Three Milwaukee aldermen called on the city’s police chief Friday, to appear before the Equal Rights Commission to provide concerned citizens answers to the handling of the Darius Simmons homicide investigation. Aldermen Milele Coggs, Ashanti Hamilton and Jose’ G. Perez made their request in a joint statement the day after they attended a community meeting at Rufus King High School about the Simmons case. Simmons is the 13-year-old who was murdered in front of his mother by neighbor John Spooner on the city’s near Southside. Spooner believed Simmons was involved in a series of burglaries of his home. Spooner shot Simmons despite the fact the youth had his hands in the air and denied involvement in the burglaries. The aldermen expressed disappointment in Flynn for leaving the meeting–which was planned for weeks–to attend another event before members of the community could question him about the Simmons case. “As public servants we know that opportunities for communication and information exchange with residents are critically important, because they offer the chance for healing and understanding on sensitive issues,” the aldermen wrote. “In this instance, we think a very real opportunity at fostering communication and understanding–and perhaps, healing–was lost.”
National Black United Front BUF will hold its 33rd Annual Convention in Milwaukee this week July 12-15 at the Milwaukee Brotherhood of Firefighters Hall, 7717 W Good Hope Rd. This year’s theme “The Year of the African Woman: A Spirit Unbroken.”
In what is a surprise move that is sure to stun political observers and initiate heated debate in the community, retiring State Assemblywoman Tamara Grigsby has endorsed Sandy Pasch for the 10 Assembly District seat being vacated by Elizabeth Coggs, who is running for the District Six State Senate. “After much thought and careful deliberation, I have decided to endorse Sandy Pasch, Grigsby announced in a letter dated July 12. Pasch, who tried unsuccessfully to unseat state Senator Alberta Darling in a recall election in 2011, is the lone White candidate running for the seat. The other three candidates are African American women. They are: Harriet Callier, Millie Coby and Ieshuh Griffin. “I understand more than anyone the need for Black representation in the Wisconsin legislature,” Grigsby wrote. “I also understand the importance of supporting someone like Sandy who has a proven track record of effectively fighting for the issues that affect our community.” Grigsby noted Pasch’s efforts to reduce the disparities in Milwaukee’s high infant mortality rates, job creation and economic equality, the restoration of funding for the city’s public schools and helping to reinstate cuts made by Gov. Scott Walker to Milwaukee’s transit system. “Sandy gives our community a fighting chance at a time when we have much to lose. Now more than ever we need a powerful representative who has compassion for us, proficiency in the workings of state government, and a track record of success. Representative Sandy Pasch is that person. Rep. Grigsby has served as a prominent voice for Milwaukee as State Representative for the 18thAssembly District over the past eight years. Throughout her tenure, she fought for child welfare, W-2 improvements, health care access, excellent public education for all children, criminal justice reform, and the rights of women and minorities. She has tirelessly worked to give a voice to families and to those who are historically underrepresented in policy-making.
Rep. Pasch is a Milwaukee native, graduate of Milwaukee Public Schools, and resident of the area since 1986. She has been a practicing nurse since 1976 and has served for 15 years as Assistant Professor of Nursing at Columbia College of Nursing, instructing students in the fields of community health and mental health.
Rep. Pasch is the Assistant Assembly Democratic Leader and chair of the Milwaukee Democratic Legislative Caucus. During her two terms as a State Representative, she has focused on strengthening public education, improving health care, and creating family-sustaining jobs for Milwaukee’s communities.
“I am honored to earn Rep. Grigsby’s support to continue representing Milwaukee communities in the new 10th Assembly District,” said Rep. Pasch. “She is one of my closest friends and colleagues, and she has been one of the most persevering leaders for Milwaukee that our community has ever seen. I look forward to continuing our mutual efforts to address the most critical issues facing Milwaukee’s families.”
There will be a Public Forum concerning the Homicide of Darius Simmons. Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn will present a synopsis of the investigation. Community Members are allowed to voice their comments during a structured listening session before the Citizen Board.
Place: Rufus King High School, 1801 W. Olive Street Auditorium, Milwaukee Time: 6pm
Work is underway on the reconstruction of N. Port Washington
Ave./Rd. from N. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. to W. Olive St.,
according to Alderwoman Milele A. Coggs.
The much-needed project began in late June and is expected
to be completed by mid-fall. The reconstruction project will include the removal of the existing pavement and base, which will be replaced by an 8-inch concrete pavement and 6- inch gravel base. N. Port Washington Ave. between N. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. and W. Capitol Dr. will be narrowed from 50 feet to 46 feet, matching the roadway width from W. Capitol Dr. to W. Olive St. (Port Washington Ave. turns into Port Washington Rd. north of W. Capitol Dr.).
Curb and gutter will be removed and replaced throughout the
project corridor. Existing sidewalk in poor condition will be removed
and replaced with 5-inch concrete, and driveway approaches will be
reconstructed with 7-inch concrete. New inlet structures will also be
installed to connect to the storm sewer.
The narrowing of the roadway will allow for more trees and
green space, and there will be one striped 5-foot bicycle lane in each
direction throughout the project limits.
Construction is occurring two phases: In stage one of the
project, traffic will be maintained to northbound lanes, but closed to
southbound traffic until approximately late August; in stage two,
traffic will be maintained to southbound lanes, but closed to northbound
traffic from approximately late August until approximately late
Prior to final concrete work on the project, crews are
installing a 12-foot-wide temporary gravel lane, through the existing
first stage work zone, at the intersection of W. Abert Pl. and N. Port
Washington Rd., to allow east-west local traffic flow and access.
The estimated cost of the project is $2.5 million, with a
breakdown of 80% federal and state funding, and 20% city funding.
Regular updates about this and other projects will be posted
on Alderwoman Coggs’ web page — www.milwaukee.gov/district6.
SOJOURNER FAMILY PEACE CENTER AND WATERSTONE BANK HOST ANNUAL TAILGATE AT MILLER PARK
MILWAUKEE, June 25, 2012 – Enjoy a Brewers baseball game and tailgate party while supporting a worthy cause at the annual Tailgate at Miller Park presented by WaterStone Bank to benefit Sojourner Family Peace Center. The Tailgate will be held on Friday, July 27, from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. at Helfaer Field, the youth baseball facility next to Miller Park. All proceeds from the event support Sojourner Family Peace Center’s many programs to eliminate domestic violence in the Milwaukee area.
Former radio host Jim “Lips” LaBelle will emcee the event, which includes ballpark-style food and beverages and a silent auction featuring exclusive, autographed Brewers’ memorabilia. Raffle tickets can be purchased for the chance to win a Door County vacation and Kindle Fire, among other prizes. Kids will enjoy face painting, balloon making and an appearance by the Klement’s Racing Sausages. This year, adults and children will be allowed onto Helfaer Field to run the bases and play catch.
“This event not only offers an opportunity for the Milwaukee community to unite against domestic violence, it also helps us meet the increasing demand for our services,” said Angela Mancuso, co-executive director of Sojourner Family Peace Center. “We encourage the community to come out and celebrate the difference we are making in the lives of those affected by domestic violence.” Cost is $65 for adults and $25 for children (12 and under) to attend both the Tailgate and the Brewers vs. Washington Nationals game immediately following. Cost for the Tailgate only is $50. A Family Value Pack ticket package has been added this year: purchase two or more adult tickets at regular price and receive any number of children’s tickets for $20. Funds raised at the Tailgate directly assist in everything from food and childcare supplies to securing facilitators for group sessions and transportation to safety.
For more information, please contact Courtney Meyer at 414-276-1911 or [email protected]. To seek help from an abusive situation, call the 24-hour Domestic Violence Hotline at 414-933-2722.
The day after the failed recall of Governor Scott Walker, a coalition of labor, Democrats and a handful of Black activists held a demonstration to demand that the governor restore collective bargaining to public employees.
Eliminating collective bargaining was the match that sparked the movement to recall Walker, which was smothered two weeks ago when Walker beat Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett by 7%.
With the taste of defeat on their lips, coalition members resorted to the historic civil rights tactic of protest to demand the governor reverse his policies.
Of course, Walker immediately called the Republican controlled assembly into special session, restored the 12% contributions now made by public employees to their health care benefits, along with his cross the board cuts to every department except prisons, and announced the hiring of one million people to construct a new train from Milwaukee to Madison.
Just kidding. In truth, the governor ignored the demonstrations, if he even heard of them.
Last week, responding to the heinous murder of 13 year old Darius Simmons by an angry and probably deranged 76 year old white man who thought he had burglarized his home, another coalition of civil rights and clergy groups staged a march and rally against the state’s concealed carry law. They too demanded that state lawmakers respond to their march by rescinding that law.
Again, it’s debatable and highly unlikely that even Milwaukee Democrats knew of the demonstration, and even if they did they were powerless to do nothing more than mention it during a ‘beer and brat’ bar b cue at the governor’s mansion a few days later. Even if through some miracle leaders of the Republican controlled assembly happened to tune into Black radio or pick up the Community Journal, there’s less than a .000001% chance they would have put an early end to their summer vacation and election victory to unscramble that broken egg.
In between those two protests, another much smaller group held a half block march and demonstration to demand the city, county, state and White House produce jobs for even a faction of the 55.8% of Black unemployed men in Milwaukee. That was not the first protest for jobs, which ironically was never mentioned during the gubernatorial recall election by those who say they represent the interests of the downtrodden—which last I heard include Black folks who have been told for 400 years that things are going to get better if we vote, obey the 11th Commandment and keep our mouths closed as we watch White suburbanites working on public sector construction projects in our neighborhoods.
It’s not a matter of whether the citizens and groups that staged these protests were well intended. They were. But as I noted in a column six or seven years ago, I’ve matched hundreds of miles with various groups over years, and rarely did we accomplish anything other than to increase our anger at the powers-that-be for ignoring our plight. I made a decision through that column that I would retire from marching, unless we are specifically going somewhere.
In other words, save the Open Housing, School Desegregation and Ernie Lacy marches, that knight on our civil rights chess board has rarely been able to scale the walls of apartheid, much less force Old King Cole to lay down in submission. Maybe the problem is too many Black leaders think they are playing checkers when the real game is much more sophisticated. Or maybe we keep attaching with pawns, when we should be advancing our knights and bishops. Whatever the case, it’s long since time when we should start reassessing our strategies, and either put together a more comprehensive attack plan, or started playing another game.
That’s not to say marches and demonstrations don’t have value. Sometimes they do, particularly if they supplement a more comprehensive strategy. But too often, most marches and demonstrations are about symbolism and not substance.
Did anybody really think after going through a grueling, sometimes hate filled recall, that the governor was going to suddenly become a liberal Democrat? Did those who protested against concealed carry realize that the elderly murderer, Darius Simmons, did not have a concealed permit, and even if he did, that was not used to kill a Black teenager in front of his mother? And if nobody has done more than give lip service to Milwaukee’s nation leading Black male unemployment rate up to this point, did anyone serious believe a half dozen brothers holding a public discussion would somehow or another force politicians, business leaders and investors to read Deuteronomy 15:7-8 or Joshua 1:14-15?
If there’s one thing I learned over my decades with this Black newspaper it’s that you can’t legislate racism or integration, most of those folks we look to for answers and solutions don’t respond to feel good protests and wishful thinking, and that fat meat is greasy.
My intent here is not to criticize civil rights, labor or citizen groups for attacking issues through their constitutional right of protest. Instead my purpose is to question whether those tactics are as effective as they once were, and if maybe we should focus more on doing for self, versus crying to deaf ears.
The most successful crusade I’ve ever been associated with was the school choice movement, and before that the Save North Division campaign. In the latter, the marches were icing on the cake. Direct appeals to school board members, mass demonstrations at board meeting and selective targeting of board members with threats of recalls forced a reversal of board policy.
The focused protests were all the more successful since three of the board members who decided to deny children the option of attending a new school in their neighborhood were Black. When Black folks, finally get mad enough to seek accountability from Black politicians (and board members are politicians) you know the earth is about to move.
There were dozens of marches associated with the school choice battle, but those were solely intended to maintain awareness and as vehicles to publicly challenge the opposition, which ironically, included Black Democrats, the state Democratic Party and the teachers union. There were also demonstrations outside the homes of key Democrats, one that prompted the chairman of the assembly education committee to reverse her decision to table a hearing on the choice legislation. That specific protest opened the door for an eventual vote before the legislature.
Another strategy employed was to bus hundreds of poor parents and their children to Madison during the legislative session. I vividly recall strategically placing dozens of small children behind a Black Democrat prior to the vote. The children wore t-shirts questioning why the Black Democrat was trying to block their path to a quality education, and whom the legislator held allegiance to, her party or the people. (You can read my book, ‘Not Yet Free at Last’ for details, or wait for the updated version later this year.)
Historically, one of the most powerful tools of the civil rights movement has been boycotts. But they are only effective if planned out, and if organizers can rally sustained support for them. When they are randomly announced, they tend to backfire, and undermine our most effective tool of protest.
Last year, for example, an irate Black politician called a boycott of a toilet paper factory owned by the infamous Koch Brothers. The Black politician also called for a boycott of a central city gas station whose owner contributed to Scott Walkers’ election campaign.
I probably don’t need to tell you how disastrous those boycotts were. The politicians didn’t inform or seek support from any organization or group prior to declaring the boycotts. The gas station continued to make money primarily from Black customers, who weren’t challenged with picket signs or educated about the rationale behind the boycott.
The toilet paper boycott ended with criticism of the politician, since most of the employees were members of Wisconsin unions. The Koch brothers probably laughed all the way to the bank (and it wasn’t North Milwaukee State).
There’s no doubt we have to think through traditional strategies of protest, and at the same time, introduce new strategies that can be equally if not more successful.
For example, instead of marching on 16th and Vine Street hoping someone in Superior, Wisconsin is going to create a 1,000 jobs or have a Jesus moment, why not focus that energy on a ‘Buy Black’ and ‘support those who support us,’ campaign.
The quickest way to create jobs is to support those institutions that support us. Equally important, it has long been known that if we circulate our dollars to insure they touch three hands before existing our community, we can create thousands of jobs in short order.
It’s simple math. I get a check from the Community Journal. I utilize a Black plumber or buy gas or eat at a Black restaurant. If they in turn purchase good or services from a Black vendor, my dollar has touched three Black hands. The plumber hires a Black intern, the gas station will hire a Black night clerk (or unfortunately a security guard) and the Black restaurant hires a new cook. Net result: jobs created and a stable community.
The secondary strategy is to support Community Journal advertisers. Those businesses not only support one of our community’s most important vehicles for social change and Black empowerment, but also our community through jobs and philanthropic contributions.
In keeping with that strategy, I buy many of my clothes from Boston Store (up to date fashions and quality merchandise), and most of my groceries from Pick N Save, both of which have excellent diversity track records as well. Northwest Funeral Chapel funeralized my late son. I get my prescriptions from Walgreen’s and other health products from Carter Drugs. They support us, I support them and everybody benefits.
As you may know, Milwaukee has the fourth highest poverty rate for African Americans in the country. We can’t protest or march that away. But we can lower the rate by advocating marriage and two parent households. One reason the White poverty rate is much lower than ours is because most of them have two parent incomes. Seventy percent–that’s right 70% –of Black women, 72% of which are listed as working poor, head households.
Maybe a march will influence a decision to return to traditional African values and mores and spirituality. But a much more effective strategy would be for the churches to provide collective leadership, the media to repetitiously bring to light statistics, data and the human faces of Black children who are victimized by adult decisions. As a community we must commit to re-establishing the nuclear family and all of us must push our young sisters and brothers to see themselves as something behind young parents. We must instill our children with culture, accountability and discipline. We must stop referring to them as ‘nig..ers’ and instead as princes and princesses who will lead a mighty nation.
We must give them hope and understand the first code of parenthood, which is to make sure they go further than our generation.
Motivate them everyday, lead by example, and make sure they are positioned to stand in God’s shadow. Simple, but effective strategies to change the world, or at least our world.
Lastly, circumstances should finally force us to realize the necessity of developing a Black United Fund. There is a reason why more and more philanthropic and government dollars are being redirected to organizations outside the community for poverty, social welfare and training programs. Couple that with a lack of adequate investment and venture capital for Black businesses, and the need for a Black United Fund is all the more obvious.
For the record, the Black community is not poor. We generate and spend more than $4 billion annually. Black churches collect more in offerings than the city and county collect in taxes. Of the money circulating in the Black community, research show we spend more on fluff, entertainment and tattoos than MPS did on last year’s summer reading program. No wonder our Black fourth graders have the lowest reading proficiency rate in the United States of America!
An overwhelming majority of that fluff money goes to businesses who take your green backs out of the city. Just think of the snowball effect it would have if all you sisters brought your wigs and extensions from Black beauty supply outfits. But we are so brained washed, we think white ice is colder and Korean hair is shinier. We invest our dollars anywhere but where it will benefit us, and then we wonder why no one respects us.
Yeah, we still need marches, demonstrations and boycotts. But it’s obvious they need to start in our homes, in our businesses and on our streets.
We are troubled by the recent Journal Sentinel investigation  describing the misreporting of hundreds of assault cases by the Milwaukee Police Department, especially the cases involving children. Although we understand that this misreporting of crime data has no impact on how criminal suspects are prosecuted, there is no question that the integrity of the reported crime data is an important matter of public concern. Crime reduction has been one of Milwaukee’s signature achievements of the last decade. Under Chief Flynn’s leadership, crime as reported to the FBI has continually gone down since 2007. When crime numbers are released, the decreases are usually awarded a prominent headline in the city and state’s largest paper.  Such repeated broadcasting of crime statistics not only drives public perception of city safety, but also provides a key rationale for the public acceptance of such otherwise unacceptable police tactical impacts as longer police response times , steep racial disparities in traffic stops , and recently-disclosed practice of unlawful body searches.
We are eager to have the crime reductions reported by the MPD over the last five years confirmed. The MPD has made credible arguments in regards to human error and the fact that classification of crimes will involve some judgment calls on which reasonable people can disagree. Nobody can realistically expect such statistics to be 100% accurate 100% of the time. We respect and appreciate the hard work and dedication that Milwaukee police officers give to their jobs.
That said, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has raised legitimate questions as to how the MPD is classifying data. This is why we appreciate that the results of a recent FBI audit will soon be publicly available. If this audit were to leave questions unanswered, MPD and city leaders should insist on a full independent audit to verify Milwaukee’s past crime reductions.
In defending its data reporting, the MPD has asked what the standard is in regards to crime coding errors. In making this case, Chief Flynn has referenced  other major cities that have had issues with crime data. While there is no clear standard for error rates, we know that every city has an incentive to report a drop in crime. Reports of crime reductions may provide a short-term boost to city morale and perhaps even economic activity, but such boosts are illusory if based on false pretense. It is only the actual, sustainable, real-life crime reductions that create lasting and undeniable benefit for our city It is important that the reported numbers reflect reality. We cannot chart a proper path to a stronger city unless we first have an accurate and realistic reporting of data.
The question of what error rate is acceptable is the wrong question. The appropriate question is: what must be done to ensure that Milwaukee’s crime statistics are accurate. Going forward, the answer is a regularly scheduled independent audit of MPD’s crime data that removes any doubt as to the accuracy of the numbers. In this regard Milwaukee has an opportunity to be a municipal leader in transparency and accountability, showing cities like Philadelphia and Memphis  what good government can look like.
It is shameful this episode has been used by some as yet another opportunity to bash Wisconsin’s largest city. Milwaukee is the economic, social, and cultural driver of our state. Like other major U.S cities, we have both incredible assets and complex challenges. This situation presents an opportunity for our city to stand up and proclaim that we have challenges to resolve and the assets and fortitude necessary to resolve them. Confirming our success in reducing crime and bolstering our government’s transparency qualify as good first steps.
(1) “Hundreds of assault cases misreported by Milwaukee Police Department” Ben Poston, May 22, 2012, available at: http://www.jsonline.com/watchdog/watchdogreports/hundreds–of–assault–cases–misreported–by–milwaukee–police–department–v44ce4p-152862135.html
 For example, the following headlines have appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “Crime down 12%; homicides cut in half” (May 23, 2008); “Milwaukee’s violent crime drops 19% in early 2008” (July 29, 2008); “Milwaukee crime drops 17% in 2009” (April 15, 2009); “Police say crime down about 15% in Milwaukee in 2009” (July 8, 2009); “Crime falls statewide, led by city” (September 16, 2009); “Crime in Milwaukee falls 12.3% overall this year” (October 20, 2009); “Crime in Milwaukee continues to decline” (January 21, 2010); “Crime in Milwaukee drops again, police statistics show” (April 29, 2010); “As crime rate drops, calls for police soar” (July 25, 2010); “Crime continues to drop, Milwaukee police statistics say” (July 29, 2010); “Flynn to announce third consecutive crime drop” (January 26, 2011); “Violent crime down across the board in Milwaukee” (May 11, 2011); “Milwaukee crime numbers continue downward trend” (August 19, 2011).
 “Racial gap found in traffic stops in Milwaukee” Ben Poston, December 3, 2011, available at: http://www.jsonline.com/watchdog/watchdogreports/racial–gap–found–in–traffic–stops–in–milwaukee–ke1hsip-134977408.html
 See . Chief Flynn mentioned that Philadelphia and Memphis, among other large cities, have had questions raised about the accuracy of their reported crime data.
by Mikel Kwaku Osei Holt
Several times a week, in the darkness of the wee hours of the early morning, a department of corrections vehicle drops off several newly released prison inmates in downtown Milwaukee.
The lucky ones will have a family member or spouse pick them up and a support system to return to.
Others, with but a few dollars in their pockets and limited connections end up wondering the streets, in search of shelter and a second chance at life. Many, if not most, caught up in that latter scenario will eventually find their way back to prison.
A lucky few will contact Prison Action Milwaukee (PAM), a non-profit advocacy and assistance program run by volunteers whose primary mission is to reduce recidivism. PAM volunteers help released inmates find jobs, shelter and assist them in finding pathways to societal acceptance.
PAM volunteers also serve as advocates for released inmates with probation officers, and also assist them in finding legal representation when needed.
Not on the organization’s brochures are services including a shoulder to cry on, a firm and assertive hand to make sure clients don’t engage in activities that led to their incarceration in the first place, and an occasional kick in the butt to jump-start and motivate.
PAM is a safety net wove by Rose Scott, a retired college professor and community activist whose first encounter with the criminal justice system left her angry, frustrated and bewildered.
Scott tells of the story of a relative who was charged with misdemeanor domestic battery prior to moving to Georgia to start his life anew. A confrontation with his then girlfriend was part of the motivation for his decision to leave Milwaukee.
The incident was more of a heated shouting match than a violent outburst, and the young man thought little of it before leaving town.
He was working two jobs and trying to make a better life for himself when out of the blue, he found himself confronted by two Milwaukee County Sheriff’s deputies who arrested and transported him back to Milwaukee.
The incident resulted in his losing both jobs, and those who heard of it found it mind-boggling that deputies from Milwaukee would travel over a 1,000 miles to arrest someone for what amounted to a misdemeanor for a non-violent argument.
So did the judge who heard the case.
Scott was going to bail the man out of county jail, but didn’t at his urging. But she also found it unbelievable that unlike other states, she couldn’t post a property bond, but instead would have been forced to pay several thousands dollars for what turned out to be a disputed misdemeanor.
The incident, particularly the trauma and loss of employment suffered by the young man, not only prompted Rose to question the system, but also to acknowledge the necessity for a group to intercede on behalf of individuals in similar circumstances. D
iscussions with others directly and indirectly impacted by the criminal justice system prompted Scott to start the PAM a half dozen years ago.
“I was attending a discussion where everyone was complaining about the criminal justice system,” she recalled. “Everybody had a story to tell and most of them were frustrated because they didn’t believe they had a place to go (to address their concerns). Everybody was complaining and crying. Finally, I stood up and said ‘we can complain, or we can do something; we can start our own group.’”
PAM was the result of that meeting, and volunteers have had no shortage of work to keep them busy ever since.
“There’s just so much to do,” she acknowledged “For example, we started with intervention, trying to assist individuals who found themselves confronting a system that seems insurmountable.
There are people in jail and prison who found it easier to admit to something they didn’t do, rather than to fight because they didn’t have a high priced lawyer.”
Lamont Gregory, one of the group’s top volunteers has had run-ins with the criminal justice system himself, so he could relate to the complexity of issues and concerns. One of the areas he initially focused on was a state law, Act 28, which addressed parole for inmates incarcerated prior to the state’s truth in sentencing legislation, in 2000.
“In a lot of cases, we learned that many older inmates from Milwaukee, who had served long terms and were not a threat to society, were getting deferment instead of parole. It was systemic and it had a lot of racial overtones,” he explained.
Gregory said the organization had a friend in Lenard Wells, the former Milwaukee police officer and League of Martin president who was appointed to head probation and parole under former Governor Jim Doyle, who incidentally, was the author of truth in sentencing, which essentially ended parole.
Gregory said it was not a surprise why Wells was ultimately forced to resign. “Too many hard liners thought that he was releasing too many (Black) inmates.
“But it wasn’t because they were a threat to the community. It was partly racial. Wells was a retired policeman, so he was definitely a proponent of law and order. But he was also about second chances, and what was best for society.
Keeping old reformed Black men in prison at a cost of $38,000 a year, didn’t make a lot of sense. So we engaged and advocated on their behalf.”
PAM has also worked extensively with State Senator Lena Taylor, who prior to the election of Governor Scott Walker in 2010 was chair of the senate criminal justice committee.
“Lena was a God-send,” Scott said. “She would put pressure on the Department of Corrections, because they had to go through her committee for funding. Lena is an advocate for alternatives to incarceration, as is District Attorney John Chisholm. There are many criminal justice leaders who think there is a better way. Most of the inmates today are Black and their offenses are drug related.
“In far too many cases, they would be better off going through alternative programs. As things are today, they get out of prison, and as felons can’t get a job or support, and many end up returning to bad habits to survive. It’s a vicious cycle that benefits nobody.”
Gregory agreed, adding that while PAM is never short of clients to serve, they are limited in what they can do.
The organization operates off donations and volunteers. And it is not affiliated with any large group, or philanthropic funding source. Rose also serves on the NAACP’s criminal justice committee and the ACLU. “Neither has a strong focus on this serious issue; the NAACP is awaiting (policy) decisions from national.”
Unlike many social service groups that have a mission of working themselves out of a job, PAM’s Scott recognizes that as long as there is a criminal justice system, there will be individuals who need their services, at both ends of the spectrum.
She is hopeful, however, that Wisconsin policy makers can see the value in reducing the state’s prison population.
Wisconsin currently has the highest Black incarceration rate in the country, state funding of the prison industrial complex is nearly double that of our neighbor, Minnesota, even though the states’ demographics are similar.
In a couple of weeks, MICAH will introduce what the religious coalition is calling an “11X15” campaign, Scott revealed.
The centerpiece of the campaign is to reduce the state prison population by 11,000 by 2015.
“It will be an uphill battle, but we will join them in that campaign,” Scott said, because it speaks to a flaw in Wisconsin’s criminal justice mindset.
“A short time ago, I was downtown and observed this young fellow walking around idly,” Gregory interjected.
“He seemed to have no direction, no purpose. It didn’t take me long to figure out he was one of those recently released inmates,” Gregory said with a tinge of anger and frustration in his voice.
“I approached him, told him about our program and we intervened. We gave him a bus ticket and options. We helped him with food and shelter. Hopefully, with help, he’ll end up on the right track.
But we know Milwaukee already has the highest Black male unemployment rates in the country, a fact that puts this young brother at the back of the line.
“Society has to understand the predicament these young men are in. We can help them down a righteous path, or we can ignore them and act surprised when they end back up in the system.”
PAM is located at 37th and Wisconsin. Its website is prionactionsmilwaukee.org. If you’re in need of their services, or want to make a donation, call 414.431-0230.
Remember, not every inmate is a thug, and all of them are someone’s brother, uncle, father or son. One way or another, their pathways will intercept with ours.
Barrett and Mitchell the obvious choices for governor and lieutenant governor; vote for change June 5
It should come as no suprise to anyone who we are endorsing in the gubernatorial recall election to be held June 5.
The obvious choice to us and for the community is Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.
Barrett is the state’s best hope in overturning the draconian policies of incumbent Scott Walker, whose agenda has wrecked havoc on public workers and their rights, the poor, families, the elderly, children, women, minorities and individuals with health challenges.
If you agree the course of our state must be redirected to benefit its citizens and you are eligible to vote and are not “on paper,” then it is your duty and responsibility as a Wisconsinite to go to the polls on June 5 and vote! We urge you to take others who are eligible with you to the polls so they can vote. Take the time to educate them on what is at stake. Let them know that we…the people…hold the power to correct the course our state is headed in. Wisconsin is the “tip of the spear” in a politically ideological and cultural war nationally between those with power and money who are without a moral compass, and the middle class–the keepers of the “American Dream”–whose existence gives hope and aspiration to the poor. This election has implecations that will echo all the way to the November presidential election. If Walker wins, it will be a signal to the corporate oligarchy that money rules; the rights, liberties and freedoms of the people don’t matter any more!
Sounds drastic doesn’t it?
But that is exactly our fear if you and those you know who are able to don’t vote on June 5.
And since you’ll be striking a blow for the people, we also urge you to vote for Mahlon Mitchell to be the next lieutenant governor, replacing incumbent Rebecca Kleefisch.
If (and when) Mitchell is elected, he will be the first African American Lt. Governor in Wisconsin history. Given his work as president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin, we feel Mitchell (no relation to the editor of this newspaper by-the-way) will bring the accumen and compassion to the position.
Though a firefighter outstate, judging from the front page photo of him and community residents, Mitchell has quickly earned the trust and respect–and hopefully votes–of the city’s Black community, a constituency that will play a pivotal role in this election.
This quick connection with the community, his knowledge of the issues–especially from a labor standpoint–make Mitchell a worthy partner to Barrett if (and when) they are elected to the state’s top position.
On June 5 we can make the “if” a done deal if we come out enmasse to vote. As we noted, our community is key to a win next week. Don’t stand on the side lines! YOU can be the change we need! Vote! Take back your state by making Tom Barrett and Mahlon Mitchell governor and lieutenant governor respectively June 5.