After the tragic deaths of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and many others, a group of Black community members in Platteville formed a coalition to elevate Black voices.
“We had informal meetings with different members of the community and tried to decide what form of action to take,” Founding member Sakara Wages told Madison365.
After Wages, Ali Mausser, and other several long-time residents came together, they decided that no one person should speak for the Black community. Instead, the collective chose to create space for the most marginalized voices to be heard.
“The reason why we wanted to create this group was because we wanted people to know it doesn’t take credentials, there are experiences worth listening to,” Wages said.
Members organized a Facebook Group and began holding discussions online. This allowed members to become more comfortable with one another before meeting in person.
“I used a couple of tactics to get people comfortable. I asked people to share songs so I could create a playlist for the first meeting,” Wages said.
After the initial meeting, participants organized the Black Platteville Community Network, Black Joy Celebration Series (*Black Unscripted Grill & Chill | Inaugural Juneteenth), Black Community Fund, and forged branch civil activities. Wages said by the time members met one another in person for the first time, they felt like they knew each other.
“I think a lot of people were surprised that there were this many of us in town,” she said.
These gatherings happened within a matter of weeks. Platteville community members Tianna Irons and Alvin Watts announced their plans to protest to the group. Wages coordinated with Iron, Watts, and another community member Latonya F’emF’em to empower their decisions, build skills, and connect them to the newly formed coalition.
“Ultimately, what we see happening is ally training, learning how to default to Black voices and learning how to restore that space because what’s the point of angst and anger, and nothing is going to come out of it,” Wages said.
#BLKPvilleCom (Black Platteville Community) has several goals. Their goals include supporting and realizing new possibilities for Black full existence and liberation, keeping with Afrocentric ideology, and elevating Black voices as the drivers for change. The community has also opened its space to members who identify as part of Black Diaspora, person of color, bi-interracial, parent/guardian/caretaker of Black child(ren), Black affiliation/association from Grant, Lafayette, Iowa, and Dubuque Counties.
“I think because our network really grew by word of mouth, we didn’t do a lot of promos because we really wanted to keep this a Black space … so a lot of us are 2-to-3 degrees of separation,” Wages said.
The group also announced its inaugural Juneteenth event. Juneteenth will be celebrated in a drop-in format and tentative live streaming at Platteville Smith Park, Friday, June 19, 5 p.m. The theme for the 2020 Juneteenth Celebration will be “Hidden History.”
The event will feature a public lecture and Q&A discussion led by UW-Platteville professor Dr. Frank King; Wages, who is a doctoral student at UW-Madison; and network members. The lecture will provide an engaging high-level overview of Juneteenth history and highlight the significance of hidden/not well-elevated stories of Black experiences in the U.S. There will also be food, games, music, art display, voter registration, and fellowship.
“While we’re dealing with coronavirus, protest, and civil unrest, we still need a space for Black joy. You cannot have a revolution without time to rest and recharge,” Wages said.