The State of Black Milwaukee gives us ALL reason to think about it!

October 30, 2014

By Carmen A. Murguia Special to the Milwaukee Times Universal Companies and Pastors United co-hosted a “Community Conversation” that left some of the people present thinking about what it means for Black Milwaukee. Moreover, now that some concerns have been addressed, where do we go from here? Before we get to that point, let’s look at the myriad of questions posed by one of the panelists. Minister Gregory Lewis, President of Pastors United, asked the audience several questions to get everyone thinking: What is equal opportunity, equality and freedom and how do we measure it? How do we strengthen our political leaders? Why do we keep going backwards? How come we can’t have a whole economic structure? Why don’t we have a Chinatown, Jewish town, Little Mexico and Little Italy? Where is our sense of community? How can we get our money to bounce 8-12 times before it leaves our community? Lewis said, “The purpose of this meeting was to build trust, build collaboration, and to seek accountability from one another.” Dr. Michael Bonds, with much seriousness, said candidly that before anything can occur the issues must be defined and solutions created. He went on to say “as long as we (the black community) don’t have an economic base, we will always be down. We must start by looking at the institutional racism, because as we enter 2015, the outlook for Black Milwaukee is very bleak.” When the audience became engaged, several people jumped to their feet armed with questions; but it was one particular male who stood out when he asked Wayman Winston, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Corporation (WHEDA), “What is your vision and what can you offer to transform the community?” Winston responded, “My values are to dream it and turn it into our reality, and regardless of how and what’s been done to us, we must do for ourselves, and we need to come together to decide what’s our plan? How do we measure and reinforce and support each other?” In his position as the head of WHEDA, Winston said his agency “put $250 million dollars in the black community to create jobs and opportunity, which will create an ongoing source of capital that can stimulate jobs for this community, which help both our institutions and families.” Winston suggested to the audience that there were several key industries Milwaukee is known for: manufacturing, food and beverage, electronics and engineering controls and the internet shows ideas are everywhere, and Winston cautioned the audience saying, “Without you, your ideas and enthusiasm to turn your community around, we go nowhere.” Before audience members left the building with so much on their minds and hearts, Rahim Islam, President/CEO of Universal Companies, a Philadelphia based organization committed to rebuilding and revitalizing neighborhoods, took the mic to say, “We can’t walk out of here and not know what the next steps are, so between now and January we have to organize.” He explained that the community must aggregate their message into one coherent voice to confront this monumental task and that it must be done “collectively.”