Moving beyond Sherman Park to a brighter future

August 22, 2016

bp-gas-station-sherman-park

By: Urban Media News

“Anyone from Milwaukee
saw this coming. It was always
when, not if.”
So said outgoing State Representative
Mandela Barnes
this week after nights of
unrest in the Sherman Park
neighborhood in the wake of
another fatal police shooting.
The images of stores set on
fire, police in riot gear, and
a community in pain have
made headlines this week,
but while they are disheartening
they do not come as a
shock to the community.
The reality of being a person
of color in Milwaukee
is well understood by those
who live here. What is harder
to understand is where
we go from here. How do
you begin to address racial
disparities in education
and economic opportunity?
Where do you start when it
comes to addressing divides
decades in the making? Who
can the community turn to
for answers and solutions so
that we can get past the recent
headlines and address
the root causes that will lead
to the changes so desperately
needed?
Answers to the first two
questions are many and varied,
worthy of more than
discussion but action in the
days, weeks, and months that
lie ahead. The answer to the
third question is easier. The
community must first look
within.
There are every day, ordinary
heroes in the Sherman
Park Community who have
set an example for all to follow
in the wake of destruction.
Leaders in the faith
community who prayed not
just for peace, but for justice.
Volunteers, including
children, who gave of their
time to assist in clean-up efforts.
That is how the healing
has begun, but it cannot end
there.
The Sherman Park neighborhood
and all of our communities
of color in Wisconsin
must now look to the past
for inspiration and a path
forward. Progress, change,
and advancement have come
far too slowly in our communities,
state, and nation. But
they have come. Most often,
it has taken a combination of
good works in the community
paired with effective public
policy and leaders who
understand how to advance
a cause.
We are already seeing the
community step up. The next
step is rising up as a community
to demand, en masse,
changes to public policy and
leaders who will give more
than lip service to the challenges
we face. This fall, we
have an opportunity to do
just that in local, state, and
federal elections. The surest
way to make progress is to
ensure electing representatives
who have our back, and
holding them accountable in
the future if they fail to back
up words with action.
In the 2012 election, turnout
among communities of
color was off the charts in
Wisconsin when President
Barack Obama was re-elected.
Sadly, a well established
pattern held, as turnout and
participation declined in
spring elections and the 2014
midterm election.
It is simply not enough to
only vote in presidential election
years like this one. The
policies enacted by the leaders
we elect in every election
at the local and state level
have a profound impact on
our communities. Wisconsin
has seen that up close in the
last five years.
If we are unsatisfied with
what we have in terms of
elected representatives, we
must act at the ballot box to
do better. If the policies enacted
are failing to address
the challenges we face, we
must act at the ballot box to
remove those who stand in
the way of progress. It has to
be on all of us, all the time.
President Obama is fond
of imploring crowds, “don’t
boo, vote!” He’s never just
meant for him, nor meant
only once every four years.
He understands that our surest
power as a community is
not as individual voices, be
they crying out for justice
loudly or in quiet, but as a
collective community mobilizing
ourselves to make the
changes we want to see as
members of a democracy.
In the weeks ahead before
Election Day, raise your voices,
ask the hard questions,
and demand accountability
from those seeking your
votes. That is the path to
Moving beyond Sherman Park to a brighter future
the brighter future we need.
Don’t riot. Don’t loot. Don’t
descend into the spiral of violence
and despair. Vote.
For information on how
to register to vote and cast a
ballot visit myvote.wi.org or
www.866ourvote.org.