Milwaukee’s Outwoken Tea aims to heal the earth through green operations and small farms

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The idea to open a small farm tea shop came to Aureal Ojeda after working for a few years in construction.

“I’ve done everything from labor by shoveling asphalt for three years, then I did work on the trolley downtown,” Ojeda says, “I made history with that. That was beautiful to be a part of.”

Outwoken Tea Table at Riverwest Farmer's Market

Her most recent job had her working in demolition and excavation projects, where she would notice the amount of waste that ended up in landfills. It was standing at the top of a waste pile that made her realize how much damage was being done to the planet.

The trash mountain disheartened Ojeda. The push she needed to open Outwoken Tea came on a rainy day.

“Literally, a plastic pouch just smacked me in my face from the wind,” she laughs, “and I guess that was my smack in the face.”

Ojeda says she decided that she wanted to start a business and that whatever she created, she would put the earth first. So she chose compostable and recyclable materials for her packaging.

But why tea? The decision came from health considerations.

“I was very overweight, I was about 220 pounds and currently I’m down at 160,” Ojeda says. “I lost a lot of weight, and in order to do that I had to change my lifestyle. I had to change my habits, my mindset. I had to change everything in order for me to not become a diabetic and be sick and live this life I didn’t want to live. Tea was one of the drinks that I took up as a habit.”

Ojeda studied the history of tea and appreciated its medicinal uses. Though there was something else about tea that resonated with her, too.

“Tea came from my background of being a single mother for many years before I met my husband,” Ojeda says. “It was very hard raising a child from the age of 17; I was a child myself. I know how hard it is to provide for your child and still do that.”

So she says she chose to work with small farms that are typically family or women owned. It was important to her to stick to her values and help people.

As far as the pandemic’s impact on her business, Ojeda says she doesn’t know what her business would be like outside of it. She was intent to launch in March and was at an event when the state delivered its orders to shut down non-essential businesses.

The pandemic meant that she, like a lot of other business owners, lost out on the Democratic National Convention and its potential opportunities. She also couldn’t run or participate in the events with local universities that she had started planning before the shut-down orders. Ojeda had to reinvent her business to survive.

She’s been selling her teas online and at the events she has been able to attend, like the Riverwest Farmers market. She’s even participated in Milwaukee’s version of Shark Tank, Dolphin Pool.

“I have adapted, I have grown,” she says of opening her business during the pandemic. “My business is definitely stronger because of it.”

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Your 2020 guide to apple and pumpkin picking near Milwaukee

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While the start of the fall season looks quite a bit different this year, there is one activity that is still available for you to participate in — apple and pumpkin picking!

Most apple orchards and pumpkin patches have put protocols in place to do their part to ensure that guests stay safe and socially distanced from one another. Some have cancelled their big fall festivals, closed their hayrides or added curbside pickup to their offerings. However you choose to participate in apple and pumpkin picking this year, here is your updated list of your options close(ish) to Milwaukee, with Covid-19 protocols added!

As always, check the website of the orchard or patch you choose to make sure they are still offering what you’re looking for and to make sure you’re prepared for their Covid protocol as well as the recommended CDC guidelines! While we have tried to be as informational as possible, there may be information related to individual protocol that we have missed, so PLEASE call the orchard before you plan your trip.

Happy picking!

Apple and Pumpkins (for those of us who like to pick both in one day)

Apple Barn Orchard & Winery

Apple Holler : All pickers must wash hands upon entering the orchard and all guests must wear a mask. Masks are available for purchase.

The Appleberry Farm : Weekend reservations are required.

Appleland Farm Market : Masks are required in the market and strongly encouraged in the orchard. Now offering curbside pickup.

Barthel Fruit Farm : Strict signage posted, please follow posted signs.

Basse’s Country Delight Farm Market

Basse’s Taste of Country : Masks are required indoors and strongly encouraged for guests over 2 years of age in the orchard. All transactions are cashless — credit, debit, or mobile payments only. Capacity is set to reflect government recommendations.

Eplegaarden

Jelli’s Market

The Little Farmer : Masks are required indoors. No self-serve bakery this year. Playground is closed and hayrides are cancelled. Orders can be placed 24 hours in advance and must be pre-paid.

Pieper’s Fruit Farm

Apples

Photo credit: Pelle Martin

Awe’s Apple Orchard

Door Creek Orchard : Reservations are required for pick-your-own. Masks required for anyone over the age of 5 in all areas except the pick-your-own apple rows where they are strongly suggested. You may not bring your own bag/container, you must purchase a recyclable plastic bag in 5 or 10 lb sizes at the main garage. Pre-picked fruit is available at an outdoor station where credit is preferred.

Elegant Farmer : Masks are required.

M&T Gibbsville Orchard

The Orchard Store at Old Homestead : Pre-orders are available on their website for contactless pickup. Indoor store is closed, but a walk-up window is available.

Patterson Orchards

Peck & Bushel Organic Fruit Company : Masks are required indoors and strongly encouraged outdoors.

Rim’s Edge Orchard

Pumpkins

The Barn at Buechler Farms : Masks are required indoors and strongly encouraged outdoors.

Busy Barns Adventure Farm : Masks are required on hayrides, indoors, and outdoors when you are within 6 feet of others outside of your group.

Cedarburg Creek Farm

Creekside Valley Farm : No hayrides this year.

Jerry Smith Country Store & Pumpkin Farm : Masks are strongly encouraged at all times.

Jim’s Pumpkin Farm : No hayrides this year.

Land of the Giants Pumpkin Farm

Linders Pumpkin Farm and Corn Maze : Petting zoo and train ride closed this year.

Meadowbrook Pumpkin Farm & Market

Nieman Markets

Schuett Farms

Simon’s Sunny Side Produce

Spieker’s Pumpkin Farm

Swan’s Pumpkin Farm : Fall 2020 safety precautions will be listed at a later date.

88Nine Radio Milwaukee

Ms. Lotus Fankh’s new EP meditates on social issues, ancestry and history

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As with many musicians, the coronavirus pandemic hasn’t been easy for Ms. Lotus Fankh. Before the pandemic set in, the soulful singer/songwriter worked for a large non-profit that raises funds for cancer research. It was her main source of income. Unfortunately the pandemic meant her former employer couldn’t carry out its main fundraiser, so it had to resort to layoffs.

But the loss of her job gave Lotus Fankh a lot of time to think. 

“When I lost my job it was like, this big relief,” says Lotus Fankh. “And in this time, with Covid-19? It’s like, well, everybody lost a job. As little as they did, the government was trying to help people through these times. So it was like, I felt encouraged at least.” The upside, she says, is that losing her job has given her more freedom to pursue music, something she’s wanted to do full time.

Jess Ayla Ms. Lotus Fankh

She’s also used the time to do some soul searching. She says she’s been considering the value of herself as a part of the art she creates, especially in the wake of Black Lives Matter. Black people, and really musicians at large, get the short end of the stick in the music industry, she says.

“These people pour their heart and souls into a track and that track is an embodiment of their life, their community and their family and the money goes to none of their lives,” Lotus Fankh says. “It’s like that has to stop.”

When the protests surrounding George Floyd’s death began, she says she didn’t feel like being creative or producing music through the pain. She didn’t buy into the cliché that pain fuels art.

“So when that took place that catapulted all this attention to all these, like, lesions of racism that just exists throughout our country,” she says. “It was just like it was just exhausting.”

Despite the stress of her job loss, the pandemic and social injustice, Lotus Fankh has been back in the studio. She has a new EP coming out titled “I.S.O.L.A.T.E.,” short for in search of life after time evolves. 

The new EP, she says, was inspired in part by the stresses of a 9-5 job and “being in environments where you have to navigate spaces of like, explaining Blackness.”

Lotus Fankh having a conversation on Zoom
Lotus Fankh brings humor to the difficulties she has faced during the coronavirus pandemic

Lotus Fankh took her reflections on community, family and Black pain and put it in her work. The murals of support and mourning of Joel Acevdo and Jacob Blake are in her music video for “No Funerals.”

The video also pays tribute to her great-great-grandma Edna Thompson. Edna has been honored as one of the oldest walkers during the 1963 March on Washington.

In addition Lotus Fankh has started a new venture. She’s selling shea butter and she is organizing Heard Space’s new season of writer’s workshops.

She’s got a lot on her plate and a pandemic isn’t holding her back.

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Watch this iconic Milwaukee building take shape in the 1930s

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You know the building today as Hotel Metro, a beautiful art deco hotel in Downtown Milwaukee, located on the prominent corner of Mason and Wells streets. But when the building was constructed, it was known as the Mariner building, and just like now, it was a beauty.

At least as beautiful as an office building can be. It opened in 1937 and boasted high-end amenities for professional clients — things like specialized steam sanitation for doctors’ offices and “year round” air conditioning. It even had phones in the elevator!

A view of the Mariner Building site on March 12, 1937. Photo courtesy of Dahlman Construction Company, via OnMilwaukee.

OnMilwaukee’s Bobby Tanzilo got access to an impressive collection of archive photos, courtesy of Dahlman Construction Company, that shows the building’s construction in stages between 1937 and 1938.

You can watch the site transform from a literal hole in the ground to a towering, luxurious, window-lined architectural stunner.

A completed view seen march 28, 1938. Photo courtesy of Dahlman Construction Company, via OnMilwaukee.

Visit OnMilwaukee to view the full set of photos. Then, listen to this week’s podcast below for more about the building, its history and construction.

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By Every Measure episode 5 transcript

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Below is a transcript of episode five 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:

Before we begin this episode of By Every Measure, talking about systemic racism and education, I want to share a personal story with you. When I was in second grade, living in Charleston, South Carolina, I had an incident, I guess you’d call it my first incident, with racism, that I remember. I was handing my paper in to the teacher who was an older white lady. And right when I handed the paper in to her, right under her breath, I hear her say the N word to me. And that stuck with me. I didn’t even tell my parents till later in life, till probably my college days that I told them that.

But it was kind of traumatic for me and doing this podcast brought up that memory again. But thinking about that, I’m thinking about all the instance that students and kids that look like me had to deal with in schools, going beyond just being called the N word. Being handcuffed by police, being expelled for minor incidents. That is also traumatic and that occurs across the country.

Tarik Moody:

And in this episode, we’re talking about systemic racism in education. Not just outcomes or test scores, we’re talking about bias among teachers, the school-to-prison pipeline, how Black students are treated differently than white students when it comes to discipline; and we also are going to look at how schools are funded. All of this was studied more than 50 years ago in the Kerner Commission, which we have talked about in other episodes in this podcast.

George Wallace:

And I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, and segregation forever.

Tarik Moody:

In the Kerner Commission, they recognized the disparity between Black and white students in America over 50 years ago. And they made several recommendations, which alas, were never followed.

Tarik Moody:

A little more than a decade before the Kerner Commission, there was Brown vs Board of Education. You probably learned about this in school. A 1954, US Supreme Court decision that rules segregation unconstitutional and in violation of the 14th amendment.

Tarik Moody:

It’s easy to think that was years ago. I wasn’t even born. Right? But it wasn’t really that long ago. Remember Ruby Bridges? She was a young Black girl who became the face of school integration and had to be walked into school by federal marshals. Now she’s only 66 years old, younger than my parents. But back then, she was in the national spotlight as a child, dealing with hatred.

Tarik Moody:

This is what white Americans were saying about school integrations.

Speaker 3:

Segregations for both races is best. Segregation has and is working in the South, which contains two thirds-

Tarik Moody:

There were protests all over the country over busing programs meant to integrate schools into the 1970s, in places like Boston. Here’s some archive audio from WBZ-TV to give you a sense of how intense these protests were.

Speaker 4:

[crosstalk 00:03:19] They were throwing eggs at the window and trying to hit people with them.

Speaker 5:

And when we was in school, they was throwing glass at Black people and little kids.

Tarik Moody:

So the audio you just heard was from the 1970s. But the issue of bias and prejudice in schools persist today. Black children are five times as likely as white children to attend schools that are highly segregated by race. And that is according to the Economic Policy Institute in a 2017 report. While segregation is technically illegal, the truth is it’s still happening all over the country, including right here in Milwaukee and cities like it.

Tarik Moody:

That’s where we’ll start with Reggie Jackson.

Tarik Moody:

Why is it, if someone says, “Well, you’re separate but equal, what’s the problem?” Right? What does segregation really do to a Black community and Black students?

Reggie Jackson:

I was a teacher for eight years; and you’re separate, but you’re certainly not going to be equal, in any respects. They were building brand new schools on the south side for white families and didn’t build many at all on the north side. It took a great deal of pressure. It took boycotts by students to put pressure on Milwaukee Public Schools to build those.

Reggie Jackson:

But the most important impact that segregation policies have is that the way we fund schools is based on property taxes. So as we created these segregated, all white spaces in certain parts of Milwaukee and in the suburban communities, what you find is that the property taxes, because of the value of the home, increased. The whiter the neighborhood got, the higher the property values got. The less white a neighborhood got, the lower the property values went. And so what you end up having is a very unbalanced system where our suburban school district’s funding is significantly higher than within the city.

Tarik Moody:

That’s why when you go to the suburbs, you’ll see much nicer and newer school facilities compared to the schools in Black neighborhoods, which in Milwaukee is the central city. More tax base and more funding.

Reggie Jackson:

And man, I’ll tell you, Tarik, when I go out to the suburbs that you don’t go to schools; you go to campuses. Right? You go to the campus of the schools and they’re so different. So different than the schools in the city of Milwaukee. We have a lot of really old school buildings in Milwaukee and you know this as well as I do, Tarik, that if you go to a school that looks really good and modern and has wonderful facilities, it makes you kind of feel good about yourself. Like, “Man, I’m going to get a really good education here.”

Reggie Jackson:

But then you go to one of the schools in Milwaukee, that’s maybe an old raggedy building where the air conditioner doesn’t really work that well when it’s hot; the heat doesn’t work that well when it’s cold; the windows don’t close properly so there’s a lot of cold air blowing into the building. Two of the schools I worked at, those were major issues that they couldn’t figure out how to fix the window so we wouldn’t be cold in the classrooms. So we literally had to sit in the classrooms with jackets.

Reggie Jackson:

So it makes a big difference for the students as well as the staff, and the parents recognize it, too. That’s why so many Black parents, Hispanic parents are always trying to get their kids out to the suburban school districts.

Tarik Moody:

Let’s talk about discipline, like a lot of studies about how Black students, especially Black girls, young women are disciplined unequally and basically, this also kind of leads into the school-to-prison pipeline. So talk to me about how discipline in schools is treated between the races.

Reggie Jackson:

Yeah. Yeah. There are huge disparities across the country in disciplinary outcomes for particularly between Black and white students. Black kids are much more likely to be suspended and expelled from schools than their white peers for participating in the same type of age appropriate behavior. But the other side is because of unconscious bias and even some conscious bias by white teachers, because the majority of teachers in the country are white; most of them are white females. When you have Black students, particularly Black boys, they’re much more likely to be sent to the principal’s office, written up, suspended, eventually expelled.

Tarik Moody:

There was a national study about this in 2016 done by the US Department of Education office for Civil Rights, that showed Black boys were more than three times more likely to be suspended one or more times compared to white boys, basically 18% versus 5%.

Reggie Jackson:

Black girls, on the other hand, the difference between how they’re treated is that they are treated in a less nurturing way. There’s a big study done called Black Girls Interrupted several years ago; and what it showed was that there’s this general assumption that Black girls are older than what their age is, that they assume that they know more about sex than they do, that they’re less in need of nurturing than their white peers. And so if people assume you’re less in need of nurturing and emotional support, then they’re going to be less likely to do that for you.

Tarik Moody:

So, as you can see, these differences in discipline are well observed, studied, and analyzed; and bias starts early, as early as preschool. Yale University Child Study Center did a study on this back in 2016 and found even more proof of bias and education at a very early age. Here’s how study went.

Reggie Jackson:

And these are young children. Had them sit at a table and had some toys and things on the table and have them play. And he asked the group of educators, he used Black and white educators, a little bit of everybody. And he said, “I want you to watch the video of these children. And I want you to look for signs that are precursors to their misbehaving. So look for those little signs that they’re about to do something they’re not supposed to do.” Right?

Reggie Jackson:

And so the teachers sat and they watched this video, but what the teachers didn’t know was, number one, that these young children were actually trained actors. They did nothing. There was no misbehavior at all in the videos. I mean, they were trained to do everything the right way. But what the other thing was, the surprising thing was that the computer screen the teachers are looking at, they actually had a device on it that track their eye movement.

Reggie Jackson:

So it saw exactly where the eyes were looking. So you had a little Black boy, a little Black girl, a little white boy, and a little white girl. And when they looked through the data for all of these teachers, they found very consistently that a majority of the time, the teachers’ eyes were on that little Black boy. And so it showed that bias that’s there.

Reggie Jackson:

The bias was across every race of teachers that they tested. It wasn’t just the white teachers that had this bias. The Black teachers did as well. So these are things that are kind of built into this into our unconscious minds where we have different expectations for Black kids than we do for white kids.

Tarik Moody:

So no matter what, if you’re a Black student, you’re more likely to be disciplined at school more often and more harshly. And it’s not just being called to the principal’s office. Schools are calling the police. In fact, nationwide Black boys are, again, three times as likely to be arrested at school as their white male peers and Black girls are one and a half times as likely as white boys to be arrested. According to that same government study, there’s a police presence in many Black schools.

Reggie Jackson:

Yeah. That’s a big problem. Part of what the challenge is with schools calling police. So the reason that we have police in schools, people kind of forget this is that back in the early ’90s, there were a multitude of school shootings around the country. Almost every several months, there was another big school shooting and this lasted really through the late ’90s, early 2000s, there were several high profile school shootings.

Reggie Jackson:

Now, what’s interesting about those school shootings that no one really talks about, Tarik, is that they were always white kids that was shooting up their schools. But you put in metal detectors where the Black kids are and the Hispanic kids are. No Black kids are running into the school with a gun and having a list of kids they want to kill.

Reggie Jackson:

So because of those school shootings, there was this, “Oh, we got to do something. We got to protect the students. We got to protect the staff. We got to put police in the schools. We’ve got to have zero tolerance policies.”

Tarik Moody:

What is known as zero tolerance policies were developed in the ’90s after government passed the gun-free schools act back in 1994. The policy requires students to be expelled for bringing a gun to school. However, schools started using idea of broken window policies, a popular concept that if you crack down on minor violations, serious crimes would be prevented. And you start seeing students being expelled for minor incidents like smoking cigarettes, swearing, or even such a minor incident as cutting in line during lunch.

Reggie Jackson:

Now you begin to have way more police contact. The students are having the police called on them on a pretty regular basis. I even saw this in schools that I worked in. Police are called when students are misbehaving. Now, instead of calling the parents and having the parents come up to the school and then getting their kids straight, “Oh, well, we’ll get a call the police.”

Reggie Jackson:

And we all know that the police are accustomed to dealing with adults. They’re not accustomed to dealing with children. They don’t understand, like many teachers, what normal behaviors for different age groups are; and they’ll come and they’ll put kids in handcuffs. And studies have shown that if you are expelled from school, if you are suspended multiple times from school, if you have any contact with the police while you’re in school, you are much, much more likely to end up going to prison at a later time of your life. Multiple studies have shown that any police contact as a student, you’re much more likely to go to prison.

Tarik Moody:

Besides being exposed to the criminal justice system at a very young age, Black and Brown students that have contact with police face stress, trauma, and anxiety that creates mental health problems and hurts their educational performance. The school-to-prison pipeline starts way earlier than you might think. Reggie shares this story from Florida back in 2017. You might’ve seen it in the news where police were called on a very young Black girl.

Reggie Jackson:

The six year old Black girl was… She did some stuff in class, I guess she struck one of the teachers, but it’s a six year old. So, I mean, you can’t cause a whole lot of harm when you’re six year old. But anyway, she struck one of the teachers and they called the police on this little girl. Right? And so, there’s the police body cam video of this incident. So the police come into the school.

Speaker 7:

Okay. She’s going to have to come with us now.

Speaker 8:

Okay, Kaia, you got to go with them, baby girl.

Speaker 7:

Stand up. Stand up. Come here. Come over here.

Kaia:

What are those for?

Reggie Jackson:

And this little girl is in the office and the officers come in and they’re talking to her and they literally make her stand up and they put the plastic cuffs on her, and they literally take this little girl out to the police car and put her in the police car and take her to the police station. And the whole time she’s begging and pleading and and crying.

Kaia:

I don’t want to go to the police car.

Speaker 10:

You don’t want to?

Kaia:

No, please.

Speaker 10:

You have to.

Kaia:

No, please. [inaudible 00:15:09]

Reggie Jackson:

I mean, she’s begging and crying. I mean, this is a really difficult video to watch. It’s so sad. But the worst part of the video is when they come back in, when the officers come, comes back in and he’s talking to the administrators at the school and then the people who call the cops and they’re, like, “Was that really necessary?” And the officer’s, like, “Yeah.” And then he starts to brag about how many kids, over the course of his life, he has arrested in schools.

Speaker 7:

The youngest I’ve ever arrested was seven.

Speaker 8:

That young? Seven is the youngest?

Speaker 7:

Seven is the youngest. She’s eight, isn’t she?

Speaker 8:

She’s six.

Speaker 7:

She’s six? Now she has broken the record. She broke the record.

Kaia:

Please. Please. Please.

Reggie Jackson:

I mean, this guy’s going on and on. It’s, like, dude, really? And of course he gets suspended from his job because he didn’t follow the protocol. You’re not allowed to arrest a student under the age of 12 without express permission from your superiors at the police station. So, if your Sergeant or Lieutenant, whoever says, “Yeah, go ahead and arrest that six year old,” you can do it; but you can’t do it without them telling you.

Tarik Moody:

Like Reggie said, that audio is tough to take. But beyond having police in schools, there’s also another issue. Something that generally isn’t in the classroom. There’s been a lot of studies and memes and stuff about you kind of brought a little bit of having a teacher that looks like you, a Black teacher, a Brown teacher, that students of that same race will do better in school. Right?

Tarik Moody:

There was a question. I see a lot of questions. Like, “When’s the first time you had a Black teacher?” I didn’t have a Black teacher till I went to Howard University.

Reggie Jackson:

Wow.

Tarik Moody:

So, can you talk to me about the data and about that? And why is the case of having a teacher, a Black teacher of Black students is better for the Black student?

Reggie Jackson:

I think it’s about the culture. When you are from the same culture as the students are, you are going to be a automatically culturally responsive teacher. This is one of these things in education. What you hear a lot, of talk about culturally responsive engagement of students. Right? And what that literally means is that white parents need to get to know a little bit more about the cultures of Black kids and Hispanic kids and Asian American kids, Native American kids, because they don’t know enough about those cultures to communicate really well and interact with those students in a really, really positive way.

Reggie Jackson:

Whereas if you are from their culture, you listen, you know; from your personal experience, you know how to communicate better. And there is a level of respect. I’ve seen this myself. I’ve seen Black kids be completely disrespectful to white teachers, and then leave that class and go to the next class with a Black teacher and be like the little angels in the classroom. Right?

Reggie Jackson:

So there is a dynamic of white teachers who are, they showed their fear. Right? And listen, kids are like little psychologists, Tarik. They know who they can take advantage of. They recognize it, man. And if they can take advantage of you, they will take advantage of you. Because that’s what kids do. Right?

Reggie Jackson:

And so what you have is you have a majority of the teachers are white. Most of those are white females. So this is what you have. You go to any college. It has a school of education. And you go into those classrooms where people are going to school to become teachers. And a lot of these young white women want to go to the school to become a teacher. And they go to these what they call urban schools, which I hate the term urban, which is just a code word for Black or Latino school. Right?

Reggie Jackson:

They go into these schools and they come in with a white savior complex, thinking that they’re going to save these little kids; they need somebody to save them. They don’t; they just need somebody to teach them. And then as soon as the Black kids disrespect them, they don’t know how to handle it. They’re, like, “Oh my goodness.”

Reggie Jackson:

I’ve literally seen young white teachers leave classrooms in tears, crying, like the first or second day of school. I had a teacher that I worked with, Tarik, at one of the schools I worked at. And this woman literally, as we were having the meetings leading up to classes starting over the summer. It was a couple of weeks where we’re doing professional development and stuff. She was very outspoken about how, “I know I can work with these types of kids,” and blah, blah, blah. She’s just going on and on about how she’s going to be super teacher. Right? And, “I have all of the skills necessary to communicate and culturally responsive,” blah, blah, blah, she’s going on and on like she was going to be the greatest.

Reggie Jackson:

She’s going to be teacher of the year her first day in school. Right? She didn’t even last a week. She quit after like four days. And you know why she quit? Because the kids saw through her right away. They’re, like, “You’re the fakest such and such,” and so and so; and they were calling all kinds of names because she was fake and they realized she was fake and they called her out on it and she didn’t know how to handle it, so she quit, literally four days into the school year.

Reggie Jackson:

And you also have some Black teachers that are just as bad as the white ones when it comes to being horrible to Black kids and calling them out of their name and stuff like that. So it’s very problematic. And I think when it comes to having teachers who look like you, people complain, “Well, why these Black people told me they need to have more teachers that look like the Black kids and Hispanic parents are saying the same thing?”

Reggie Jackson:

But guess what. White people don’t have to say that because most of their teachers’ going to be, they’re going to be white so they don’t have to complain that we need more white teachers. Have you ever heard anybody say, “We need more white teachers in the school”? You’ve never heard anybody say that. Right? Because you just know that most of the teachers’ going to be white.

Reggie Jackson:

So if it was the other way around, if we went out to some suburban school district and 70% of the teachers were teachers of color, I can guarantee you some white parents will have some issues with that. They’d be up in arms like, “Well, I can’t believe this. They have all these Black teachers and these Spanish speaking teachers. I don’t know if they’re going to be as good,” but we complain about it and there’s something wrong; but white people, they’re all good.

Tarik Moody:

Coming up on the second part of By Every Measure, we’re exploring solutions, including two programs that are actively working to increase representation in the classroom. Danae Davis, executive director of Milwaukee Succeeds, joins us next as she shares her ideas on how to dismantle systemic racism in education.

Speaker 11:

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:

And we’re back, on By Every Measure. In every episode, we’re talking to local leaders who are working on solutions, and each of the systems we have discussed on this podcast; and these solutions aren’t just limited to Milwaukee. Some of them could be scaled to other cities across the country that face similar issues as Milwaukee. We hope that by talking about them in this podcast, we can get the word out across the country.

Tarik Moody:

Now I would like to introduce you to Danae Davis, who runs a nonprofit organization called Milwaukee Succeeds. It’s focused on equity in K-12 education, specifically convening other entities to work better together to improve educational outcomes for students throughout their lives.

Danae Davis:

It’s part of the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, and it is one 70 communities who are part of a national network called StriveTogether, our space or universe is early childhood through young adults. And because of the huge disparities that are based on race, ethnicity, and income, our primary centered focus is around racial equity.

Tarik Moody:

When Danae talks about students in Milwaukee, she often calls them her babies. It’s such a human way to say it; to show that these kids in our city right now, they’re our future, all of them. So I want to talk about, let’s start off with discipline because it seems like it’s ingrained from teachers, the principals to policies, to treat especially youth of color differently when it comes to discipline issues. And I think that affects, down the line, graduation, college, careers, everything; it affects longterm of their whole life.

Danae Davis:

So, Tarik, you are bringing up something that’s really near and dear to me in so far as, honestly, the examples go all the way back to kindergarten. I think the solution is two things. One is, we don’t need police practices to be a part of the solution in our schools, whether they are childcare centers or K-12 elementary, middle or high school. That is not what we need.

Danae Davis:

What we need are social workers and psychologists and nurses and better programs that engage parents in a partnership with how do we teach better development practices with our children and our babies. But the bottom line is we have to understand that they are babies and children and young people. We’ve got to start there and not act as though they are adults because they’re not.

Danae Davis:

So I would say that one solution is we don’t need to institute police practices as a means of addressing issues around that typically are represented in disciplinary and expulsion.

Tarik Moody:

Let’s go inside the schools. Another thing I’ve read in articles is about diverse teachers, representation matters, and teachers that if a Black student has a Black teacher, they’re likely to perform better, go to college, do all the things, like be more successful.

Danae Davis:

Yes. And let me just say yes. And I’m going to tell you a little bit of a story. So, as I mentioned, the role of Milwaukee Succeeds, one of the programs that we have, that we brought to Milwaukee, very proud to, it’s something called Leading Men Fellows.

Danae Davis:

And the Leading Men Fellows program, basically was a cohort of 10 young men who are fresh out of high school, so between ages of 18 and 21, let’s say. Predominantly African American, some Latinx, and they’re trained in the summer; and then they’re placed as sort of [inaudible 00:26:10] in early childcare centers, basically supporting the reading capability and literacy of three, four or five year olds. These young men, they didn’t have teaching on their radar in terms of what they want to do when they grow up.

Danae Davis:

They didn’t have good impressions about teachers. They had way too many teachers who verbalize their displeasure with their jobs. In other words, they didn’t really want to teach these kids and they didn’t see anybody who looked like them in a classroom. There, they saw in their engagement with these babies, such progress based on the responsiveness of A, these young men looking like them; and B, because these men came from a place of love and nurturing and caring.

Danae Davis:

And these kids would be able to write their names. They’d be able to spell. They just were like sponges in their ability to read because of those two factors. Now I know that’s an anecdotal experience, but I’ll tell you, it is absolutely truly reflective of why we need to support the teacher pipeline and growing Black and Brown.

Tarik Moody:

Danae mentions another local organization that is laser focused on that, City Forward Collective, which is working to create a pipeline to increase the number of Black and Brown teachers in Milwaukee. Something that’s clearly needed here and across the country.

Tarik Moody:

But even if we have better representation in classroom, there are still many other problems that need to be solved with access. That takes us to our next topic. COVID-19, and how that ties back to education with e-learning and the digital divide.

Tarik Moody:

I’ve seen, for example, the Oakland public school decided to go big. Right? Like, let’s do, $13 million. Give every kid, every single kid computer, wifi, and corporations got involved in a big way. Twitter CEO gave $12 million of their $13 million goal. Is this what we need? Corporations to step up in this area? Because at the end of the day, this benefits them. If you get parents digital literate, you get people with wifi, not just hotspots. You give people real computers and all that. Not only helps the kids learn, but that also helps the workforce.

Danae Davis:

Exactly. Right. I love your analogy. And I think that it can’t be small. So, Milwaukee’s tendency is to… Small, itself. So whatever the solution is, we’ll just give you a chunk of what’s needed and then wonder why it doesn’t work. You know what I mean? So in this case, and I applaud the Milwaukee Public Schools Foundation. I know City Forward Collective is doing a similar fundraising effort for charter and choice schools, but who’s not running into being part of the solution are the internet providers themselves.

Danae Davis:

So whether it’s Oakland or Chicago is another model where, even [Dane 00:29:24] County for that matter, where the providers are at the table and figuring out how to reduce the costs associated to a family’s access to wifi, high speed internet, without penalizing you because you didn’t pay a bill. You know what I mean? Which is, to my knowledge, is in discussions, but the sense of urgency, I’m not feeling on the part of Spectrum and AT&T for example, or Charter. So, I think that leadership in Milwaukee needs to insist that these providers be a part of the solution.

Tarik Moody:

Finally, as you know, I went to HBCU, Howard University.

Danae Davis:

Yes. You lucky person. My son didn’t go. He went to Tennessee State.

Tarik Moody:

The role of HBCU, I feel like I got something that I probably would’ve never got going to a PWI, a predominantly white institution, like UW Madison, or Georgia Tech, where I’m from, Atlanta. If I had some of that experience at the K-12 level, from Howard, I might be different. Right? Even more wealth, more whatever. Right?

Danae Davis:

You definitely would be more wealthy, but you wouldn’t be more brilliant because you already are brilliant.

Tarik Moody:

Oh, thanks. But yeah, I was thinking about that. I’ve seen Amazon’s Jeff Bezos’ ex wife gave forty million dollars to Howard, all this stuff. The HBCUs, one, because there’s none in the Midwest, do you think they have a role or should they have a role or should they get more funding to play a role in the K to 12 realm for Black students or even the Latino institutions as well?

Danae Davis:

Yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes. What is gained, as you know, being an alum of Howard, is that’s where your foundation comes from. Your knowledge and belief and your support in a foundational way is born out of your HBCU experience. And every HBCU graduate that we all know wears that probably. Somehow or another. You know what I mean? When they tell you they went to college, you’d say, “Oh, I know that.” You know what I mean?

Danae Davis:

So I think that that’s the evidence of why that would be very helpful in our K-12 system in Milwaukee, what you’ve just said. But again, we are probably going to be more successful if we figure out, grow our own type of pipelines in the meantime. And whether grow our own means that they go to an HBCU to get their degrees, and then come back here, we’ve got to do multiple facets.

Danae Davis:

Until we change the reputation of this city to one in which Black people are known to not only survive, but thrive to not be able to demonstrate that with enough people, it’s going to continue to impede our ability to change the racial demographics within our K-12 school system.

Tarik Moody:

So here’s a recap of some of the solutions we talked about in this episode of By Every Measure. First shutting the valve of the school-to-prison pipeline. One way to do that is reduce or eliminate a contact students have with police; only calling the police, only when absolutely, I mean, absolutely necessary.

Tarik Moody:

Think bold in terms of closing the digital divide. Get companies, corporations, and internet service providers at the table to remove the barriers to e-learning access for all students especially now during this pandemic. This next one is very important.

Tarik Moody:

Fund organizations like City Forward Collective and the program Danae mentioned, Leading Men Fellows. Both are actively involved in recruiting Black and Brown teachers and helping schools move toward better representation in the classroom. We’ll provide more information about these efforts and our discussion guide for this episode.

Tarik Moody:

And finally, thinking big. These are big ideas which can’t be attacked with patchwork action. Funding public schools in a way we do now, based on property taxes, has gotten us exactly to where we are today.

Tarik Moody:

We will close out with one more thought from Reggie that ties everything up and helps show why thinking bigger is long overdue.

Reggie Jackson:

Imagine if we still built cars the way we built cars in 1920. Would you want to drive a car that was built the same way they built cars in 1920 with no seatbelts? Right? We would never, we would never build cars in that same way again. Right? But when it comes to education, we basically still teach in the same way we did a hundred years ago, 150 years ago. The model hasn’t changed.

Tarik Moody:

Coming up on the next episode of By Every Measure, we’re talking about the most precious resource anyone has. Their health. It’s no surprise that Black people face a much worse outlook when it comes to their health by lots of different metrics. Preventable death, infant mortality, and higher rates of certain illnesses.

Tarik Moody:

But we also face bias in the healthcare system itself. These disparities are literally life and death. We’ll break it down next time on By Every Measure.

Speaker 14:

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 Riordon; and imaging manager, Kenny Perez. Handcrafted sonic inspiration from The License Lab; and our sincere thanks to our members for making all Radio Milwaukee content possible.

88Nine Radio Milwaukee

Meet Olivia Richardson, 88Nine’s new Community Stories producer

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88Nine’s Olivia Richardson is the newest member of Radio Milwaukee. She’s our Audio Storyteller joining us from WUWM. She was the station’s third Eric Von Fellow.

With us, she’ll be producing for our Community Stories segment — a project she looks forward to in which she can, along with our listeners, take a deeper look at the city we live in.

Olivia Richardson

88Nine’s Nate Imig interviewed Richardson so our audience can learn a little more about her. 

Here’s the conversation.

Nate Imig: Hey, this is Nate Imig. We’ve got an introduction here from a new voice you’re going to be hearing and Community Stories. Please help me welcome Olivia Richardson, who just joined the Radio Milwaukee team. Hey, Olivia. 

Olivia Richardson: Hey, Nate.

Imig: So you’ve been in Milwaukee for about a year but you’ve had a lot of experience in radio and audio storytelling. Talk about your path a little bit to Radio Milwaukee and how you got here, in the first place.

Richardson: I actually started out in theater in college as an audio producer. By the time I got done with college, I think I was stressed and burned out. I was like, “I’m never doing audio ever again.” Podcasting wasn’t that that big back then and I didn’t see going into radio as an option. I was like, “Okay, we’ll just find a general corporate job and do the things.” I moved back to Chicago and I saw a board ops position. And as I was in that position, it just kept changing is like, “Okay, we need you to be on air just one time and the second time. And actually, now you’re just the host.”

Imig: That’s how it starts right? 

Richardson: [laughs] Yeah. 

Imig: So kind of like zooming back out to your history in Milwaukee. You’re in this kind of interesting place where you, you know, you’re not like a newcomer, you still have probably a lot of places to visit. And then especially with the pandemic being in the mix, do you have any go to things that you’re trying to learn about the city right away?

Richardson: Coming off that theater background, I really just like telling stories about people. I think the lives we live are always more dynamic than we like to give credit for. I think sometimes we can get really jaded, and we’re just like, “Oh, yeah, this person’s got this issue. This thing is this.” And I think when you start listening in on the details and stop listening to stories in terms of what information is going to give you; I think that’s when you can find some really good stories. That’s when you can actually find new information that you wouldn’t have gotten. Like, “I know all I need to know about police brutality. So I don’t really need to listen to this podcast by 88Nine’ right?” There’s always different room for new material that just kind of gets left out when we assume we know everything. And also, side note —  I grew up listening to Jimi Hendrix, my mom would play him like all the time. So I listened to his album, “Band of Gypsies.” He talks about Milwaukee and Chicago and the protests, and I heard that lyric so many times. I just never clicked and put it together. Now. I’m like, “Oh, I’m in Milwaukee. I’m here.” I just want to see the city from that perspective, too. And connect to Jimi if I can.

Imig: There you go. Jimi Hendrix was like, prophesying your future a little bit back in your childhood. That’s amazing. Well, Olivia Richardson is 88Nine’s new Audio Storyteller. Really, really good to have you here. Welcome aboard. Can’t wait to hear more from you. 

Richardson: Thank you so much. It’s been great.

88Nine Radio Milwaukee

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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