On Monday, over 100 community members packed the Washington Park Senior Center to attend the new Milwaukee County Office on African American Affairs’ first Information & Input Session.
The office was created during the 2016 budget process by the Milwaukee County Board and County Executive Chris Abele to address racial inequities in the county.
The office was provided with $300,000 in county funding, and County Executive Abele has pledged to work with the County Board to identify an additional $300,000 for the office. Abele has stated that the Office on African American Affairs is a top priority of his.
As its first major action, he directed the county to partner with P3 Development Group to help analyze and bolster Milwaukee County’s job training and workforce development programs.
Abele’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Nate Holton, kicked off the Information & Input Session by emphasizing not only the need for an Office on African American Affairs, but the need for this new office to place meaningful action ahead of superficial statements.
“Milwaukee has had significant racial disparities for decades, and this office is not the first so-called effort to address these issues,” Holton said. “Most efforts end up being ceremonial.
They produce glossy reports, seek press coverage, hold symposiums, and then don’t make enough of a difference to truly bring change to our community.
This office has to be better than that.”
Holton explained that the office would work with the community and with partners throughout the county to set a vision, establish measurable goals, and then meet those goals by working together.
County Board Supervisors Khalif Rainey and Supreme Moore Omokunde emphasized the need for the office and the importance of public input in its activities.
Monday’s public event focused on the issue of segregation – Milwaukee is the most segregated metro area in the nation. It was sponsored by the Metropolitan Milwaukee Fair Housing Council, whose mission is to combat illegal housing discrimination and create and maintain racially and economically integrated housing patterns.
“We could have focused on any number of issues – employment, education, incarceration, health and wellness,” said Holton. “We’re starting with segregation because it connects to everything else and because it’s a regional issue that the county could play a unique role in addressing.”
After viewing a presentation on how Milwaukee’s history of segregation, community members split up into groups to provide direction on how the office should function and what it can do to address segregation and racial inequities in Milwaukee.
The groups were facilitated by the Zeider Center for Public Discussion and gave every individual the opportunity to have their views heard.
The information gathered from the community will inform the future efforts of the office and will help determine topics covered in the next round of public Information & Input Sessions.
More information on the Milwaukee Office on African American Affairs is available on their website, county.milwaukee.gov