Come Alive October Five …let’s do it again

September 30, 2021

MHSI helps residents register to vote

By Kathy Gaillard,
freelance contributor

Pamela Clark

Forty years ago Pamela Clark, Milwaukee Health Services, Inc. (MHSI) corporate communications specialist, accompanied her Uncle Obediah Reynolds as he went door-to-door in Chicago registering people to vote during Harold Washington’s bid for Chicago mayor. That highly successful voter registration initiative helped ensure Washington’s successful election and Clark never forgot the training she received from her uncle or the community engagement and excitement that ensued. Years later that memory still resonated with Clark, so she set about replicating a similar initiative in Milwaukee during last year’s presidential election. MHSI has earned a reputation for holistically serving the community, so they partnered with Souls to the Polls to host a Come Alive October 5 event at MHSI.

In the wake of Mayor Barrett’s pending appointment to serve in the Biden Administration, another important election looms in Milwaukee. To ensure residents are engaged and registered to vote, MHSI will host Come Alive October Five, in partnership with Souls to the Polls. On Tuesday, October 5, 2021, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. residents can get help registering to vote and get a COVID-19 vaccination at the same time. Come Alive October 5 will be held at MLK Heritage Health Center, 2555 N. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive.

“The Come Alive October 5 voter registration event that MHSI hosted during the 2020 Presidential election was so successful, we thought we would do it again. Once the Mayor’s nomination as Ambassador to Luxembourg is confirmed, we want to make sure community residents have a say in electing our next Mayor,” said Clark.

Quite by happenstance, a staff person with the Harold Washington Legacy Committee in Chicago, Googled Come Alive October 5 and Milwaukee’s initiative popped up. Curious, the Committee’s Chair, Auggeretto Battiste, connected with Clark to learn how she knew about the effort.

Auggeretto Battiste

Battiste was involved with Chicago’s “Come Alive October 5” initiative more than 39 years ago when Harold Washington ran for Mayor. According to Battiste, at the urging of community leaders and politicians, Washington finally agreed to run with two conditions: He wanted a guarantee that they could register at least 50,000 new voters, and he asked for seed campaign funding of at least $250,000.

“At the time there were only 70,000 Blacks registered to vote in all of Chicago. I’m a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraturnity, so I and some of my Alpha brothers—Jack Childs, John Trotter (who later became Senator Trotter), and James Hill—had already been hosting weekly meetings to discuss ways to engage people to vote and address other social issues. Ultimately, with the help of many individuals and community organizations like POWER, the Divine Nine (fraternities and sororities), and others, we exceeded expectations, registering some 230,000 voters between January 1982 through the end of that year.

“We understood that a voteless people is a hopeless people, so we forged ahead. As we continued our voter registration efforts, it gained steam and more organizations came onboard to help. A woman named Emma Young came up with the slogan, Come Alive October Five. This all started to help get Harold Washington elected as Mayor of Chicago, but it became a movement,” said Battiste.

Currently, in recognition and celebration of former Mayor Harold Washington’s significant contributions to Chicago, Battiste and the Harold Washington Legacy Committee are also in the throes of repeating the Come Alive October Five initiative in Chicago, in honor of what would have been Washington’s 100th birthday.

“We are grateful to Pamela Clark for reaching back into her memory bank to host a Come Alive October Five event in Milwaukee. She participated with her uncle—our Alpha brother—more than 39 years ago and, by bringing this event to Milwaukee, her experience is coming full circle,” said Battiste.

MHSI is hoping to ignite similar interest in Milwaukee’s upcoming mayoral election as they work to ensure residents’ voices are heard. In addition to Souls at the Polls registering residents to vote, MHSI will be providing vaccinations, and MHSI staff and volunteers will also be giving away Conquer COVID Safety Kits that contain head thermometers, masks, sanitizer, and tissue. Individuals registering to vote must bring a valid Wisconsin driver’s license or State ID.