Black History Month ended with a bang.
In a collaborative effort with NAACP, The Greater Urban League of Madison, and NPHC, and the Legislative Black Caucus Black History Month’s final act this week was Lobby day at the State Capitol.
After spending a month talking about the issues important to our community, we dedicated a day to turning those discussions into political action. You can talk the talk, but you’ve got to walk the walk. Our goal was to provide a platform for community advocates and leaders to talk directly to their elected officials about the issues that mattered most to them.
Let me be frank – you’ve got to work to get results. And Milwaukee needs results. We’re the most segregated city in the nation. We have 240,000 people living in poverty, many of those children. In a nation that incarcerates the most per capita, Wisconsin has the highest incarceration rate of black men.
Facts don’t lie. Our community is in pain.
I hope these issues hit home. You probably know someone who’s having a hard time making ends meet, or someone who’s been through the criminal justice system and is just trying to make good on their promise to reform, or someone who’s raising their child in an environment that makes their success impossible to achieve.
With these issues in mind, Representative Crowley, Representative Bowen, Representative Fields and I held workshops throughout the day on economic development, health, education, and criminal justice.
Participants also had an opportunity to view a screening of Milwaukee 53206, our Milwaukee-grown documentary which focuses on the high incarceration rate of black men in America’s most incarcerated zip code. We were so blessed to have Keith McQuirter, director and producer of the film there to answer our questions about the film.
Next was Lobbying 101. Participants listened to a presentation by the Legislative Council on how to successfully lobby their Legislator. Our group of newly-trained lobbyists spent the afternoon knocking on the doors of their Legislators, advocating for their community and the issues they care about. Hands down the best way for you to influence your elected officials is to show up to their office in-person. It shows your passion and that you care about results.
I’m proud to say that with over 75 attendees participating in our Lobby day program, we greatly exceeded our expectations.
On Tuesday, I saw 75 leaders, 75 activists, 75 people who are tired of the same old policies who are ready to make change.
Now I firmly believe in the power of one. So if one person can make a difference, can you imagine what 75 can do?
I’m so humbled by the enthusiasm I saw this Tuesday. I have no doubt that our future is in good hands.
Black History Month may be over, but here’s the thing – you don’t need a designated day or month to lobby your legislators. You can and should be loud and proud every day. Your voice has the power to create a better future for yourself and your children. As our 75 new lobbyists continue to draw attention to these issues, the word will get out, and more and more will be inspired to ignite change.
The months of preparation for Black History Month were more than worth it. If you didn’t make it to Lobby Day this time, don’t worry, we’ll see you next year. In the meantime, be sure to call your legislators, stop by their office, and do whatever you can to make your voice heard!