•The July 4th weekend gave a whole new meaning to “Red, White and Blue.”
Our community became “red” with embarrassment and outrage at the senseless actions of a few of our community’s youth who looted a Riverwest convenience store and assaulted several individuals (reportedly “white”) enjoying fire works at a nearby park.
Several political leaders, including Ald. Milele Coggs, spoke out against the incident, which Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn (the “blue”) called “barbaric”—which touched of another firestorm in our community over his use of the word to describe unlawful behavior.
• In response to the 4th of July incident, Black political leaders joined members of Peace for Change Alliance and other activists and concerned residents and youth at a rally to speak out against the recent violence that took place.
The rally was held at the corner of Humboldt Street and North Avenue across the street from the BP gas station that had been looted.
• Representatives of MICAH (Milwaukee Inner City Churches Allied for Hope), lead a protest to focus attention on the lack of minority participation at the Westlawn construction project located along Silver Spring Drive. MICAH declared a “state of emergency” in Milwaukee as it related to job opportunities for African Americans and other minorities.
• The “Mississippification” of Wisconsin.
That phrase, coined by Democratic 12th District State Assemblyman Fred Kessler, got a laugh from the audience at the monthly Community Brainstorming Conference’s forum at St. Matthew CME Church.
But there was nothing funny about the phrase’s meaning and the ramifications it conjures for voters in the community and the entire state of Wisconsin—and the nation—in the upcoming 2012 elections.
That point was made clear by a panel of city, county, state and national lawmakers, union leaders, city election officials and activists who spoke at the well-attended forum, providing information about Wisconsin’s new voter ID law. The panelists said the law makes Wisconsin—once one of the most participatory states in national elections—a state with some of the most restrictive voting requirements in the nation.
The law will “shave” off 40% of the Black and Hispanic vote in the 2012 presidential elections, quite possibly impacting negatively the reelection effort of President Barack Obama and other Democrats in Wisconsin and several other states that have or are trying to pass similar voting laws.
• The Community Journal’s special anniversary edition celebrated its 35years of service to Black Milwaukee by recognizing the community’s legends who made contributions in the areas of civic, cultural, religious or political fields. During the gala, held at the Italian Conference Center, 12 individuals were honored, including legacy builders.
• Just one week after the State Fair melee and days after three teens gunned down a pregnant mother of seven, several Milwaukee area youth groups presented a stark contrast to the images of late.
Instead of images of flash mobs and riots, these area teens portrayed solidarity, responsibility and peace during various youth community day of action events. The Milwaukee Youth Common Council joined with several area youth groups to hold a press conference at City Hall, highlighting the positive work young people are doing in the community.
“We want to show the public that there are youth making positive efforts to build a better Milwaukee and there is great dedication among the young leaders in our community,” said Youth Council President Zachary Komes. “The violent actions of a few shouldn’t be showcased over and above the continued effort of many,” Komes said.
• A five story, 23,000 square foot structure designed to be a co-ed living environment for high school students ages 14 to 8 was officially dedicated. It was the fulfillment of a vision by Bishop Sedgwick Daniels to change the lives of college bound youth and homeless Milwaukee children.
Daniels is the pastor of Holy Redeemer COGIC, which is responsible for the construction of the Fred, Owens, Win bush, Porter and Wilkerson Tower—“pre-collegiant Dormitory—which is part of a larger mixed development that includes a 55 unit family housing complex, office space, retail, hotel, apartment facility, prayer tower, cultural center and water park.
The dedication took place at the dormitory, located at West Hampton Avenue and 32nd Street. The pre-collegiant dormitory will be used by students attending the Young-Coggs Academy for academic courses on the campus of Holy Redeemer.
• State Rep. Jason Fields recognized four local Milwaukee businesses for their outstanding contributions to fostering economic growth and creating local community partnerships. The four businesses recognized were” Genco Pharmaceutical Services, Inc., Newkirk’s Service Station, Pereless Brothers Inc. and Strattec Security Corp. These businesses forged partnerships with Silver Spring Neighborhood Center, Multicultural Community Services Inc., The Havenwoods Economic Development Corp. and the Agape Community Center respectively.
“It’s imperative that these collaborative efforts continue between the public and private sectors to enhance the quality of life for all Milwaukee residents,” Fields said.
• The Milwaukee Common Council’s Judiciary and legislation Committee considered and approved a resolution urging the U.S. Postal Service not to close five post offices in the central city. The legislation, introduced by Ald. Milele Coggs, was unanimously approved and went to the full Common Council for adoption.
The resolution urged the U.S. Postmaster General and the U.S. Postal Regulatory Commission “to maintain affordable, secure and dependable postal services in the city.” The resolution noted that all five post offices are located in the city’s African American community and closing them or significantly reducing postal services would cause a disparate impact on one group (African Americans) and one geographical area.
• The Common Council approved the Postal Service resolutions and okayed legislation prohibiting the carrying of concealed firearms and other dangerous weapons in City Hall and other city-owned buildings. The conceal-carry measure was co-sponsored by Ald. Coggs and Ald. Willie Wade.
• Providing adequate municipal services in very difficult economic times while maintaining fiscal discipline was the theme of Mayor Tom Barrett’s 2012 Milwaukee City Budget Address before the Common Council at City Hall. Barrett praised the council for working with him in lowering crime, creating jobs, improving the city infrastructure, redevelopment successes, effective delivery of core services and a credit rating that is superior to Milwaukee County and the state.
• Legendary photographer Harry Kemp, Black Milwaukee’s “Visual Griot,” died September 29 at his home in his sleep. The Community Journal devoted its entire October 5 edition to Harry and his work.
With his always present camera, Harry put into pictures what the African Griots did with words and memory: Record the births, celebrations big and small, tributes, marriages, sporting events, children playing, community forums and meetings on critical issues, political campaigns from aldermanic to presidential.
• Northcott Neighborhood House President and CEO MacArthur “Mac” Weddle was chosen to receive the Community Brainstorming Conference’s (CBC’s) James Baker Award. Weddle was chosen for his commitment and dedication to the uplifting of the African American community, especially its youth, in conformance with the principles of involvement characterized by Baker, known in the community for his unending research and advocacy for the inclusion of people of African descent in every aspect of political and economic life in Milwaukee.
• State Sen. Spencer Coggs announced his candidacy for Treasurer of the City of Milwaukee. In a statement, Coggs said if elected, he would use his experience to continue to build upon the excellent quality of service and attention to the city’s finances provided by retiring Treasurer Wayne Whittow.
• Black men seeking to become better fathers were inspired and helped towards achieving that goal at the 6th annual Milwaukee Fatherhood Summit held at Destiny Youth Plaza. The event attracted hundreds of Black fathers. The goal of the summit is to provide the resources and information needed by men to better themselves.
• Ray Harmon, a long-time public servant, announced his candidacy for the 9th district on Milwaukee’s Common Council seat currently held by incumbent Robert Puente. Harmon said he wanted to use his vast experience in city, county and state government—as well as his experience with the Milwaukee Urban League and the public schools—to improve the quality of life in the Northwest side district.
• A group of Milwaukeeans participated in the weekend of events surrounding the official dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial in Washington, D.C. The original memorial service was to be held on August 27 but was cancelled due to threats of extreme weather.
• Milwaukee Ald. Joe Davis, Sr. and Ald. Robert Bauman touted President Barack Obama’s $447 billion “American Jobs Act” which could bring millions of dollars to the city fore improvements to infrastructure and transportation system. “Milwaukee and other cities will apply directly for infrastructure funding—it won’t be allocated to the state and then doled out to local governments like in the past,” Davis said. “This is about getting Milwaukee working again on valuable and much needed infrastructure work, and without adding a dime to the deficit,” Davis said.
• State Sen. Lena Taylor reintroduced two bills which she originally authored in the 2009 session that will help reentering offenders return to gainful employment and successful reentry. Taylor reintroduced the state’s “Ban the Box” law which will remove questions of conviction record on job applications prior to employment interviews, and the state’s “Uniform Collateral Consequences of Convictions Act,” which will allow a court to grant a restoration of rights certificate to an offender with a successful reentry record.
Taylor brought the bills back to the legislature in the midst of the Republican majority proposing laws that allow any and all discrimination against a job seeker or employee with a conviction record in employment situations.
• From the state capital rotunda to city streets, many Wisconsin citizens who oppose Gov. Scott Walker’s decisions, have defiantly spoken out. With protests, rallies and other grassroots efforts, they have let their voices be heard. What started out as a mere campaign has turned into a massive effort, as recall supporters launched their initiative to recall Walker and Lt. Gov Rebecca Kleefish from office.
Talk of a recall began almost immediately after Walker released his state budget proposal in February that took away collective bargaining rights for most public workers, forced workers to pay more for their pensions and benefits and handed down massive cuts to public school districts across the state.
The measure, passed in March, took effect this Summer and motivated massive protests that grew as large as 100,000. Throughout each protest, the vigor to recall Walker became increasingly clear.
• Area food pantries requested healthier fare by donors instead of foods high in salt, sugar or calories, making poor choices for people with high blood pressure, diabetes and other diet-related health problems. With more people turning to food banks and for longer periods of time, agency officials say they needed donations, but wanted people to give the kind of healthy and nutritious items they’d serve to their own families.
• Those who attended a Community Brainstorming Session expecting to hear of a quick fix for Milwaukee’s unprecedented unemployment rate probably left St. Matthew CME Church disappointed. What they did learn during the two-hour panel discussion was that there is a unique state initiative on the table that could make a dent in the problem, and there are over 34,000 unfilled jobs on the state’s employment website.
Unfortunately, most Black unemployed are either unqualified, or have otherwise disqualified themselves. Most of the discussion focused on self-imposed impediments to employment, particularly job seekers lacking social/life skills and drug usage. Several speakers also noted that transportation to jobs located in suburbs continues to be a problem and the lack of training dollars has decreased over the past decade, despite unprecedented need.
• In her own words, state Sen. Lena Taylor spoke out in the MCJ about what she called false voter fraud allegations made by a conservative group called Media Tracker, which accused Taylor of being “an accessory” to possible voter fraud after some 20 individuals, including a felon on work release, reportedly voted in the April 2011 election listing their residence as a Milwaukee group home operated by the senator’s mother on property owned by the senator.
A subsequent investigation by the Milwaukee County DA’s office reportedly cleared the senator and her family of any wrongdoing. Taylor called the allegations “completely untrue and unexamined…,” adding the allegations were publicized, broadcast and printed without regard for the truth or discovering the truth. Taylor was contemplating legal action against Media Tracker at the time of this story’s publication.
• While it didn’t come without opposition, the Milwaukee Public School Board voted to close, move and expand several schools within the district. After countless public hearings and months of protest, the board voted to close 11 MPS schools at the end of the 2011-2012 school year. While some of the closures are from traditional MPS schools, others will come from contracts fro charter schools either being mutually terminate or canceled, primarily due to poor student performance.
• Milwaukee County Supervisor Eyon Biddle, Sr. declared his intent to become the next alderman for Milwaukee’s 15th district. During a news conference announcing his candidacy, Biddle outlined his plan to bring economic security and opportunity to the 15th district which accounts for some of the highest rates of unemployment, poverty crime and home foreclosures in the entire city. Biddle will challenge incumbent Alderman and Common Council President Willie Hines.
• Speaking of Hines, the council president proposed a cooperative city-county effort to improve security on county buses. The proposal was introduced as a result of violent attacks on county buses. News stories reported passengers being attacked as well as bus drivers. Hines encouraged county board chairman Lee Holloway to immediately end the contract the county currently has with a private firm to provide security on county buses. In a letter to Holloway, Hines suggests a city-county memorandum of understanding whereby Milwaukee police officers could help ensure security on county buses.
• Known for fighting for her constituents of the 18th Assembly district in the state Legislature, Rep. Tamara Grigsby is in the fight of her life. Grigsby’s legislative aides announced recently that the representative had been diagnosed with cancer earlier in the year and was admitted to the hospital in intensive care and in critical condition. Since this story first appeared in the MCJ, Grigsby’s condition has improved.