On Saturday, January 12, 2023, 250 adult males and 250 young men of color, all clad in tuxedos, gathered at the Italian Community Center (ICC), 631 E. Chicago St., to take part in the “5th Annual 500 Black Tuxedos Event.” For the past 5 years community leader Andre Lee Ellis, along with We Got This Milwaukee and The CAGE (Community Agricultural Grow Experiences) Milwaukee, joined together to help the men get ‘dressed to the nines’ and enjoy a meal together to promote community, mentorship, and positive self-esteem.
“Oftentimes when black men are in the news, they’re in orange jumpsuits. But this time they’re in tuxedos,” explained Ellis. “That’s why it was important to take a picture on the steps of the Milwaukee County Courthouse, because they were not in orange jumpsuits, they were in something better.”
The evening featured fine dining and powerful performances by Kwabena Antoine Nixon, Muhibb Dyer, Gat Turner, King Kamonzi and Ajamou Butler aimed at inspiring the men in the room to lean on each other to better the Milwaukee community.
“I hope that they learn that they are better than what somebody else calls them,” shared Ellis. “It’s not who you say I am, it’s who I show you I am. And I am great. I am here.”
Ellis said little moments of hope and kindness are enough to change a person’s life for the better.
“If you stop a young man and say hello, that might be the change that he needs in his life. But you let him just keep walking by and you never say anything to them, you never give them a hug, then where does change come from?”
The constant cheers and roaring applause heard around the ICC ballroom were proof to spectators that something as small as putting on a suit is enough to bring a community together.