By Every Measure Episode 4 transcript

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Below is a transcript of episode four of By Every Measure, Radio Milwaukee’s new podcast exploring systemic racism in various sectors of Milwaukee, looking closely at how those systems were formed and how they can – and need – to be changed.

Tarik Moody:

Let me give you a number.

Andre Perry:

156 billion.

Tarik Moody:

156 billion. Try to visualize how big that number is. If you could live for 156 billion minutes, you would live until you were 296,804 years old. What if you had $156 billion? What could you buy?

Andre Perry:

It would have funded more than 4.4 million Black-owned business. It would have paid for more than 8 million four-year degrees based on the national average of a four-year public degree. It would have replaced the pipes in Flint, Michigan nearly 3000 times over. It would have covered nearly all the damage of Hurricane Katrina. And, and this goes to my father, it’s more than double the annual economic burden of the opioid crisis.

Tarik Moody:

That’s author and researcher Andre Perry of the Brookings Institution speaking virtually at a recent 88Nine Community Stories live event. His book Know Your Price: Valuing Black Lives and Property in American Black Cities uses data to show how Black homes and neighborhoods have been systemically undervalued and disinvested.

Andre Perry:

What we found pretty much astounds, that homes in Black neighborhoods are put under equivalent social circumstances are underpriced by 23%, about 48,000 per home, in what amounts to lost equity.

Tarik Moody:

I’m Tarik Moody and this is By Every Measure. On this episode, we’re talking about the racial wealth gap, picking up right where we left off with housing. The wealth gap is so much bigger than just housing alone. According to a report from Forbes, closing the racial wealth gap across all sectors would add between one and one and a half trillion dollars to the US economy by 2028, making that 156 billion figure just seemed like a drop in the bucket.

Tarik Moody:

In this country, there are two ways that families build wealth: inheritance and entrepreneurship. We’re going to talk about both ways of wealth building in this episode and how Black people were left behind in housing, in business and in policy. Again, it’s all about the systems.

Andre Perry:

I say this all the time. I hope you repeat it as often as possible. There’s nothing wrong with Black people that ending racism can’t solve. When we’re talking about the state of Black cities, the state of Black neighborhoods, we’re constantly saying the conditions or the state of them is predicated on individual people’s behavior, but the reality is that racism is robbing people of the resources to lift themselves up. If we want to fix the issues in our neighborhood, we should not fix Black people. We should fix the policies that extract wealth from Black people.

Tarik Moody:

To understand how we got here in the first place like we’ve been doing in every episode so far, we have to go back and look at the history. That’s where my conversation Reggie Jackson begins, picking right up where we left off in the housing episode.

Tarik Moody:

One fact that really stood out to me, Reggie, was if a Black family wealth continues to grow at the same pace as it does right now, it would take Black families over 220 years… 228 years exactly… to amass that same amount of wealth white families have today. So, let’s go look at your article which is very fascinating headline for Milwaukee Independent, When America Catches a Cold, Black Gets Pneumonia: the Impact of an Uneven Economic Playing Field. So tell me, how do we get to this point where it takes 228 years for us to catch up?

Reggie Jackson:

Well, there’s an assumption made that the white wealth isn’t going to continue to grow, which we know it will. When we think about wealth, American wealth, most people don’t understand what wealth is in this country. Wealth isn’t your bank account, your stock portfolio, your 401(k). Most American wealth is in your homes that you own. One of the biggest factors that disadvantaged Blacks is that we have a much lower homeownership rate than whites. Nationwide, the Black homeownership rate is just over 40% and it’s over 70% for whites. They have a built-in advantage right there and the reason here in Milwaukee, specifically, that is even bigger challenge is our homeownership rate is like 27, 28% for Blacks and almost 70% for whites in the city of Milwaukee.

Reggie Jackson:

We can talk about wealth, but a lot of it is related to the fact that for decades, Black people could not get mortgages to buy homes and white people could. They were incentivized by the federal government. They were incentivized by state and local government. They were incentivized by banks and realtors to become homeowners. At the same time, Black people were denied those opportunities. The Black homeownership rate nationwide when the 1968 federal Fair Housing Act was passed was 41.3%. At the end of 2018, it had grown to 42.9%, but it actually peaked in 2005, Tarik, and it’s been going down every year since then.

Reggie Jackson:

Ultimately, we know what this pandemic and the economic crisis that is laying waste to millions of jobs that we’re going to see it exacerbate itself and that homeownership rate for Blacks is going to go down significantly. I’m telling people all the time that we have only seen the tip of the iceberg with this pandemic and the economic impact. We’re going to continue to move backwards as a Black community and I can guarantee you, our backwards movement will be much quicker than the backwards movement for white folks. We will be much more likely to have our homes foreclosed on. Man, it’s going to be ugly moving forward, Tarik. This wealth gap will continue to expand and grow to a size that we can’t even imagine what it’s going to be a year from now, two years from now. It’s going to be much worse, I think.

Tarik Moody:

You can really look at the racial wealth gap, especially during this pandemic. COVID-19 has pulled away the bandaid and show the true infection of the racial wealth gap. The typical white family has 10 times the wealth of a typical Black family, and a lot of Black families have few resource in the case of emergency such as COVID-19. This pandemic has put us in a recession. We know from the data, the history from past recessions, that a recessions affect black people worse than white people and they are the last to recover economically. But it wasn’t always like this. Milwaukee had a thriving Black middle class in the 1950s, thanks to the other way Americans built wealth: entrepreneurship.

Reggie Jackson:

Many people have heard of the Black business district, Walnut Street, that people now refer to as Bronzeville. It wasn’t called Bronzeville back then. But at that particular time, 1950, according to Census Bureau, Black business ownership rate per capita in Milwaukee was the highest in the United States of America.

Tarik Moody:

Really?

Reggie Jackson:

It wasn’t a whole lot of Black businesses, but we had dentist office and we had doctor’s offices, attorney’s offices, car washes, nightclubs. We had everything we needed.

Tarik Moody:

But what happened? How did Milwaukee lose what seemed like a thriving Black business hub?

Reggie Jackson:

It wasn’t the freeway that destroyed it, like most people will tell you. It was urban renewal. The first urban renewal project in Milwaukee was called the Hillside and Roosevelt Urban Renewal. It literally wiped out half of the black-owned businesses in Milwaukee by tearing down everything on Walnut Street from 6th Street to 10th Street.

Reggie Jackson:

Now, the freeway was being built, but it hadn’t reached that far North. They were building it from the South to the North. At that time, they were destroying the Italian community in the Third Ward, tearing their houses down and their businesses down. By the time the freeway got to where Walnut Street was, all of those businesses were already gone. They had already been torn down years before and then what was left of that community, the residential properties and the few businesses that weren’t destroyed, they were destroyed by the rest of the construction of the freeway.

Tarik Moody:

The thing that you should know about urban renewal policies, that some of them might even had good intentions but overall, they affected housing affordability and living cost, which led to gentrification.

Reggie Jackson:

That really was something that the Black community never fully recovered from. One of the huge factors is that we never were able to grow a very large Black middle class and upper middle class in Milwaukee because the engine of that on Walnut Street was destroyed and so we never built a strong Black middle class and upper middle class like places like Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, because Black people have been in those places much longer and had been established for a much longer period of time. We literally came to Milwaukee too late.

Tarik Moody:

What he’s saying is that Black people didn’t have enough time in Milwaukee to build that generational wealth because by the 1970s, the jobs started going away. Companies like A. O. Smith, Allis-Chalmers, Schlitz, they all started reducing their workforce and even leaving the city, which devastated Black workers. As far as starting a business, Black people had problems, too, with banks. There have only ever been a handful of Black-owned banks in Milwaukee, which is another aspect of the wealth gap: inequality in banking.

Reggie Jackson:

But why is it we have to pin on Black banks? Why is it that we not demanding that the white banks treat us the same as they treat white people? We know that there has been multiple lawsuits for discrimination by banks giving different terms to Black borrowers, whether it be buying a car, buying a house, getting a loan for a business, not providing Black people with capital to start a business. We talk about entrepreneurship all the time. Part of the reason that entrepreneurship is so much more difficult for Black folks is because we can’t get access to capital. People understand that most businesses fail within their first year. The ones that are successful and ones that have enough capital set aside that they borrow when they open their business to get through that first very difficult year.

Tarik Moody:

And don’t forget that they also have the family money, family friends. They had inheritance money, which we were robbed from all the housing, all the wealth of devaluation of our property and never getting the access.

Reggie Jackson:

Absolutely.

Tarik Moody:

Quality of life lags behind for many Black residents in Milwaukee in multiple indicators including employment, poverty and homeownership. According to a recent report on the state of black well-being in the nation’s largest metropolitan cities from the African American Leadership Alliance MKE, the median household income is only $31,000 for the whole household, and less than 8% of black households have an income above a hundred thousand dollars. That’s why you see the thing called reverse migration, counter to what happened after the war, the Great Migration.

Reggie Jackson:

As we’re looking as Blacks are moving now to the South, moving back to the South to places like Houston and Austin and Dallas… I know a lot of people that have moved to Texas, man… and North Carolina, Virginia, places of that nature, they’re moving to those places because those are healthier communities. They’re nicer communities. Their houses are cheaper. You can get more bang for their buck. You can get more stable employment there. You don’t have a lot of the problems that you have in cities like Chicago and Detroit and Milwaukee and Cleveland. You don’t have those issues.

Reggie Jackson:

One of my best friends moved down to a suburb of Austin, Texas because she was tired of Milwaukee. She said, “I don’t want to live here anymore. It’s too much of a struggle day to day and I want my kids to have a better future.” She moved down there. She says she’ll never move back to Milwaukee. She loved it down there so much, her mama moved down there with her, her sister moved down there with her and they never looked back, man. One sister stayed but that’s because she loves Milwaukee, but the rest of them like, “I’m leaving. I’m not coming back.” I have a friend who moved out to New Mexico and loves New Mexico, of all places. I have several people, including some of my wife’s family members, who moved out to Arizona. I know a [inaudible 00:12:44] that left Mississippi and moved to Utah, Salt Lake city, Utah.

Tarik Moody:

And the funny thing about this, I think Milwaukee leadership, maybe some, don’t realize this doesn’t just hurt the black community, these blacks leaving. This hurts the whole industry up here, that Milwaukee, Wisconsin needs to learn, at least in my opinion, why people go to those places, especially blacks, because I truly believe Milwaukee… There’s a lot of great things here. I’m not going to lie. There’s some interesting [inaudible 00:00:13:19]. But you can’t, like you said and I believe it… Pretend Milwaukee’s your body. If you have a bad heart but the rest of your body’s fine, but you don’t treat that heart, that heart condition going to travel to the rest of your body, which is Milwaukee. I feel like Milwaukee is ignoring that and talking of all the good stuff, but ignoring it and not realizing black professionals… The health commissioner going to DC.

Tarik Moody:

I just know a lot of people who like… Black families… “Once my kid is in high school, we’re out of here,” and you hear white people say, “You can’t leave. You can’t leave.” Well, understand those southern cities… Atlanta, the mayor, Mayor Jackson… Policies help build wealth for blacks. That’s one thing I think Milwaukee learned. It’s like, “Man, Jackson put policies like, ‘Put a black person on the bank board. If you don’t, I’m taking city money out the board. Airport, hire subcontractors.'” They did that and helped build that wealth and that spread throughout the Southeast and a lot of black northerners saw that and they came down, not just Atlanta, to Durham, Charlotte, Austin, all that because of those policies.

Tarik Moody:

I think Milwaukee can learn a lot. If they want to compete… Because they’re competing, not competing to Minneapolis or Chicago, man. They’re competing with everybody now. It’s a global world. They need to look at the city holistically, not just downtown, but the 53026 seriously like with the Opportunity Zones which I read a lot about, but doesn’t really do anything anymore. They’re nice things. They really help white developers, not the black communities.

Reggie Jackson:

They look good on paper. Tarik, what you just shared about what happened to Atlanta, when people ask me, “Well, what can we do to help Milwaukee?” I say, “Do the same thing you did…” Listen, what Atlanta did, what Maynard Jackson did was he said, “Listen, the things that we have done as a government organization for white people, we’re going to do it for black people and see what happens.” Do in Milwaukee what you’ve done for white people for decades, do the same thing for black people and you won’t have any more problems than Milwaukee. That is a key. I get tired of people asking me for the solution and I tell them that that’s it and they’re like, “Well, that’s sounds discriminatory.” I’m like, “It wasn’t discriminatory when you were doing it for white people.”

Tarik Moody:

Called the New Deal, the VA loan, FHA housing, all that.

Reggie Jackson:

Yeah, you didn’t call it handouts then.

Tarik Moody:

Homestead Act.

Reggie Jackson:

Right. All of those things but now, oh, you’re reluctant to do that for black folks because now, white people who have been so accustomed to getting the hookup, now a minute the black people may get a small piece of the same hookup they got and, “Oh, that’s so unfair. That’s reverse racism,” and all this other nonsense.

Reggie Jackson:

No, when you give Black people an opportunity, we are able to take advantage of it. Milwaukee hasn’t done that. The brain drain that we have is tremendous, man. How do you convince young black professionals who graduate from Howard University like yourself or from Grambling or wherever who grew up in Maryland, who grew up in North Carolina or grew up in Montgomery or grew up in Austin, Texas or grew up in LA, how do you convince them to come to Milwaukee?

Tarik Moody:

I tried.

Reggie Jackson:

What is attractive about Milwaukee?

Tarik Moody:

I haven’t told people this, but I have tried. A couple people are like, “Hey, you can buy…” They rented a 200-square-foot apartment for $5,000, [inaudible 00:16:48]. I show them Zillow, “Look, you can get a house. Come to Milwaukee. We can hang out. We can build something together,” and they looked at me like, “Yeah, no. I rather live in my little closet up in New York before coming here.” I showed them a house and I’m just like, “Wow.” I think that needs to be heard. I don’t think the people running this city wants to hear that, personally.

Reggie Jackson:

They don’t want to hear it. They know it’s the truth, though. Listen, you cannot be an intelligent person and not know that those are things that are a factor. Nobody wants to leave a place where they see themselves having success and move to a place like Milwaukee that has so many issues. I mean, it doesn’t make sense.

Tarik Moody:

It makes national news for the wrong reason and people see that.

Reggie Jackson:

We’re the poster child for so much stuff that’s wrong, that you’re not going to convince particularly young people to move here. And think about all of the people, Tarik, that you know because I can think of many that I know over the years that have tried Milwaukee like, “Man, I’m going to try really hard to get my act together and have success in Milwaukee,” and then it’s like you’re bumping your head against a brick wall. I’m not trying to bash Milwaukee. I’m just being real. Milwaukee is a difficult place for a lot of folks. You have this crab in the barrel syndrome where people are fighting for the same crumbs and they can pull you down so they can get pulled up and you have that constant battle, people working in silos, competing against each other.

Reggie Jackson:

And then some of the people just like, “You know what? I’m tired of this. Let me move to Charlotte. Let me move to Austin. Let me move to Dallas. Let me move to Houston. Let me move to Phoenix. Let me move…” When Black folks are leaving Milwaukee, it isn’t just because of the bad weather. You can’t convince Black folks to come to Milwaukee just because of Summer Fest. I mean, Summer Fest is a beautiful thing. The Fiserv Forum is a beautiful arena, but it ain’t going to convince nobody to come to Milwaukee. They’re like, “Man, I can see the Fiserv Forum on the internet. I don’t need to move to Milwaukee to see it.”

Tarik Moody:

Not to say there aren’t any organizations working to retain and attract black professionals to Milwaukee. One organization Reggie mentions is called FUEL Milwaukee, which aims to do just that. But it takes more than just one organization to bring Black professionals and retain Black professionals in the city and more importantly, to start closing the racial wealth gap. It’s going to take more than construction of condos, which has exploded across the city, especially in downtown.

Reggie Jackson:

Once you come here, you move into the condo, you’re really happy like, “Man, this is a beautiful condo. It’s cheap, blah, blah, blah,” but then it’s like, “So what do y’all do on weekends? Where the clubs at?” Clubs? They ain’t got no clubs. You’re not going to have the atmosphere you have in so many other places and that’s something that to me and…

Reggie Jackson:

I remember this, Tarik, when I moved back to Milwaukee in the early ’90s after leaving in the early ’80s. I came back and as I was driving back to Milwaukee, driving over that bridge downtown, coming into downtown Milwaukee, and I looked over to my right, I’m like, “Man, where are the tall buildings? Why you ain’t built no tall buildings in the last 10 years and Milwaukee is still look old and raggedy like it did when I left 10 years ago?”

Reggie Jackson:

They built some new buildings and tried to fix downtown up better now, but Milwaukee is still a very old-fashioned place because it’s still run by a bunch of old-fashioned-minded folks. We were very conservative city for a very long period of time and we’re still very conservative. We’re not progressive. Milwaukee’s not a progressive place. In leadership, we don’t have progressive leaders in the way that some of these other cities do.

Tarik Moody:

Coming up next on By Every Measure, we’re talking with two black professionals and entrepreneurs from the private sector who are stepping up where government hasn’t. Both are working to close the racial wealth gap in their own way. We’ll learn how next.

Speaker 4:

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Tarik Moody:

Welcome back to By Every Measure. In the second half of each episode, we’re going to talk about possible solutions being developed right here in Milwaukee, solutions that can be scaled to other cities facing the same challenges. When it comes to banking, we know there’s a huge disparity which has played a role in this racial wealth gap in our country. Here’s an example: at 2019 in the fourth quarter, Black-owned banks held a total amount of assets totaling $5.2 billion. That seems really good, doesn’t it? But, listen to this: nonminority institutions held at community and non-community banks had a total assets of 17.7 trillion… Trillion with a T… dollars, according to data from the FDIC. For example, JPMorgan Chase alone, the country’s largest bank, holds assets of $3.1 trillion. Again, all of Black-owned banks held assets of $5.2 billion. You see what I’m talking about?

Tarik Moody:

Joining me now is Elmer Moore, executive director of Scale Up Milwaukee. Scale Up Milwaukee is an initiative of the greater Milwaukee community. It runs a number of programs including Scalerator, CEO Forum for Growth, Meet the Masters series and a growing membership platform. Scale Up Milwaukee has helped create more than 150 new jobs in the region, according to its website. I started by asking about Netflix, which recently announced a plan to invest a hundred million dollars or 2% of its cash holdings into financial institution organizations to directly support Black communities in the US.

Tarik Moody:

For those who don’t understand why I brought up black banks and why Netflix investment’s important, why is it important to invest in banks in your community? Explain that to someone who’s like, “This seems ridiculous. Why don’t Netflix just give it to my school? Why can’t Netflix give it directly?”

Elmer Moore:

Netflix and Reed Hastings’ decision to make investments in financial institutions was an important and pretty bold move. It’s going to be challenged because there’s a lot of folks that are saying, “Yeah, but that doesn’t affect me.” But it’s important. It’s actually attacking something at a systems level. Unless we create institutions that can advantage communities at a systems level, we’re never going to be able to cure our way one symptom at a time to actual community health. So, you have to attack the system.

Elmer Moore:

There’s this term called economic velocity. Economic velocity is the word used to describe how much time capital stays inside of the community. So, I get my paycheck, I go home and I decide to order something on Amazon. From the moment the money hits my bank account or I get paid, a clock starts. The moment that I spend that dollar outside of my economic community, the clock stops and that time is the velocity.

Elmer Moore:

The way to empower communities is A, adding capital and B, slowing down how much time money spends in that community. If you look at African American economic velocity, it’s counted in hours. If you look at-

Tarik Moody:

Yeah.

Elmer Moore:

Yeah.

Tarik Moody:

It’s like an hour or two hours.

Elmer Moore:

It’s crazy. If we think about how do we slow down that velocity, we’re going to have to make some really deliberate choices. We also, also, also have to think about infusing capital into those economies. That’s what investing in those black-led institutions is going to do. Why is it meaningful that Netflix made this investment? Who cares? It’s really the nice way. You’re being nice. Who cares? If we want to ask the question, should they have done something else, that’s a different question. If we want to ask the question, will it have impact? Yes, but a small one because a better number than a hundred million would have been 300 million or 800 million. But if used wisely, those institutions can actually produce substantial impact. If those banks use those deposit bases or that asset base to make targeted investments where they send their loans, that hundred million dollars can do a lot.

Tarik Moody:

As Elmer mentioned, more capital leads to entrepreneurship, which is urgently needed in black communities. But can banks do it all?

Nadiya Johnson:

We have been systemically left out in so many different places for so long, it’s necessary for us to take ownership in our own businesses, creating our own economy.

Tarik Moody:

Next, we speak to Nadiya Johnson of Milwaukee-based software company Jet Constellations and The Milky Way Tech Hub. Her Milky Way Tech Hub took matters into its own hands and launched a 15 million-dollar venture capital fund to vest in black and brown tech businesses.

Nadiya Johnson:

The Milky Way Tech Hub has always focused on growing a tech ecosystem. We’re a tech hub here in Milwaukee and eventually scaling to the Midwest. It became glaringly obvious that one of the missing pieces for any tech hub, but especially for ours as we’re growing, is capital. We need capital and resources. I started to interview different start-ups that started here and then left and found themselves raising half a million, million dollars. I was asking, “Well, why did you leave?” Because they were saying it’s just not enough resources, especially capital, here.

Nadiya Johnson:

That’s really what helps start-ups to thrive, amongst a number of other reasons as it relates to the culture, the environment, fostering innovation and such. The capital is a big one and so understanding that… And obviously, being at the intersection here of black woman and computer scientist, I’m building out this ecosystem. I’m very aware of the alarming statistics as it relates to venture capital. And Tarik, I’m sure you’re aware only 1% of black businesses are backed by venture capital. That’s sad. We’ve got like, what, thousands and thousands of businesses being backed a year by VC and then we can only literally find like what, what is it, like 200 something black companies that’s been backed by VC? That’s crazy. That’s crazy. That’s why I said earlier it’s so important for us to be able to ask ourselves and have a really good understanding of how did we get here. When you have a good understanding of the systemic oppression that’s got us to this point, you realize that there’s a fundamental flaw in this space.

Tarik Moody:

I’m guess I’m thinking probably why tech start-ups are probably a good way to help close that gap because of their scale, the ability to scale bigger and hire more people and have salaries that can help close that gap, I’m guessing, because a traditional small business… It was like, “Black-owned businesses and white-owned businesses, why don’t business hire more people and have more employees?” Well, the traditional black-owned businesses have usually one or two people working for them. But the idea of tech, if you look at Google, I guess, or Facebook or… The ability to scale up fast, bring in more money, hire more people, plays a role in hopefully closing wealth gap. Would you agree with that?

Nadiya Johnson:

I would. I agree with that. I also think that it’s important to note is a separate point, which is when we think about Internet of Things, when we think about 5G and when we think about artificial intelligence and where it’s headed, if there’s not enough representation in those companies and ownership of companies in these spaces, the wealth gap will increase.

Nadiya Johnson:

There’s two things that we have to do. We have to figure out how to address the current wealth gap, but we also have to make sure that that gap doesn’t get bigger. Artificial intelligence, for example, it’s going to very soon and already make decisions about who gets the house or who gets the job or… Completely transforms industries requiring for folks who currently don’t have the skills to either upskill or they lose their job.

Nadiya Johnson:

I mean, when there’s so many different changes happening because of 5G, IOT and artificial intelligence, just to name a few, if we’re not in these spaces, we’re going to start losing jobs, being replaced and of course, the biases that are going to be built into some of these algorithms is going to further create these barriers that eventually will lead to an increase in the wealth gap.

Tarik Moody:

Yeah, I guess I can see that. There have been stories about the artificial intelligence and all the people building it are mostly white men so they put their implicit bias in the technology. That affects… People are looking at police departments using artificial intelligence or banks using for loans and house loans.

Nadiya Johnson:

Exactly.

Tarik Moody:

So to have more representation tech to hopefully prevent those things happening can also play a role in closing that racial wealth gap.

Nadiya Johnson:

Exactly. We have to figure out a way to make sure that our data and that big tech is not weaponized against us. The best way to do that is to make sure that we are present, and the best way to be present is ownership.

Tarik Moody:

So just to recap, here are some of the solutions we talked about on this episode of By Every Measure. First, companies need to keep investing in black-owned banks, making more capital available to entrepreneurs. Companies need to actively recruit people of color for high level positions, C-level positions, to ensure racial bias is kept out of innovation. Individuals like Nadiya are making huge strides and taking bold actions to invest in black and brown communities. We need more investors like her. If you want to learn more about the Nadiya’s venture capital fund and Elmer’s organization Scale Up Milwaukee, head over to radiomilwaukee.org/measure and get the discussion guide for this episode.

Tarik Moody:

Coming up on the next episode of By Every Measure, we’re going to look at the other end of the spectrum: education. Better education leads to closing the wealth gap and the other systemic issues we have been talking about on this podcast. That’s next time on By Every Measure.

Speaker 7:

By Every Measure is hosted by Tarik Moody and Reggie Jackson. Executive produced and edited by Nate Imig with additional production support from 88Nine program director Jordan Lee, marketing director Sarah McClanahan, marketing coordinator Erin Bagatta, web editor Evan Rytlewski, audio producer Salam Fatayer, executive director Kevin Sucher, content marketing manager Amelinda Burich, community engagement manager Maddy Riordan and imaging manager Kenny Perez. Handcrafted Sonic Inspiration from The License Lab, and our sincerest thanks to our members for making all Radio Milwaukee content possible. By Every Measure, an original podcast production of 88Nine Radio Milwaukee.

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How Milwaukee built its beloved County Zoo

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We’re visiting the Milwaukee County Zoo again this week on Urban Spelunking, tracing its history from its former location to its current one.

Last week, we learned how the zoo was first built in 1892, with a much smaller footprint in Washington Park. This week, we’re learning how the current zoo was built during the late 1950s and early 1960s near Highway 100 and Bluemound Road.

OnMilwaukee’s Bobby Tanzilo got access to dozens of amazing photos from the zoo’s historical archive. Though the zoo’s buildings have been continuously renovated over the years, you’ll still recognize many parts of the park area as it is seen today.

This aerial view, for example, looks quite familiar.

Aerial view, looking northeast, circa 1959. Photo courtesy of Milwaukee County Zoo, via OnMilwaukee.
Giraffe yard, completed 1960.

The first thing to be built on the present-day site was the train, which is still a highlight for visitors today. During construction, you could ride it around the park and see the buildings taking shape.

As Bobby found out in his research, there was a brief overlap when Milwaukee actually had two zoos, as it was relocating the animals into their new enclosures.

Read more about the history at OnMilwaukee, and be sure to listen to this week’s podcast below.

Elephant buildings, completed 1958.
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Ex Fabula goes virtual for the first time ever with season kickoff Thursday

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Social distancing can make connecting to the city difficult. Because of the pandemic there aren’t not too many indoor public places we can gather in safely. 

Nicole Acosta is the marketing director and Megan McGee is the executive director for Ex Fabula. Ex Fabula is where people in Milwaukee, like you, tell personal stories in a mic night setting. It’s where people meet each other and learn more about the people in their own community.

Typically stories are shared on stage or at a bar. For its new fall season, however, Ex Fabula will shift to a virtual stage to keep their audience and staff safe.

In a conversation with 88Nine’s Nate Imig, Acosta and McGee say that they think the intimacy normally found in person will still be shared virtually.

“Normally we’re in bars across the city,” Acosta says. “Sometimes people aren’t always comfortable going to bars on the opposite side of the city. And I get that. Though sometimes people don’t realize if you step outside of your comfort zone a little bit, in an area you’re not familiar with, you can connect with people regardless and their stories. So I’m hoping that we’ll step outside in a space where connection is yearned for right now.”

Ex Fabula Executive Director Megan McGee (top left) and Marketing Director Nicole Acosta (bottom) chats with 88Nine’s Nate Imig.

Acosta and McGee want to change the way people connect with each other — to use the pandemic as an opportunity to bring together people who were distanced even before COVID-19.

The first event of the season will be Thursday, Sept. 17, and will focus on the theme of love. Acosta and McGee suggest attendees register and purchase tickets before the event begins. Ticket sales close at noon on the day of show.

McGee says this season has made them reconsider every detail of the storytelling event.

“Because of the pandemic, we quickly have to transition into this new normal,” McGee says. “Everything in the future is so up in the air right now, we have to reimagine what that looks like.”

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Take a trip back to the original Milwaukee Zoo in Washington Park

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We’re taking a trip to the zoo — and through time — in a special two part episode of Urban Spelunking.

This week, we’re headed to the zoo’s first location Washington Park, where it was open from from 1892 to 1963. Then next week, we’re going to learn how it was moved to its new location, which opened in 1964.

A photo dated 1915 of the Milwaukee zoo’s penguin island. Courtesy of the Milwaukee County Zoo via OnMilwaukee.

And, fun fact, there was actually a period in Milwaukee’s history when we had two zoos, as new enclosures were built and the animals were moved in phases.

OnMilwaukee’s Bobby Tanzilo dove into the archive, with help from the zoo, and found a trove of original photos from the Washington Park location. You can find his two-part photo series at OnMilwaukee here and here.

Listen to the podcast below, and check back next week to learn about the present day location on Bluemound Road.

Black bear, circa 1905. Courtesy of the Milwaukee County Zoo via OnMilwaukee.
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Raising Black, trans and queer visibility in Milwaukee

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There’s power in a symbol. It can unite people, build a connection and convey a message that you’re not alone. If you look around Milwaukee neighborhoods, hundreds of individuals have hung up window decals and yard signs as a way to show their beliefs. That’s what Paul Quick, creator of folxflag, intended when creating a print that raises Black, transgender and queer visibility around Milwaukee.

“It’s a tool for advocacy and what I wanted to do was try and create something that would help,” said Quick. “I just wanted to help.”

It all started when Milwaukee Pride marched in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. Quick completed his sign in preparation for that march and intended to create a symbol to signal intersectionality. He credits his inspiration after hearing musical artist Keedron Bryant sing his song “I Just Wanna Live” for the first time and that chilling compelling performance shook him to his core. 

“I was very moved by the activism that I was seeing and have always found social justice issues to be very important,” said Quick. “I saw an opportunity to do something greater in kind of a moment.”

“I was weeping just weeping, asking myself, ‘What more can we do?,'” said Quick, after watching Bryant’s video. “How can I help? Because this is horrific.”

Folxflag prints and decals that have been seen around Milwaukee in places such as C-viche and The Backyard. The project also has a tied partnership with nonprofit Diverse & Resilient, using the sign to point back to community responses. Quick said the main goal is for folks to feel a sense of belonging.

“I want to show that I care and make that available to our community because I want to create a world where a young Black man can look around and see people actively shaping the future that he can be safe, celebrated and valued,” said Quick.

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Take a look at this residential bomb shelter in a Milwaukee basement

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Thousands of Milwaukeeans had them in the 1950s — residential bomb shelters, right in their basements.

At the height of the Cold War, people were building reinforced concrete rooms on their property, with enough space to shield the family from nuclear annihilation. At least that was the sales pitch.

At the height of the Cold War, people were building reinforced concrete rooms on their property, with enough space to shield the family from nuclear annihilation. At least that was the sales pitch.

Take a look at this vintage newspaper ad, uncovered by OnMilwaukee’s Bobby Tanzilo

In the event of an attack, homeowners would be able to close a heavy door to seal the space to increase their chances of survival to “8 out of 10” according to the ad. Plus, they got a radiation detection kit; not bad for $895!

Bomb shelters like these still exist in Milwaukee basements, though they don’t quite look as dramatic as the one in the ad. Bobby Tanzilo got tipped off to one and had the chance to visit this week for Urban Spelunking.

Listen to the podcast below and check out his complete story at OnMilwaukee.com.

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By Every Measure episode 2 transcript

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Below is a transcript of episode two of By Every Measure, Radio Milwaukee’s new podcast exploring systemic racism in various sectors of Milwaukee, looking closely at how those systems were formed and how they can – and need – to be changed.

Transcript

Tarik Moody:
This is Tarik, the host of By Every Measure. Before we begin this episode two, which deals with systemic racism and policing, I want to get something off my chest. As you’ve probably seen on the news, not just here, not just around the nation, but across the world covered this story about Jacob Blake being shot in the back multiple times by a police officer. And before that, a few hours before that, I was actually working on this episode which you’re about to hear. As a black man. When you see that, I don’t think you can really understand. Or even a black woman, a black man, a black person. If you see this as a black person, I don’t think you truly understand the trauma of seeing someone that looks like you being killed in a video. That same experience happened with me, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, that’s traumatic.

Tarik Moody:
We’re about to discuss policing, systemic racism, policing Reggie Jackson. And it makes me wonder, would this conversation really make a difference, would it make impact, would people listen. As you know, there’s a lot of people in this country that don’t really even believe systemic racism exists. And if you can’t get people to acknowledge that, dismantling that makes it even harder. So it got me thinking, and part of me is like, “Can systemic racism be dismantled, and policing?” And to be honest with you, what I just saw this past weekend, I’m not holding my breath. But, a big but, I’m not giving up either.

Tarik Moody:
And this is why I am more focused on this podcast, more than ever. I believe if Reggie and I, and the guests we have on here to talk about the history, talk about it honestly, maybe people in influence and power will listen. And then actually knowledge that this is a serious, serious issue in our country. And our country can never be better for it until we dismantle systemic racism.

Tarik Moody:
And that goes back to seeing what, what happened to Jacob Blake, and Kenosha, and it is part of a systemic issue. And you see people on Facebook, like look up his criminal record. He deserved it. No one deserves to be shot in the back, period. No one deserve to be shot in the back. Nonetheless, multiple times, close range in the back, and apparently in front of his kids. Which who are probably now going to be effected by this for the rest of their lives, dealing with trauma from that. Seeing there father getting shot in front of them, in the back. There was no need for that. You know,

Tarik Moody:
I could keep going on and on, but I want to let Jacob Blake sister speak. She said it best during a press conference. And she speaks to how so many in the community are feeling, including me.

Letetra Widman:
You say the name, Jacob Blake. Make sure you say father, make sure you say cousin, make sure you say son, make sure you say uncle. But most importantly, make sure you say human. Human life. Let it marinate in your mouth, and your minds, a human life. Just like every single one of y’all, and everywhere possible. We’re human. And His life matters.

Letetra Widman:
So many people have reached out to me, telling me they’re sorry that this happened to my family. Well, don’t be sorry. Because this has been happening to my family for a long time, longer than I can account for. It happened to Emmett Till. Emmett Till is my family. Philando, Mike Brown, Sandra. This has been happening to my family, and I’ve shared tears for every single one of these people that has happened to them. This is nothing new. I’m not sad. I’m not sorry. I’m angry. And I’m tired. I haven’t cried one time. I am numb.

Tarik Moody:
That feeling of numbness. I feel that too. It’s exhausting, it’s draining, and only speaks to the systemic issues we’re talking about throughout this podcast. We’re going to start this episode now, which we recorded days before Jacob Blake was shot. As you’re listening, please remember the words of his sister.

Letetra Widman:
I’m not sad, I don’t want your pity. I want change.

Tarik Moody:
Let’s begin.

Crowd:
All of us are numb.

Tarik Moody:
By every measure, 2020 has been a defining year in our history. Following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmad Aubrey, unprecedented protest against police violence happened in every state. Reportedly, the biggest civil rights demonstration in history. [inaudible 00:05:33]. We watched these protests become local. [inaudible 00:05:37]. 88Nine was there at the first protest in Milwaukee.

Speaker 3:
At what point do we say enough. No more. At what point do we say that this is got to stop. We can’t afford to allow racist, systemic regimes to come into our communities, gun us down, kill us, and there’s no consequence to that action.

Tarik Moody:
And then shortly after, we were on site as a mural was painted honoring George Floyd.

Speaker 4:
So people have seen us out here. They’ve seen us out here, they came over, and they wanted to be a part of it. Wanted to have a solid representation of Derek Floyd over here. Or just representation of what’s happening in the nation or across the world. So this is a great way to show the power of numbers.

Tarik Moody:
For protests like this aren’t new. In fact, it’s after Martin Luther King Jr. addressed the issue of police brutality, in his famous I Have a Dream speech.

Martin Luther King Jr.:
There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality.

Tarik Moody:
I’m Tarik Moody, and this is By Every Measure, radio Milwaukee’s six part podcast exploring the data behind systemic racism.

Tarik Moody:
Dr. King’s dream still remains out of reach, yet to be realized. An analysis by the Advocacy Group mapping police violence, found that 99% of police killings from 2014 to 2019 did not result in officers being charged with, let alone, convicted of a crime. That’s what the protesters are protesting. It’s not about individual police officers. It’s about the system.

Speaker 4:
We know that they’re here to protect white people and serve us warrants. They don’t provide the same level of treatment to people of color.

Tarik Moody:
Our conversation begins with the term that I’ve seen a lot on social media, and in the press, defending actions of police. The term is called bad apples. Here’s Reggie Jackson.

Reggie Jackson:
Well Tarik, the main reason that people think is bad apples, is because we all watch cop shows and movies, our entire lives. And in those cop shows and movies, the cops are always good guys. You know, there’s always occasionally some bad apple, right? But eventually at the end of the show, the end of the movie, then that bad apple is removed from the police department.

Reggie Jackson:
So when white people think about police, they think about their lived experiences with police, which are generally very pleasant. When black people think about the police, we know that our lived experiences have not been the same.

Tarik Moody:
And to understand why those lived experiences haven’t been the same for black people, we must examine the history of policing. And you probably think, “Oh, policing. That probably started in Europe.” Where like in England, Sherlock Holmes characters, in Jack the Ripper, police were doing that. But American policing has a very dark and brutal history.

Reggie Jackson:
The first organized police departments in this country came out of former slave patrols. And these were patrols that were set up by white people, who were afraid that black people would either try to escape their enslavement, or they would try to attack whites, and have some type of insurrection and rebellion against slavery. So they developed this way of basically putting white people in a place to watch out over black people. They controlled their movements. So as those became organized police departments, they still have the same principle in place.

Tarik Moody:
As long as policing has had a strong presence in black communities, so have protests. I guess the injustices and unfair treatment of those communities. Protests aren’t anything new.

Reggie Jackson:
Many people forget that this didn’t start with George Floyd or Breonna Taylor. It didn’t start with vigilantes, so-called vigilantes, killing Ahmaud Arbery. These things have been occurring year after year, decade after decade, century after century. And black people have been protesting these things from many, many years ago.

Reggie Jackson:
One of the least known cases of police brutality is a man by the name of Jimmie Lee Jackson, who was murdered by police in Alabama. Part of a peaceful protest, he and his family were chased into a small diner. The police came in and beat his mother. He tried to protect his mother and they shot and killed him. And then basically said that, you know, he was attacking the police officers, when he’d never was. So we protested back, back in the 1950s.

Reggie Jackson:
We protested here in Milwaukee when Ernest Lacy was killed in police custody in 1981. We protested across the country after Rodney King was beaten senseless by police in Los Angeles. We protested after Mike Brown, after Freddie Gray, after Tamir Rice. All of these instances that we’ve been protesting that have been ignored by people, have led up to now George Floyd’s death creating protests that we’ve never seen to this extent.

Tarik Moody:
And those early protests, Reggie mentioned, majority of those protestors were black. And today with cases like Brianna Taylor and George Floyd, the protesters are becoming more and more diverse.

Reggie Jackson:
Someone told me that “Man they’re protesting in Fargo, North Dakota.” I was like, “Are you kidding me?” And they’re protesting in Salt Lake City, I’m like, “That’s got to be some white people man, because there ain’t no black people out there.” Right?

Reggie Jackson:
So that told me that things had changed. But for me personally, I understand a lot more about policing, because I’ve talked to police officers, former and current police officers. And what they will tell you, is that these cop shows are copaganda. That’s what I call them. They’re copaganda. They’re not real, they’re not based on reality. They’re based on a set of principles that make the police seem like they are constantly doing good. And for the most part they are, but they ignore all of the bad things about policing. They ignore, you know, this blue wall of silence that exists. And most Americans are surprised when I share with them how many people are killed by police every year Tarik.

Tarik Moody:
And that number, I wasn’t even ready for it. It even surprised me.

Reggie Jackson:
Since 2013, which is when the first database has started to be created by different organizations, we found that every year, the police in the United States killed over a 1000 people per year.

Tarik Moody:
A 1000 people?

Reggie Jackson:
That is literally three people per day. One person every eight hours dies in some encounter with police. Many of those people are unarmed. You know, we’ve been protesting unarmed black people being killed by police. And when you think about this, the police kill a little bit of everybody, Tarik, they kill white people. In fact, the largest number of people killed each year about police are white people.

Tarik Moody:
The argument could be said, based off the population, white people get killed by police more often than blacks. Isn’t that true?

Reggie Jackson:
But guess what? White people are 61% of the residents of this country. So obviously they’re going to be the highest number. But when you look at native Americans, when you look at African Americans, and Latinos, what you find are disproportionate rates of police killing those groups of people.

Reggie Jackson:
Blacks are anywhere, depending on what year you choose, anywhere from 2.5% To 3% more likely to be killed by police than white people are. Unarmed black people are five times more likely than unarmed white people, to be killed by police. When you look into that data, you can understand very clearly that from the perspective of people of color, this is our lived experience with the police.

Tarik Moody:
And that goes back to what Reggie said about lived experiences. Just like Reggie, I experience the same anxiety and stress every time I see a police officer. Especially, when I’m in a neighborhood where I’m not from, or especially in a neighborhood that is… I’m the only one that looks like me.

Reggie Jackson:
But white people, this isn’t part of your lived experience. That police officer, that we look at that we’re afraid of, you look at him as your next door neighbor, Bob. That’s your bowling buddy. That’s the guy that coach your son’s softball team. That’s the relationship you have with that police officer. We know that that police officer doesn’t live in our neighborhood.

Tarik Moody:
That’s true. In fact, according to the city’s own data back in 2019, nearly half of Milwaukee police officers resided outside of the city. That’s about 45%. And they’ve been moving out steadily since the residency requirement was lifted back in 2015. This also means that over $90 million in salaries isn’t being spent in Milwaukee, on things like mortgages. Which means Milwaukee is losing property tax revenue, which could help support Milwaukee schools. We’ll talk about that more later in the podcast, when we get to the episode on education.

Tarik Moody:
Let’s get back to policing. So what has happened over the last few years, as you have police moving out of communities they’re serving, deepening divide and mistrust. Which is why we’ve seen protests over policing across the country this year. The community has had enough of the police brutality and lack of accountability.

Tarik Moody:
However, critics argue, “Why don’t these protesters complained about the climb in their own neighborhoods?” What about black on black crime, right? I hear that argument a lot. Like, why you pronounced [inaudible 00:15:17]? The statement is, black people kill other… Why aren’t you protesting that? So what do you say to that?

Reggie Jackson:
Listen, I wrote a Facebook post two years ago, two years ago because I started to hear no same conversations you talking about. And anytime there’s talk of police reform, somebody will always chime in with the black on black crime nonsense. And this is what I say about it. It’s very simple to me. Listen, there’s no such thing as black on black crime, unless there’s such a thing as white on white crime. I Googled it. This is what I found. I Googled white on white crime. And then I Googled black on black crime to see how many responses there were on Google, right? And there were 50 times more responses from Google when I Googled black on black crime, and when I Googled white on white crime.

Reggie Jackson:
And I looked at the first 15 articles that came up when I Googled white on white crime. And they were all about black on black crime, right? So there’s this phenomena in America where we assume that the only real crime that exists is so-called black on black crime. Black people committing crime against each other. And particularly when they say black on black crime, what they really mean is black people killing other black people. They don’t care about black people robbing each other, black people raping each other. Things of that nature, that never comes into conversation. It’s always about, “Well you all killing each other, and why you all worried about the police killing each other.”

Reggie Jackson:
Listen, the police are not hired to kill people. That’s not their job. Their job is not to kill people, but they kill a 1000 people per year. And for those who would like to talk about, you know, so-called black on black crime. I said, “Listen, white people kill each other, black people kill each other. People kill people that they know, people kill people that they’re around.” You know why black people are more likely to kill black people? Because that’s who they’re around all the time, Tarik. You know why white people are more likely to kill white people? Because that’s the people they’re around. And we never talk about white people committing acts of violence as being white on white crime. And every time I hear somebody say this nonsense about black on black crime, I’m like, “Let’s have a discussion, white on white crime.” Life.

Reggie Jackson:
Murders happen in every country on the planet, because human beings murder each other.

Tarik Moody:
And most of the times that people commit murder, they’ll catch them and put them in jail. So they get their justice. But, the problem is when a police does it, which their job is to protect and serve. And when they do something bad, nine times out of 10, they get their job or they might be shuffled around. So I think, trying to… People don’t understand that part either. It’s like when you say systemic, they’re protesting the systemic issues of the police, of not doing their job. And when they do something bad, like somebody in this street that does commit murder, they go to jail, they do their time. The police doesn’t get the same justice for their crime. Or no justice for their time.

Reggie Jackson:
You know that’s a brilliant point Tarik. It plays out different than when you or I kill somebody Tarik. If you were to leave your home, or your studio, on any given day, and you committed a murder right in front of your home, or your studio, right? Somebody’s going to pick up the phone, they’re going to call 911. The police are going to come. They’re going to arrest you with the gun in your hand, they’re going to put you in a police car. The district attorney will then charge you that same day, probably, right. And then you’re going to be going through the criminal justice system, and probably found guilty. And you’re going to go to prison for killing somebody, right.

Reggie Jackson:
But if you are a police officer and you kill somebody, for instance, you choked Eric Garner to death, in a move that was illegal. NYPD had banded the choke hold 30 years before Eric Garner, you can literally not just choke a man to death, but you have six officers on top of Eric Garner, killing him. When he’s saying I can’t breathe. And guess what happened to the officer? No charges. Not only was it no charges, but the man got to keep his job for many years after that, right? So this would happen when a police officer kills somebody.

Tarik Moody:
Here’s where things change, basically a fork in the road. There’s a whole different procedure for police violence, a different set of rules. We even have a name for it, qualified immunity. According to the legal blog, Lawfare, qualified immunity is a judicially created doctrine that shields government officials from being held personally liable for constitutional violations. Like the right to be free from excessive police force. Here’s what happens when police kill someone.

Reggie Jackson:
First of all, you’re not going to even know who the police officer is right away in most cases. They’re not going to divulge the officer’s name, right? So you’re going to wonder, “Oh I wonder which officer that was.”

Reggie Jackson:
Secondarily, it’s going to take a number of days, weeks, months, before that police officer is charged and you find out who they are. If they even decide to charge them. Tarik your name would be all over the newspaper in Milwaukee, all over the airways in Milwaukee, if you kill somebody today. Everybody would know, “Man, Tarik killed somebody today.” But if you were officer Tarik, it may be months before we find out that you killed somebody. We’ll know that you killed somebody, but we won’t know that it was you.

Reggie Jackson:
So when we look at how the system works, and I’ve said this to police officers, I’ve said this to former chief [Flynn 00:20:38]. Until you begin to treat police officers who commit crimes the same way you treat civilians who commit crime, then I will never have any respect for policing. Because there is no reason that the rules should be different for a police officer.

Reggie Jackson:
In fact, you should be living by a higher standard. Because this is the excuse they use, Tarik, all the time. You hear it all the time, “Well, we have to do a thorough investigation before we release that information.” And then, “Well, what about the charges, district attorney?” “Oh, we have to make sure we do a very thorough investigation before we bring charges. We want to make sure we bring the right charges, and we’re not bringing the wrong charges and have a chance of losing in court.” Guess what, if they were to arrest Tarik Moody for killing somebody, they will not have to do a thorough investigation. You’re behind will be in a police car. You will be in a Milwaukee County jail immediately. And that so-called investigation to make sure they get the right charges, they can amend the charges anytime they choose.

Reggie Jackson:
This what district attorneys do all the time. They charge you with something, and then they change it the next day, or the next week, or the next month. Why is it that they think that were dumb enough to believe they can’t do that with police officers? And because they don’t, because we’re smart enough to notice that they don’t do those to police officers, we say that there are systemic problems with police.

Tarik Moody:
Coming up next, we’re talking to a 25 year veteran of the force, a former Milwaukee police captain, now retired from the police. She shares her thoughts on what we need to do to begin to dismantle systemic racism in policing.

Speaker 5:
Radio Milwaukee is on a mission. And if you’re here to discover new perspectives on music in Milwaukee, then you’re on a mission too. Join today, to support the programming you love. Visit radiomilwaukee.org and click the orange heart.

Tarik Moody:
We’re back on episode two of By Every Measure, this is Tarik Moody. On the second half of each episode of the podcast, we’ll be joined by local and national leaders who are actually doing the work. People are working on solutions, in each of the systems we’re talking about.

Tarik Moody:
In this episode we talk to Cassandra Libal, a retired Milwaukee police department captain. She spent 25 years on the force and now, in the next chapter of her career, she remains in public service as the interim director of the office of emergency management at Milwaukee County.

Tarik Moody:
I want to talk to you… Like I showed you with what we’re doing as podcasts, and some of the conversation we had about policing in regards to systemic racism. We want to talk to you about your perspective, your experience, some of what the issues are, and what things can we do to eliminate systemic racism when it comes to police and the criminal justice system.

Cassandra Libal:
So law enforcement, unfortunately, is in the forefront of a lot of issues that plague our communities. That quite frankly, are not law enforcement issues. And so I think that’s where we as a community really need to start to look at where we utilize our law enforcement professionals. Far too often, they end up filling in a void of services that need to be provided elsewhere. So when you speak of the movement now, of defunding and abolishing law enforcement, there’s something to that if we do it correctly. It’s making sure those safety nets are in place before we pull away those resources from law enforcement.

Tarik Moody:
Let’s talk about accountability. I know there’s the people… There’s always been this relationship between the black communities and police, baselly a mistrust. How do you see that… Change that relationship?

Cassandra Libal:
One, I think you have to kind of look at it in terms of what the legislature says. There are laws in place that do protect law enforcement when it comes into these kinds of situations. And so Wisconsin doesn’t specifically have qualified immunity, but you essentially have protections if you’re acting under the color of law. And unless they can show a criminal intent, it’s very difficult to get charges and convictions in these cases.

Cassandra Libal:
So you really have to look at what the letter of the law says, and if there needs to be changes there. I’m not going to sit here and pretend that there could not be a better accounting of that area.

Tarik Moody:
I asked Cassandra about the residency requirement, what Reggie was talking about earlier. Where public workers are required to live within the city of Milwaukee.

Cassandra Libal:
You know, I’m not quite… I don’t know if that’s really the issue, so to speak. Residency helps when you’re invested in a community. But the reality is, you didn’t have a lot of officers who were actually living in the communities that they policed. I think the bigger issue is getting people who look like you and I, to join law enforcement to begin with. So that they have a point of reference. Because that I think is a bigger conversation is, there are certain things in life that you just experience differently from our perspective. And so having those individuals engaged in law enforcement, helps break down some of those barriers as well. So the residency does have some impact, but ultimately the reality was is that most people were not living in the areas they policed.

Tarik Moody:
So basically what you’re saying that representation matters. That that would go a long way into fighting systemic racism and policing.

Cassandra Libal:
Yes. I think that when you look at Milwaukee police department, we only have a 17% African American staff. And obviously we have a huge African American community, but only 17% of our department. And so when you’re having those conversations, just how I perceive, I think myself, 20 years ago, joining the department. And how I would interact with people, versus how my partners would interact with people, and not necessarily in a negative way, but there were certain things that they could not grasp because it wasn’t their lived experience.

Tarik Moody:
Again, that probably comes back to the mistrust. But I want to know what inspired you to join the force over 20 years ago?

Cassandra Libal:
It’s this conversation that we’re having, having that representation. I grew up seeing law enforcement and not seeing law enforcement that looked like me. But having contact with law enforcement, and how could I engage in a way that could help my community. So that was really my catalyst to say, “I don’t like what I’m seeing.”

Tarik Moody:
The one thing I want to talk to you about is… You’ve probably heard the term, the talk, and what I mean by the talk. If you’re not a black parent, you don’t know what the talk is. It’s basically when a parent sits down with their child, and explains what to do when police pull you over, knowing you won’t be treated the same as a white person. And that’s passed on generation to generation, right? I mean, one of the biggest example of the talk going arise, Philando Castiel in Minneapolis, where he did everything right.

Cassandra Libal:
Absolutely.

Tarik Moody:
How do we… If I have kids, one thing I don’t want to pass along what my dad past to me is the talk. How do I get rid of that talk? What can government, police, do to make sure that I don’t have to give that talk, or my future kids, or future generations, don’t have to give that talk?

Cassandra Libal:
Yeah, that’s a challenging one. So frequently you hear people say, “Well, if you get pulled over, just do what they say and everything going to be fine.” And like you said, that did not happen in Minneapolis. And so we have to be realistic in that. And so that’s where the [inaudible 00:28:40] call falls back on law enforcement to say that, “This is not a battleground, where people should need to have that conversation.” And we really need to start looking at public safety as the motivator, and not law enforcement, if that makes sense. That we’re not so much enforcing the rules and the regulations, but more, what are we doing to keep the community safe? And are some of these situations counterintuitive to that?

Cassandra Libal:
You know, I tell people all the time when someone says, “Well, if you get pulled over and you didn’t do anything wrong, you shouldn’t care if they stopped you.” And I go, “Well, I’m not in the habit of leaving my house for no reason.” So if I get pulled over, I’m going to be bothered. I’m going somewhere. And I may be picking my son up, or I may be doing something. So yeah, it does bother me. So we shouldn’t have this flip it attitude about people’s time. People’s time is important. If I can count on one hand, the number of times I’ve been stopped, then you’re lucky. But for a lot of us that’s not the case. So if you get stopped pretty regularly, at a certain, you’re going to say “Enough already, I’m not okay with that.” And we should not be okay with it.

Tarik Moody:
And what you mean by police should step up, is this means training? Is this… What is that what you mean by police should step up, when it comes to this?

Cassandra Libal:
I think moving away from the enforcement. One of the things that I was always challenged with, was what we call quality of life stops. When we talk about things like littering, loitering, things like that. Lik to me, I grew up, we hung out, you know? So, am I loitering when I’m hanging out in my neighborhood? So when we look at those kinds of things as an organization, kind of moving away from those quality of life things. Because what ends up happening is, we’re coming into a community, and we’re telling them how they should behave in ways that don’t necessarily impact public safety. And those kinds of engagements create opportunities for us to continue to stop people, and not having respect on people’s time.

Tarik Moody:
I guess my final question. So, I’m a citizen. I’ve heard your talk, Cassandra. So what can I do to change this? I’m an average person. I live in a 5326 neighborhood. I live in Riverwest. I’ve been stopped five times. What are my options? What can I do to change the situation for me, and people that look like me? And keep getting stopped for doing absolutely, like you said, littering, loitering, or just seen looking suspicious. What can I do?

Cassandra Libal:
You know, we have a lot of power as a community. And so when we talk about the black dollar, we talk about education, there are ways that we can engage. And I think that we don’t do enough of that. Filling out the census, making sure we vote. But participating in even local government, where our budget dollars spent. Right now you have city and County going through their budgets, engage in those conversations. But we have to come with a mindset of, “I don’t like this thing and I want to figure out how to change it, so this is what I want to do.” And offer up that conversation. So we have to go beyond just, “I don’t like it, but this is what I want to see happen.”

Tarik Moody:
The data is there. We need to be more engaged in the civic process, and just more engaged period. According to recent NPR Listener poll, 55% of Americans say they have not personally taken any action to better understand racial issues in America. Among white people that jumps up to 61%. And for black people, it’s 48%. That’s a lot of inaction.

Tarik Moody:
So I decided to start Googling and searching for solutions, ideas, how to be more engaged. Doing that, I came across a podcast called The Untold Story: Policing, which goes even deeper and looks at police union contracts. And give steps on how to end violent police misconduct. The podcast is part of an initiative called Campaign Zero, that uses data and research to provide policy solutions and recommendations. Like decriminalizing or deprioritize enforcement of low level offenses, to begin to dismantle systemic racism in policing. We will share the links on our site at radio milwaukee.org/measure.

Tarik Moody:
So here’s just a recap of some of the solutions we discussed in this episode of By Every Measure. First, hold police and district attorneys to the same standards as the rest of us. Like Cassandra said, less time involving police and things like loitering, jaywalking, also known as the broken window policing. She also mentioned better representation on the police force. More people that look like Cassandra, me, representing the communities they serve. And for the average person just getting involved politically pressing leaders for change. Going beyond the ballot.

Tarik Moody:
But even with those solutions, we’re a long way from Dr. King’s vision. 57 years to the date, Jacob Blake’s families stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, in the very same spot as Dr. King did in 1963. With the same message to America. We’ll close out where we began, and let his sister have the final word.

Letetra Widman:
America, your reality is not real. Catering to your delusions is no longer an option. We will not pretend. We will not be your docile slave. We will not be a fist door to oppression. Most of all, we will not dress up this genocide and [inaudible 00:34:32] and call it police brutality. We will only pledge allegiance to the truth.

Tarik Moody:
On our next episode, we look at another legacy Milwaukee issue. An issue that was protested violently, and peacefully, in the 1960s, and still rife with any quality today. Housing.

Reggie Jackson:
What makes Milwaukee stand out. Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Buffalo, they’re segregated. But what’s different, our suburbs don’t look anything like their suburbs. And if you look at Buffalo, Detroit, Chicago, and Cleveland, a significantly larger number of black people living in their suburbs.

Tarik Moody:
Reggie will take us through the history of red lining in Milwaukee, and how black people were kept from building generational wealth. Plus, we talked to an array of Milwaukee [ors 00:35:26] actively working to fix the problem. That’s coming up next time on By Every Measure.

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All you need to know about voter registration

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Voting can be a difficult process, especially if you’re voting in the middle of a pandemic and it’s your first time using a mail-in ballot. We spoke with Peggy Creer of the League of Women Voters to get the scoop on how to register to vote for the upcoming election.

“Start now because the Nov. 3 election is going to be something else,” said Creer.

In order to cast a vote, the first action item is registering to vote or updating your registration. Even if you’ve moved within the same apartment building you’ll have to re-register. You can register to vote on the MyVote Wisconsin website.

“If you already have a valid Wisconsin driver’s license or state ID issued by the state of Wisconsin, you’re all set and it goes surprisingly fast on the website,” said Creer. “If you don’t have that it’s more complicated.”

If you don’t have a proper identification card when registering on the Wisconsin website, instead of uploading proof of residency, you print out a paper application form to mail to start the process.

Voters without an identification card can still vote but have to undergo a different process. Peggy said things get tricky if you don’t have a birth certificate but it can still be done.

“If you don’t have any documentation you need to contact the department of motor vehicles,” said Creer. “You’ll be starting the ID petition process and that takes a while but they’re very good at working with people know to figure out what you need to do to issue you a free state ID for voting purposes.”

Where can I register to vote?

By Mail

One can download and print a voter application form, one can send the completed form alongside proof of residency to The City of Milwaukee Election Commission office, 200 E. Wells. Room 501. The deadline is Oct. 14.

Online

If you have a valid Wisconsin identification card you can register online without mailing any additional information. The deadline for online registration is Oct. 14.

In-Person

One can register to vote at City Hall, the office of the Election commission 200 E. Wells, Room 501. Office hours are Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. until 4:45 p.m. The deadline to register with a municipal clerk is Oct. 30.

One can also register at a local public library. Here is a list of libraries and their operating hours.

Voting Site on Election Day

One can register and vote at a voting site on any Election day, however, when registering on the same day one must have lived at their current address for 28 days before the election.

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This Sherman Park food sharing site provides neighbors with all kinds of free options

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Food is Free MKE, a community food sharing site located in Sherman park, all started with a stray dog. Emma Toth, creator of Food is Free MKE, found a stray dog and in the process of finding it a home, she landed some media attention alongside her landlords. Her landlord didn’t appreciate the breed of the dog and ripped up her lease, giving her 30 days to find a new place to live.

“I’d say the first night we moved in when it was time to stock the refrigerator it hit me like a ton of bricks how many resources we just lost moving from one area to the next,” said Toth.

When Emma moved from Riverwest to the Sherman Park neighborhood she began investing in a garden. As a result, she was overwhelmed with the abundance of food provided and began to wonder if her neighbors struggled with finding a tomato for taco nights.

“It made me start putting my extra food out on just a little picnic bench,” said Toth. “I spray painted the word ‘Free Garden’ on a wooden bench and stuck it next to the tomatoes and cucumbers.”

This past April, Emma decided to take it one step further and set up a pop-up pantry. She had two cans of chili beans and extra smoke detectors. Things went away quickly, and some neighbors dropped off cash to continue to stock up the panty.

From there, a free garden developed into a food sharing site with a food pantry, harvest sharing shelf and community fridge. Emma said taking that first step gave her an opportunity to start listening to her neighbors.

“What we have learned in listening to our neighbors is that there are some gaps in the distribution chain,” said Toth. “A lot of other pantries are only open at a certain time for people to take food and likewise with donations so what we do in an effort maintaining a 24/7 schedule. People are really encouraged to come by whenever it’s convenient for them.”

Emma said the community has grown where nurses bring medical supplies, mothers bring diapers and vegans bring animal-free alternatives.

“If it was just me it would still be just to cucumbers and tomatoes out there all the time,” said Toth.

The Food is Free MKE sharing site is located on 56th and Townsend Street. The organization plans on bringing a second community fridge to Riverwest.

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Celebrating Women’s Equality Day

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Today is a monumental day. It’s women’s equality day, a celebration that commemorates the 1920 adoption of the 19th amendment to the United States Constitution, which federally prohibits denying the right to vote on the basis of sex.

This year is also the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment and the 100th anniversary of League of Women Voters, a non-partisan grassroots organization.

“The league of women voters was an outgrowth of the suffrage movement,” said Peggy Creer, President of LWV of Milwaukee County. “Having gained the vote then the idea was to encourage women to be informed voters and even to run for office so that they could use the power of the vote to make government better.”

The leagues work is broader than what people typically expect. Most individuals associate the league with voter services such as registration and education. However, a fundamental aspect of the league is advocacy.

“For about 50 years we have been the only organization that is allowed in the naturalization ceremonies at the federal courthouse,” said Creer. “We also have a very active high school voter education program that was started a few years ago in partnership with the Milwaukee Elections Commission and MPS.” 

This is where it gets interesting. Since the league is mostly run by volunteers, they can advocate for many issues through their committees such as their Natural Resources Committee that studies issues surrounding Milwaukee’s lead poisoning.

“Wherever there is member energy and interest they can do a study developed through consensus and a lot of discussions and a position on an issue,” said Creer.

Once a position is adopted they can focus on areas such as gun policy, fair housing and international relations. Creer says we see the legacy of the 19th amendment on a daily basis.

“When the 19th Amendment passed we know now is if we didn’t know before because of who writes the history books women of color were largely left out,” said Creer. “The suffragists were mostly white and mostly concerned about getting their vote it’s a huge milestone but the work was far from over. So many generations fought to get that point and we’re still fighting,”

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