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12 Rounds with Shannon Reed


In our new weekly feature 12 Rounds, leaders will answer 12 questions — some light, some heavy — from our Publisher and CEO Henry Sanders to help the community understand them, what they do, and why. Today: United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County Director of Innovative Strategies for Boys & Men of Color Shannon Reed.

Shannon Reed is a promise-driven leader: one who is motivated most by their accountability to deliver and serve others. Reed’s service to the civic wellbeing of Black boys and men living in greater Milwaukee and Waukesha County has informed the development of state-wide health, education, financial stability, and workforce initiatives. He currently serves as the Director of Innovative Strategies for Boys & Men of Color for United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County. In this role, Reed will also direct a 10 million dollar racial equity portfolio — an initiative made possible by a donation from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott.

What advice would you give someone who is a person of color not from Wisconsin who is thinking about moving to the Milwaukee area? Milwaukee is a Great place on a Great Lake! And, supporting our Black-owned businesses is the key to the city – so go do just that! Check out spaces like the Sherman Phoenix, King Drive, and Bronzeville to get a taste of what makes us great!



Name 3 songs that accurately reflect how you’re feeling. 

Stevie Wonder – Love’s in Need of Love

Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On

Johnathan McReynolds – People

If you could go back in time to any point of life to tell yourself something, what age would you go back to and what would you tell yourself? Age 12: Let yourself cry; learn to fail forward; and working out your mind is just as important as working out your body! 

What did you learn about yourself in 2020? Slowing down is essential. My mental health is important. Oh, and my Therapist is Black!

At this point of your life do you feel you have found your purpose? If so, how did you figure out your purpose? I do believe I have found it: serving on purpose IS my purpose. However, I am never exactly where I need/want to be, so I have a personal board of directors that consistently challenges me and deposits wisdom into my journey. 

There is a lot of division around the issues of race in politics. What can we do to lessen those divisions? James Baldwin said, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced”. And it feels like it’s time to face that there are brilliant Black minds among our youth of all genders that can inform and lead us into greatness. Are you taking up space where Black youth could be? Are you making decisions for Black communities without considering the agency and needs of our young folx? Redistributing power is possible – TUH-day!

How would you explain the sayings Black Girl Magic and Black Boy Joy? Give Black folks space to just BE…and watch us shine. 

I have watched you moderate numerous panels on topics when dealing with men of color. You do a great job getting panelists to open up. What’s your secret to being a good moderator? Thank you! I enjoy moderating because I love to locate the emotion behind the words – beyond what was said, I like to understand how and why it was said. Emotions always drive a conversation!

What advice would you give new fathers? Tell your kids you love them all the time. Tell them that you will always be there to support them—no matter what. Make a lot of good memories—not just good moments. And if you don’t know how to do that, keep your eyes peeled for fathers who show up the way you wish you could and make it your own. 

Coming to America or Harlem Nights? Hands down— COMING TO AMERICA! I can pretty much recite all the lines in the movie. 😊

What does success look like for you? Doing what I can while I can in the seat I hold until my turn is up. Serve my community and family and ensure that I am taking care of myself. I cannot be good to others if I am not good to myself in every area of my life. You. Can’t. Pour. From. An. Empty. Cup. 

Atlanta or Washington DC? Washington DC