LaShawnda S. Wilkins
Over the weekend I was at the Sherman Phoenix getting raw feedback from real life citizens of Milwaukee on a topic that’s needs much attention. I went from table to table, politely asking for views on the topic of community and police. The three questions I asked were: What is one thing you love about your community? What’s one thing you feel we need to improve on? And in your opinion, what’s one way we can bridge the gap between the community and the police?
While understanding this is a much needed topic of discussion, I didn’t realize how tough the dialogue would be. Surprisingly enough, out of everyone I asked, only 3 men were able to respond. Ironically they all were black and passionate about their community as well.
When I asked the first young man about the community, he was eager to reply. He enjoys the family feel that Milwaukee has to offer but also feels we need to work on our forgiveness with one another. His response about bridging the gap between the community and the police was that it all starts with trust. He says that we need to create an environment where we all can mingle together. He believes that if the police would focus on getting to know the community on a first name basis, and vice versa, then there’s a chance that cops will then be able to give us breaks. He made it clear that the issue at hand is that we, as the community don’t trust the police and the police don’t trust us.
The second man I interviewed felt great about the improvements that are going on within our city but we need more focus on youth development and giving them something positive to do. When it comes to the police, he believes there should be laws for police officers as well. He states that they shouldn’t be able to break the law and get away with it.
The third man that I interviewed felt strong about black businesses succeeding. He says he loves seeing black people supporting their own and overall we need to stop pouring all of our money into white owned businesses because that’s the exact reason why black owned businesses fail. In his opinion, if we have more successful black businesses we can lead the youth in the same direction. When asked about the police and the community, his raw emotions bled through the camera. He bluntly stated that he doesn’t like the police for his own personal reasons and he feels that they should call in if they’re having a bad day.
The entire experience left me in deep thought. The responses of these three Milwaukee men touched me. I can agree with all of their suggestions on bridging the gap. Yet, it saddens me that we live in a place where our black men, who deserve to be protected, feel targeted.
Trust certainly is a huge factor as well as laws. I’d like to add that understanding plays quite a role as well. Because many of the police don’t understand the struggles of the black man, it makes it even harder to be on one accord. Though there are many factors that come into play, it’s important to further discuss this issue.
As the end of February quickly approaches, a few things linger in my mind in regards to Black History. Black, or African American History is so essential in today’s society. It’s furthermore necessary for our growth, as a culture. Biggest reason being because if we don’t know who we are, where we are, how we got there, it’s going to be extremely hard to progress, collectively. Recognizing Black Excellence has become more of a priority in the media and even in national/local publications. And for that, I, personally, get excited.
Growing up, Black History wasn’t a big deal where I came from. Going to school in a suburban setting, Black history was barely touched upon. We still had to attend school on Dr. Martin Luther King Day. My mother however felt differently allowing us to stay home to observe this day. The curriculum on black history in school was short and brief. So why is black history so important?
Black history month is the perfect time for the younger generation to listen and learn from their elders. They can listen to the misunderstandings and daily dilemmas our people faced actually not that long ago. Kids today see the negative behaviors of their communities splashed across the media all too frequently, but never the positive strides that are happening. Black History Month should be viewed as an opportunity to spotlight or showcase the best of African American history and culture— or what we now call Black Excellence.
Black Excellence is more than a hashtag. It’s 17 year-old Mekhi Johnson who was accepted into all 8 Ivy League Schools. It’s Milwaukee’s own, Lindsay Peoples-Wagner, the youngest Editor-in-Chief for Teen Vogue. Or how about Marsai Martin, the 14 year old actress turned Executive Producer who’s film is set to be released this Spring. Black excellence is me and every other black person working toward the advancements of our people.
Black history month is a reminder to continuously work toward goals, dreams, and aspirations that we were told we would never accomplish. Although, if we’re being honest, Black History is more than the shortest day of the year. Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, and so many more have fought for us and made Black History. And today Black History is being written over and over again.
As Millennials, it’s our job to keep Black History alive. And it’s also our job to dig beyond the surface level of it that’s taught in school. Learning more about our history teaches us about ourselves. It can help us find out exactly who we are. Our excellence has always been downplayed. Therefore, it’s only right that our excellence shines bright any month of the year.