12 on Tuesday: Tracey Robertson


    Tracey Robertson, founder of the nonprofit organization FIT, comes up anytime you speak with anyone about diversity in the Oshkosh community. FIT focuses on increasing racial literacy in the Winnebago community. They have held workshops and training sessions with a wide variety of organizations, including The Winnebago County Housing Authority, the Boys and Girls Club of Oshkosh, the Winnebago Literacy Council, The University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, North High School, First Congregational Church and St. Bernard’s Church, to name a few. She is one of the 44 most influential African Americans on our Black Power 2016 list, and has recently joined Madison365 as our Fox Valley contributor.

    Rank your Top 5 MCs. Based on my appearance, people always assume that I am conservative. They are often surprised to learn that I love rap music.

    I am a huge Notorious BIG fan. He was a masterful storyteller, and having grown up on the southside of Chicago, his music speaks so authentically to the experiences of many people I know.

    Jay Z is also a personal favorite. Oh My God really gets me moving at the gym and his collaboration with Kanye on Otis is pure genius. I loved it the first time I heard it.

    I am obsessed with Eminem. Lose Yourself  is my personal hype song. I listen to it whenever I have something that I need to get mentally psyched for. I think Pink is a phenomenal artist. When those two collaborate on “Won’t Back Down” it’s bad a##

    I still remember where I was and what I was doing when I heard LL Cool J’s Mama Said Knock You Out. LL is underrated as an MC, but he has the goods.

    Which motivates you more: doubters or supporters? It’s too simplistic to put people in two camps. We all have the capacity to doubt and support and, paradoxically, we have the ability to do them both at the same time. Focusing on whether someone is a doubter or a supporter distracts energy from the more important goal of learning.

    I prefer to focus my energies internally, and on how to be the best Tracey I can.

    What does it mean to be black in Oshkosh? It’s isolating.

    Oshkosh is a town whose dominant White leadership is in denial about racism. I think largely because the Black population here is so small. They see the problems with race as something happening “over there”—in places like Milwaukee and Madison—despite the fact that data shows the entire state suffers from racialized disparities in all of its systems.

    The few visible Blacks—most deemed by Whites as “leaders” of the Black community along with those hoping to be relevant to the dominant culture gained acceptance because they are complicit. They have co-opted the “go along to get along” strategies that many Blacks are forced to adopt for survival. It’s not uncommon to hear sentiments from these Blacks like, “We are happy here in Oshkosh. What’s YOUR problem?”

    One such Black woman in particular has been adopted by Oshkosh leadership as the voice of Black people at the table because she ascribes to the mantra that all of the Black people in Oshkosh have “moved from places like Chicago and Milwaukee to take advantage of the welfare system” despite the fact that she claims to be a Chicago transplant herself

    Amongst others, our current Mayor was all too happy to report to me—as if he had some kind of epiphany about the Black experience—the jewel of wisdom she imparted at a “diversity and inclusion” meeting organized by two White City Councilmen that I declined to attend. The Mayor reported her as saying, “They (apparently referring to Black people) need to pull their pants up.”

    She has since been invited by leadership several meeting to be the singular voice at the table for the Black community.

    So, on both sides, I am considered an antagonist who is causing problems when I am, in fact, a Black leader who is tracking systemic and data-driven root causes of racism and requiring my community to do something about it for the betterment of everyone.

    What 3 leaders in the Fox Cities under 50 have impressed you the most? Ameerah McBride. Ameerah oversees the Office of Equity & Affirmative Action and works with other university leaders to enhance UW Oshkosh diversity and inclusion efforts. She is one of the most intelligent women I have ever met, and what I most admire about her is her accessibility, her confidence, and her consistency. She is Ameerah whether she is in the boardroom or the back room. She seems to always be looking outward. Ameerah was the Featured Read ERDat the kick of our Color-Brave Community Read. She really impacted the participants who continue to talk about her appearance that day.

    Sierra “CeCe” Brown. CeCe is a senior at Oshkosh West High School. Not only is she a rock star student who volunteers her time to a number of community initiatives, but she also is the President of a newly-formed student group called STRIDE, Students Teaching Racial Inclusion, Diversity and Equity. CeCe spoke at our first fundraising dinner and she brought the house down. She will be attending UWO this Fall. I consider it a coup that we were able to keep her in our community. Remember her name, she is a force to be reckoned with. She’s going to do big things.

    Pastor Alfred George. Pastor George is senior pastor of Victory Valley Fellowship church in Oshkosh. He is a talented teacher and preacher who I see living out his faith in a truly authentic way. Like many churches, his small church has gone through a number of iterations, and his message and faith have remained consistent. I don’t attend his church, but I see the fruits of his work, and I his ministry because he truly a man’s after God’s own heart. From the outside looking in, he’s the real deal.

    What’s the biggest stumbling block in Oshkosh to turning the corner on our racial disparities?  The biggest stumbling block in the community is trying to help our leadership to understand that it’s low Racial Literacy is detrimental and hurts everyone. Our inability to create and execute policies and practices that will attract a diverse population hinders our ability to attract and to retain entrepreneurial millennials of all races. Our relevance heavily relies upon our ability to stop pretending like we don’t see color.

    What are the top three priorities at this point in your life? I am excited about taking the work of Fit Oshkosh into the corporate sector through a new product I have been recently qualified to administer, to more collaborations across the Country with like-minded organizations, to securing more financial support for Fit that will  allow us to recruit more paid employees, to promoting and producing my radio show and to self-publishing and writing my second book.

    What made you produce and host a local radio show entitled Real Gospel Radio Oshkosh 101.9?  The radio show was birth out of my love for gospel music, and my frustration with the Church, capital “C”. I don’t see the Church playing a real role in the social justice movement, and I’m trying to find my spirituality in that silence. It’s my opinion that the Jesus I read about in the Bible would have a problem with the racial climate in our Country and in our churches, and would expect his people to be on the front lines fighting against it. Today’s church isn’t even in the fight. As a Christian and unapologetic Social Justice Advocate, I am struggling to find my footing in organized religion. As a result, my church experience has fallen flat. I used to be a church leader. Now, I am a reluctant attender.

    In later Summer, a friend, Pastor Kim Krogstad, and I were talking about my frustration. She asked me an important question: “How are you feeding your spirit in the meantime?” As a former vocalist and wanna-be acoustic guitarist, music has always been true. It doesn’t lie. It doesn’t distort. Music has always been the truth. Even in those times in my life where I have felt furthest from God, I could always experience Him through music. The radio show idea was birth in that moment and because it’s the only radio show in Oshkosh showcasing Black artists exclusively, it serves two purposes: diverse programming and ministry. It’s a win-win.

    Name your top three movies of all time and why. Purple Rain because I am a Prince fanatic and the music in it is legendary. A Time to Kill for two reasons: Sam Jackson and Kevin Spacey, and Match Point because it is a sexy and disturbing drama, and I am attracted to small below-the-radar films.

    Why is Racial literacy important to you? Increasing Racial Literacy is important to me because I have beautiful Black men in my life: two adult sons and a 3-year-old grandson. It is imperative for me to help create a space where they can be successful.

    Your favorite album of 2016? The WOW 2016 has been on rotation in my car. It’s packed with some of my favorite gospel tracks.

    Who would you rather hang out with: Oprah or Michelle Obama? Michelle Obama hands down. It’s impossible not to appreciate Oprah, but Michelle is everything. I want to be her when I grow up.

    What is your New Year’s resolution for 2017? I have never made a resolution. I won’t make one this year either.