Listening to Black voices: what Milwaukee's leaders are advocating for
As thousands of Milwaukeeans demand justice for victims of police brutality like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade and others, local Black-led organizations have come together to voice their proposals for change in Milwaukee.
If you are new to conversations about structural racism, policing and equity, take some time to familiarize yourself with the priorities identified by local Black leaders -- particularly if you are a white person looking to get involved. Milwaukee has a long history of Black leadership and activism, and it’s crucial for allies new and old to always take their lead from the people most impacted.
Here are a few places to start:
More than 65 organizations and leaders have cosigned this list of demands from the African American Civic Engagement Roundtable (AART). Some demands are new and some are based on a 2019 report compiled by Liberate MKE, a collaboration between AART and 45 community partners. During the summer of 2019, Liberate MKE surveyed 1,100 Milwaukeeans to gather their feedback on the city’s budget priorities. You can read their report here.
In addition to signing on with AART’s demands, Leaders Igniting Transformation released a statement regarding Governor Ever’s executive order calling the National Guard into Milwaukee. Leaders Igniting Transformation is a statewide advocacy and leadership development organization led by black and brown youth.
Two Milwaukee families, led by Linda Anderson and Tracy and Taleavia Cole, hosted a march and rally to call for the termination of Wauwatosa police Officer Joseph Mensah. Officer Mensah, who fatally shot Alvin Cole at Mayfair Mall in February, has been previously investigated and cleared for the fatal shootings of Jay Anderson Jr. in 2016, and Antionio Gonzales in 2015. WUWM reported on the march and the changes in process that the Anderson and Cole families are calling for.
Community activists Frank Nitty II and Khalil Coleman have called for Milwaukee organizers to coordinate when planning marches and demonstrations. In a recent interview, Nitty also asked Milwaukee police and political leaders to end violence against protestors.
Make it a habit to seek out Black voices
Calls to action and local priorities are continuing to evolve, so I encourage you to continue researching beyond these resources. For allies who are participating or just looking to learn more, it’s crucial to seek out the voices of Black people and people of color, and not just in times of heightened visibility.
Racism is a huge and deeply entrenched issue. It’s existed for centuries, permeates every aspect of our lives, and intersects with other types of oppression like sexism, homophobia, transphobia and ableism. The fight won’t be over anytime soon, so if you’re an ally, get in the habit of researching what local leaders and organizations are advocating for, and how they’re asking the community to engage. Your first step in working to end racism is listening to and amplifying the voices of people of color.
Resources for further learning
- Check out Lucas’s guide for white people and non-Black POC that want to help the Black Lives Matter movement.
- Read about Black leaders’ responses to the new Commission on Police Accountability and Reform announced by Mayor Barrett on June 6.
- Watch this clip from Invisible Lines where two brothers discuss their personal experiences with Milwaukee police.
- Attend a drive-in showing of The Blood is At the Doorstep, hosted by Black Leaders Organizing for Communities and Bounce Milwaukee.
- Get to know Love on Black Women, a creative local project that gives financial and emotional support to black women in Milwaukee
- Learn more about Milwaukee’s activist history in this Huffpost piece about the youth leaders who organized 200 consecutive marches during the 1960’s fair housing movement.
- Learn more about the national Movement for Black Lives.