Since our founding in 2015, we have published lists of the most influential Black and Latino leaders in Wisconsin. I intended these lists to highlight the beauty of the diversity in our community. I wanted kids here in Wisconsin to see role models of people who are succeeding, to know that it’s possible for people of color to achieve great things here, and to highlight people of color doing great work in a variety of fields and pursuits.
Sadly, over the past four years, far too many of the talented, influential people named on these lists have left the state, which is a significant problem — a problem that we can’t let slide anymore.
That’s why we convened the Wisconsin Leadership Summit in October last year, and why we are bringing together the second Summit on October 7-8 at Overture Center for the Arts in Madison. Everyone on this list and our 2018 Black Power List will be invited to attend the Summit to share their experience and expertise as we dig into the issues and challenges facing leaders of color in Wisconsin, and identify real strategies to attract and retain the most talented people of color and keep them in our beautiful state. We also hope to provide professional development opportunities for the next generation of leaders. You can join that conversation — registration is open now.
This list couldn’t possibly include every Latino doing good work in the community. It does, however, introduce you to some people you’ve never heard of who are doing great things in other parts of the state or simply working behind the scenes, doing the work without the accolades.
It was important for us to expand the way we think about influence, and to highlight more of the people doing what it takes to improve their community. That’s one reason this list is entirely new — we considered anyone named on a previous list list to be ineligible for this one, even though most of them continue to wield considerable influence.
I pray you learn something you didn’t know about some of the real leaders in communities throughout Wisconsin. It’s critical to recognize and highlight our neighbors whose stories begin elsewhere, or who trace their roots to other parts of the world. Only then will we truly appreciate the contributions we all make to the prosperity of our communities, our state and our nation.
Henry Sanders, CEO and Publisher, 365 Media
This is the first of a five-part series.
Lori Palmeri defeated incumbent Steve Cummings in the Oshkosh mayoral race in the April 2 election, when she ran on a platform based on the idea of change and became the first person of color to lead the city. In her campaign, she promised the city an accessible to government through inclusive leadership, an accountable government and a welcoming establishment. Palmeri previously served as the deputy mayor and as a member of the Common Council since 2016. Before Palmeri’s interest in local politics, she accumulated over 25 years of combined experience in administration, land-use, law, and public service. She received her Master’s Degree in Urban Planning from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee School of Architecture and Urban Planning and a Bachelor’s Degree in Urban and Regional Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh.
Patricia Ruiz-Cantu has been Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett’s community outreach manager since 2016. In 2011, she founded La Luz del Mundo Family Services, bringing violence prevention and intervention services to the city’s south side for the first time. She’s also had her hand in local and statewide politics, as co-chair of the campaign of Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele and as chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin’s Latino Caucus.
Alberto Maldonado is director of the Roberto Hernández Center at the UW-Milwaukee, where he leads the university’s efforts to provide support to Latinx students at UW-M as well as Latinx people throughout southeastern Wisconsin. Born in Milwaukee, Alberto grew up in Puerto Rico and studied his first two years at the University of Puerto Rico on a track scholarship. He then returned to earn a B. A. Degree in Fine Arts from and a M.S. in Education Policy, both from UW-Milwaukee. Over the course of 20 years working at the university in various roles, he’s been the driving force behind the Annual Bilingual Open House, the Milwaukee National Hispanic College fair, the creation of the Undocumented Student Campus Task Force and the establishment of the “Excelencia en la Musica” scholarship fund. Alberto actively serves on a few Boards including the UWM Alumni Association, the Wisconsin ACT Council, and The College GOAL Wisconsin.
Marisela Gomez Castellanos is the co-founder and facilitator of ReGeneración, a Latinx youth leadership program at Centro Hispano, where she uses her strong cultural ties and knowledge of Mexico to inspire other Latinx youth to see their cultural identities and knowledge as a source of strength and power. She was recently honored with the YWCA Madison’s Woman of Promise Award, which recognizes the contributions of a young woman aged 30 years of age and younger doing outstanding work in the Greater Madison Community.
Sujhey Beisser, born in Venezuela, is a retail support officer at Park Bank but is best known in Madison as the creator of “Five Senses Palate,” a popular food blog. She says food has been a part of her life for as long as she can remember. Beisser started “Five Senses Palate” originally as a place where she could document and track recipes for her friends and family, but it has quickly grown into a popular resource for thousands of Madison’s foodies. She trained herself as a home chef through exploring recipes from books, magazines, TV, as well as local and world known chefs. After offering personal chef services as an auction gift for a local nonprofit, Beisser began a small personal chef business with the help of her husband. She now loves cooking for clients and creating unique dining experiences for their guests. She serves on the board of directors of Madison Public Market Foundation.
Part Two coming tomorrow!