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Black leaders take charge of their community

We are adding a new and exciting addition to Community Stories. Each week our team will be highlighting organizations that are doing the work and creating transformative changes from the ground.

This week we spoke with Keisha Robinson from Black Leaders Organizing Communities, known as BLOC. Just like the name suggests, BLOC is a community-based organization with an emphasis on face to face conversations to uplift Milwaukee’s Black community.

The zip code 53206, north of Downtown Milwaukee, is known to be the most incarcerated zip code in the country. In 2017, organizers and activists came together to address disparities in the area. Their method was to take a neighborly approach, knock on front doors and directly talk to the community.

Robinson said it all started with one simple question: “What would it look like for your community to thrive?” 

"They kind of looked at us when we showed up to the doors like, 'really what is the ask?'' said Robinson. "We are an organization that is coming out to find answers. We know that we need answers before we find a solution."

After lending an ear and listening to concerns, they created their BLOC agenda reflecting 10 basic human needs, ranging from education to dignity, health and housing. This year some of the allocated focus has been directed to voter education, specifically debunking the myth that individuals with a felony are ineligible to vote.

"Half of the folks in our community didn't even know about the spring election," said Robinson. "The information has been held so long from these communities when in fact they needed to know and have a seat at the table."

Another pocket of resources is directed toward mental health. Since the pandemic, BLOC adapted toward a virtual space and provided a text message program to guide the community to resources depending on their needs. The resources range from shelters to nearby food pantries. The list of resources can be found on their website.

"Some people are left without employment and told to go home," said Robinson. "Not knowing how they are going to pay bills. Not knowing what they are going to do next."

"So many people have negative experiences, I guess in their head about these communities until they come to the community and see," said Robinson." "More people want to live and they want to be sustained. That's all it is."

Audio Storyteller | Radio Milwaukee