Even though Mac Weddle didn’t found Northcott Neighborhood House Community Center, after spending his career there and becoming the ‘face’ of the Center, most people don’t know that it was actually founded by a woman named Wilma Hampel.
Weddle caught and embraced the vision that Hampel had for Northcott Neighborhood House, and carried out the seed that she planted more than 50 years ago. Today Northcott Neighborhood House, though most famously recognized as the coordinator of Juneteenth Day, serves more than 10,000 people a year in every capacity from operating Head Start Centers for children to get an early start on education, to offering a Fresh Start program to increase low income family home ownership and provide employment opportunities for the Milwaukee area. Northcott Neighborhood House also provides community Services that provide food, clothing, a computer lab, GED education, and summer activities for families.
One of Weddle’s most proud moments at Northcott Neighborhood House came when he witnessed former Governor Jim Doyle sign a proclamation making Juneteenth Day an official holiday in Milwaukee. Milwaukee is home to one of the largest and longest-running Juneteenth Day celebrations in the country, thanks to the tireless efforts of Weddle and his staff. Juneteenth Day started here in the 1970s and has grown over the years to an all-day festival that attracts thousands of people.
As executive director of the Northcott Neighborhood House, Weddle has been a major sponsor of Milwaukee’s annual Juneteenth Day celebration and worked diligently to get the holiday officially recognized for years. Weddle believed making the day an official holiday in Wisconsin was an effective way to spread information about black history throughout the state. But Weddle also understood it would be a tougher sell for smaller Wisconsin communities without significant black populations.
Thanks to Weddle’s diligence and commitment to Juneteenth Day and to the community, he has left Milwaukee with a legacy that will live on for years—one of the largest Juneteenth Day celebrations in the country.
Barbara Wyatt Sibley
Barbara Wyatt Sibley is a long-time civic and community activist; making her mark in the nonprofit and government sectors. A creative and thoughtful consensus-builder, Sibley currently serves as executive director of the Milwaukee Christian Center.
Sibley has held a number of high profile positions throughout Wisconsin. She worked as a regional manager for Time Warner Cable, and served as president and CEO at the YWCA of Greater Milwaukee. In 2006, former Governor Jim Doyle appointed her to the post of Deputy Secretary of the State of Wisconsin Department of Regulation and Licensing.
Sibley has a degree in education from Alverno College, and she uses her teaching skills, business prowess and keen understanding of coalition building, to serve on the boards of Alverno College, Lt. Governor Barbara Lawton’s Wisconsin Women Equals Prosperity, Mt. Zion Baptist Church, the WMCS 1290 Scholarship Fund and Community Care for the Elderly.
Sibley has received numerous accolades and awards for her tireless service, including the Service/Leadership Award from Alverno College, Volunteer of the Year at the YWCA and Community Leaders of the Girl Scouts of Milwaukee Area, Inc.
Speech (Todd Thomas)
Todd Thomas, better known by his stage name of Speech, is a homegrown two-time Grammy winning rapper who founded the 1990s group Arrested Development. One of the reasons that Arrested Development achieved such international stardom is that they offered a more positive, community-conscious, afro-centric alternative to negative rap music. The group respects women, promotes family, spirituality and male responsibility.
The group was the first African – American artists to donate money to Nelson Mandela and the ANC to help South Africans; they also donated $20,000 to UNICEF for relief in the Congo, they’ve done charity for homeless organizations, inner city youth organizations, women’s prisons, anti – human trafficking groups, schools, and universities across the globe.
Arrested Development’s debut album, “3 Years, 5 Months & 2 Days in the Life Of…” , pays homage to the length of time it took the group to get the album produced. It generated a number of hits, including “Tennessee,” “People Everyday” and “Mr. Wendal.” The inaugural album, which sold more than four million copies, won the group MTV music and video awards and Grammys for Best Rap Album and Best New Artist. Rolling Stone Magazine dubbed the group Band of the Year in 1993.
After graduating from Rufus King High School and relocating to Georgia in 1987 Speech attended the Art Institute of Atlanta. He later toured with US Vice President Al Gore and First Lady Hillary Clinton in the South during the 1996 United States Presidential election. Speech was also invited to and attended the inaugural celebrations. In November 1996, he toured with Hootie and the Blowfish.
With all of his success, Speech never forgot his roots. He grew up in Milwaukee and spent his childhood here and in Ripley, Tennessee. His mother, Patricia Pattillo, publisher of the Milwaukee Community Journal and his father, Robert Thomas, an entrepreneur most famous for Robby’s Roasted Corn at Summerfest, kept him grounded while encouraging him to spread his wings. In fact, when his father suffered a stroke several years ago, Speech stepped in to work at the Robby’s Roasted Corn concession stand, then changed clothes and performed on the Summerfest stage. Speech continues to work at the Summerfest concession stand, even planning his travel schedule around Summerfest when he tours with Arrested Development in the United States, Europe, Africa, Australia, Asia and the Middle East
Speech released his first book on September 18, 2009, called “What Is Success?” through Vagabond Records and Tapes (publisher). The book gives a practical guide for spiritual success based on Biblical scripture and personal experiences. And, last but not least, he helps lead a vibrant arts ministry called The Greater Atlanta Church of Christ (GACC).
Speech’s legacy goes beyond Milwaukee as he shares his talent, creativity, social consciousness and spiritual knowledge with the world.