendrix played his final show in Milwaukee

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During this time when a live concert experience seems so far away, it has been oddly comforting to reminisce about past live shows. More than ever before, I’m finding myself spending time going through my media library on my iPhone, zooming in on old concert photos, doing my best to reimagine the in-person experience.

But 50 years ago, a concert was an entirely different experience. We didn’t have supercomputers in our pockets, set lists weren’t leaked online; the concert was a moment in time, meant to exist only there, for those in the room.

And just imagine being in the room for a Jimi Hendrix show.

Jimi Hendrix onstage at the Milwaukee Auditorium, May 1, 1970. Photo courtesy of Mark Richards / Rob Lewis Collection.

During his terribly short career, Jimi Hendrix made only two stops in Milwaukee. His first stage was inside a downtown Milwaukee hotel ballroom in 1968. Then, just two years later, he played his final concert at the Milwaukee Auditorium (now the Miller High Life Theater) on May 1, 1970.

By all accounts, the show was a rowdy one. Newspaper reviews noted the exceptional loudness of the concert but were lukewarm on Hendrix’s performance. And, of course, no one knew it would be his last time in Milwaukee.

The concert poster, designed by Brad Cantwell, featured the same artwork as the newspaper ad. The design was used in multiple cities. Photo courtesy of Steve Orth/Facebook.

This week on Urban Spelunking, we’re going back 50 years in Milwaukee history to revisit the music icon’s final show in the city. OnMilwaukee’s Bobby Tanzilo uncovered original concert reviews published after both of Hendrix’s shows, plus a fuzzy recording of the actual 1970 concert at the Auditorium.

Listen to this week’s podcast below, and go to OnMilwaukee.com to read Bobby’s complete story with pictures, additional interviews and archive audio.

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Hear from the class of 2020 on how they are getting through their graduation season

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The act of graduating is monumental. No matter how long it takes for an individual to obtain a degree or even your grade point average, completing an education is an accomplishment.

This season, schools across the country have postponed or canceled their graduation ceremonies to practice safety measures. Although students are unable to celebrate in person, we talked to a few students from the class of 2020 to hear from them personally.

University graduate Claire Neville | Courtesy of Claire Neville

I virtually connected with our spring intern, Claire Neville, who recently graduated from the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee, receiving a degree in Digital Arts and Culture, as well as Advertising and Public Relations. Below is the transcribed interview.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a ceremony and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee is extending it to October. How are you feeling about that?

I’ve known ever since elementary school that I’m going to high school, going to graduate college but I didn’t realize I wanted to (walk across the stage) until we were told it wasn’t going to be a possibility. Now it’s moved to October. I feel it’s going to be so far removed. I’ve heard this from so many of our friends as well. It’s never going to be the same. 

Yeah, it’s not even just about walking down the stage. During your last months, you’re on campus, hanging out with friends and savoring those memories. I did want to go on the plus side, are you doing anything with family or friends?

I got a care package from my mom yesterday because I am staying in Milwaukee. She sent a makeshift graduation party with a sign that said, “Congrats Grad,” and champagne glasses and confetti.

That’s super cute, I love that! I know people hate this question, “You’re graduating, what’s next?,” but is there any excitement or fear? What’s the main emotion when entering this new chapter of adulthood?

 I don’t even know if fear is the right word, it’s a lot of uncertainty. I know in the end it will end up fine. It’s an interesting time to be looking for a job and it’s like all the stress of graduating with 10 times more pressure.

In general, what is something that you are looking forward to? 

I am forward to the summer in Milwaukee. Summer in Milwaukee is my favorite thing but this summer will look different, absolutely, but that doesn’t mean it has to be a bad one. 

It wouldn’t be a representation of the class of 2020 if we didn’t consider the high school graduating class. High school is a tremendous time and senior year is the closing chapter separating someone from adolescence to adulthood.

Our media culture emphasis on an individual “coming-of-age” story. What happens when that part of your life never happens? When you don’t get go to prom, plan a senior skip day, write “see ya later,” in everyone’s yearbook page and walk through those school hallways one last time?

I spoke with high school seniors Elizabeth Bocksenbaum and Huda Saqib to get their perspective. Bocksenbaum said when they have first been informed the rest of the school year would be online, she still had a glimmer of hope, once the realization hit, Bocksenbaum was overwhelmed.

“I was the lead in my school play and that got completely shut down,” said Bocksenbaum. “Athletes all throughout four years of high school have been looking forward to never got to play their final season.”

Although it may seem like the world is on pause, Saqib said she’s trying to make the best of the situation, focusing her attention on attending university.

Saqib will be attending University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee next fall while Bocksenbaum opted on the out of-state route by enrolling in Butler University in Indiana. In Saqib’s case, she the first individual in her immediate family to graduate high school.

“My mom’s first daughter is graduating so she’s a bit sad,” said Saqib. “It’s not the same but I know my immediate family will celebrate with me.”

Both Bocksenbaum said that being in transitional age and dealing with a global pandemic gave them insight into the world they are entering. 

“Newscasters, politicians and people always mention the youth and how we are thing big movement that always pushes forward these new ideas,” said Bocksenbaum. “In that sense, I am very excited because we’re loud, we’re active and we’re angry. We are ready for change.”   

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