By Eelisa Jones
Milwaukee-based activist group, Raise Up MKE (RUMKE), hosted a complimentary screening of “Selma” this Tuesday, Feb. 24 at the Southgate Cinema on 27th Street and Oklahoma Ave.
The event attracted about 25 attendees.
“Selma” is a 2014 historical drama featuring the events that followed the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing on Sept. 15, 1963 in Birmingham, Ala. Planned by four white supremacist terrorists, the attack injured 22 people and killed four African- American girls – Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carol Denise McNair, and Carole Robertson.
The film highlights the efforts of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and other civil rights activists to achieve the right to freely vote.
RUMKE hosted Tuesday’s event with hopes of encouraging attendees to consider their own roles in today’s struggle for workers’ rights.
RUMKE is an associate organization of Milwaukee Workers Organization Committee – a group of local workers who aim to secure higher working wages and union representation.
During the post-screening discussion, attendees learned about several upcoming opportunities to join local and international efforts to strengthen workers’ legal rights.
“The people in this room are not playing,” said Tuesday’s RUMKE discussion leader, Jennifer Epps-Addison, referring to event organizers.
Epps-Addison regularly contributes to Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Purple Wisconsin Project – a cross-party online assembly of Wisconsin bloggers. At one point in the discussion, Epps-Addison asked those who had previously participated in protests to identify themselves.
About half a dozen individuals raised their hands. When asked to describe their experiences while protesting, these individuals converged on two general themes: the immensity of the opposition to change and the awe of solidarity.
Carmen Quinlivan, a 23-year-old Riverwest resident, spoke about the arrests of Dontre Hamilton protestors near an I-43 entrance last December.
“[The officers] came out like they had something to prove… [I]t was sort of this moment of realization,” said Quinlivan.
“There are people out there who will do anything to prevent this from happening. So we have to push back.”
Epps-Addison concluded the discussion by announcing important dates for attendees to remember. One day, April 15, marks an opportunity for activist organizers around the world to arrange simultaneous protests in the name of workers’ rights and a reformed global economy.
Epps-Addison is among a number of activists who believe that a system which supports strong workers’ rights will inevitably lead to improved public education in addition to expanded and affordable public transportation. She specifically emphasized the impact the proposed workers’ rights reforms would have on individuals: “It means that when we go to work every day and we work hard, we get a living wage and we don’t have to rely on public assistance.
Because that’s what the dignity of work is about. That’s what we’re drawing a line in the sand for,” said Epps-Addison.
Within the next two months, RUMKE organizers have arranged a number of planning sessions.
The organization has also arranged trips to Madison to show solidarity with our capitol’s laborers and to represent Milwaukee interests. The organization hopes to contact hundreds of workers and community members across the state who want to participate.
RUMKE organizers plan to host their two Madison bus trips on March 11 and 28.