Community leaders, members show up ready to answer call
by Thomas E. Mitchell, Jr.
A panel representing civil rights, religion, education, health, government and business discussed ways to bring about a more inclusive and prosperous Milwaukee during a NAACP sponsored town hall meeting Saturday at MATC.
The meeting, held in the college’s Cooley Auditorium, was part of the civil rights organization’s “One MKE (Milwaukee)” initiative, the goal of which is to unite the community by collaborating and pooling resources across the entire community.
In doing so, a specific calendar of goals with measurable outcomes will be set, thus achieving greater impact and moving towards “One MKE.”
James Hall, president of the NAACP Milwaukee Branch, told those in attendance the initiative was created to address disparities that were identified in its report on the state of Milwaukee’s Black community.
The report noted several negative factors that impact the quality of life for the city’s residents: Joblessness and job creation, the widening achievement gap in education, the need for better transportation to jobs outside the community, public safety and how all of these have been affected by cuts in the state’s budget.
“We can’t go on like that,” Hall said. “We need to turn frustration into action. This meeting can’t be just another ‘feel good’ moment. A commitment is needed from all of us to change Milwaukee into one Milwaukee for all.”
The panel consisted of Hall, representing civil rights; Ralph Hollmon of the Milwaukee Urban League representing business, Rev. Willie Briscoe, president of MICAH (Milwaukee Inner City Churches Allied for Hope) representing the faith-based community, Curtis Marshall of the Wisconsin Division of Public Health, State Senator Lena Taylor representing government and Milwaukee Public School Superintendent Dr. Gregory Thornton representing education.
The panel answered questions submitted by the audience via text messaging, as well as questions created by members of the NAACP’s Young Adult Committee, which moderated the panel discussion.
Thornton noted that many MPS high school graduates leave Milwaukee and Wisconsin because “they don’t feel that anyone has their back” when it comes to opportunities for jobs and career growth.
“We must keep our promises to youth, adults and seniors to make this city better for all,” Thornton said.
Admitting there is a tremendous amount of frustration regarding the problems faced by the community, Hollmon urged the audience not to throw in the towel and quit.
“(We can’t) stop trying to improve things. ‘One MKE’means equal opportunity, valuing diversity and making sure all individuals have a good quality of life to support themselves and their families.
“Then it would be much easier to handle the issues and challenges that confront us.”
Saying we are in a fight not for the Black, Latino andWhite race but for the Human Race, Briscoe said the “cancer” of social problems confronting the city would soon spread to the suburbs and the entire state.
Marshall pointed to the possible closing of Sinai Samaritan Hospital the city’s only remaining downtown hospital within easy reach of the community-as an example of the health disparities and problem with access to care for those on assistance or receiving Medicaid.
Taylor stressed the need to forge an agenda with goals and a timetable that they can present to the community and extract a commitment to address those issues it outlines.
Said Thornton: “We must put our egos and need for recognition aside and focus on getting things done that benefit the community positively.”
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