A candidate for the presidency of the local branch of the NAACP is circulating a thought-provoking platform that brings greater relevancy to the organization by confronting key issues of concern to Black Milwaukeeans.
Wendell Harris, NAACP First Vice President and candidate for the presidency, worked with several business and civic leaders to develop the platform, which includes unique ideals to increase employment opportunities, strengthen local Black businesses, enhance the housing pool and integrate an acclaimed educational component to the Milwaukee Public Schools.
Several of the platform items have been on the back burner for years, Harris acknowledged, and are being introduced now as the cornerstone of Harris’ candidacy because of the current socioeconomic plight of Black Milwaukeeans.
“During my years as chairman of the NAACP education committee and most recently as vice president, I was limited as to what I could bring forward, particularly since many of these recommendations are outside the scope of the civil rights organization,” Harris confirmed.
“But I think if I were to shepherd them as a branch president, there’s a great possibility that they would be advanced as an endorsed component of our agenda.
“Some of these suggestions are outside the box. But then again, Black America is in a unique predicament; Milwaukee is in a unique predicament. We need drastic solutions to solve our drastic problems,” he concluded.
Harris’ platform, which has been circulated to dozens of NAACP members over the past weekend, includes the establishment of a capital investment bank that would serve as an investment pool for start up and existing businesses seeking to expand. The ‘capital’ will be sold to individuals, churches and businesses as ‘stock’, and in turn reinvested in businesses that would in turn create jobs for central city workers.
A volunteer panel of business, civic and religious leaders would govern the capital investment bank.
Harris’ platform also includes creation of a housing cooperative and the establishment of a committee to oversee the various governmental minority and disadvantaged businesses programs. In the cast of the latter, he assails the lack of goal’s commitment from various governmental agencies and calls on those units of government to maximize minority business participation.
His committee would not only monitor the agencies, it would lobby for the reestablishment of a joint certification program, and take aggressive action against any business benefiting from a governmental contract but does not meet residency or minority participation goals.
The proposed platform also includes a section on creating a pipeline for minority inclusion on local corporate boards. Harris notes that too few local corporations have any Black representation on their boards, a situation that cements the nation-leading Black unemployment rate, as well as the lack of upward mobility by Black middle managers.
Lastly, the platform calls for a partnership with MPS for the integration of two Harlem Zone-type projects in the district.
The Harlem Zone is a highly successful New York pilot program that provides full wrap around services for children beginning at birth and continuing through high school. The program has one of the highest high school graduation rates among poor children in the United States, and epitomizes the adage ‘it takes a village to raise a child.’
Harris envisions a similar program for several Milwaukee schools, starting with North Division high school, which would serve as the anchor for the first pilot.
Harris served on the North Division Advisory Group that developed an educational template for the school.
Atty. James Hall
Editor’s note: The following is a press statement sent by Atty. James Hall on his platform that outlines his initiatives for the Milwaukee Branch NAACP if he is elected its new president on Nov. 20.
My name is James Hall. I am a local civil rights attorney. Many of you know me and my work. I have been active in the Milwaukee community for many years. I have worked for school desegregation, employment rights and was co-lead attorney in the redlining case against American Family Insurance Company.
In the past year, I have been approached by a number of people, all with the same concern.
These concerned citizens and I believe that the NAACP-Milwaukee Branch is in desperate need of reform and new leadership. It is with their support and encouragement that I decided to run for the office of president of the NAACP-Milwaukee Branch. Our agenda is to restore the Milwaukee Branch so it operates in a manner that is transparent, accountable, inclusive and structured. Our priorities are:
• Implement standard operating procedures for conducting meetings, which include providing regular financial and other reports and respect for all.
• Ensure that all standing committees are functioning and serving the community. For example, the Legal Redress Committee which would be in a position to provide lawyers to assist with issues like mortgage foreclosures, the recent floods and other matters.
• Pursue enforcement of civil rights laws and anti-discrimination laws across the board.
• Promote economic revitalization and ways to address unemployment in the central city through targeted, creative initiatives, such as the “Build Milwaukee” proposal which provides a comprehensive four year employment and development strategy for Milwaukee’s Inner City North. Go to concernedcitizensforreform.com for more information.
• Take steps to improve and ensure equal access to contracts managed by he city of Milwaukee, especially for firms owned by traditionally under-represented communities. Visit concernedcitizensforreform.com for more information.
• Collaborate with other organizations within the community with other communities.
• Engage youth through targeted activities and programs.