By Danielle Miller
Reggie Jackson from the Dr. James Cameron Legacy Foundation, Inc. and Rid Racism Board member gave a presentation of the systematic segregation from Milwaukee’s history and the impact it still has in the city today.
Jackson spoke to a large group that filled the pews at Bethesda Church of God and Christ located on Highland Boulevard. The white and light yellow room held a screen in the front, which Jackson used to show data regarding historical segregation in Milwaukee and pictures of the run-down streets and homes.
“You see the conditions of these neighborhoods,” Jackson said about the job loss that has turned blocks into vacant factories and stores. “This is what segregation and concentrated poverty leads to.”
Jackson said that pubic policies in Milwaukee are not going to change by accident, and that it requires holding local and federal governments accountable for the history they helped shape in Milwaukee.
“We cannot lie down and pretend,” Jackson said about starting a positive change in communities. “We have to fight. Milwaukee has a reputation of people who fight.”
Jackson also touched on police violence in Milwaukee and in cities in the country, including the riots that occurred in Baltimore in May of 2015.
“All major riots around the nation sparks from police mistreatment,” Jackson said.
He shared the stories from boys in the community he met with, and said that in most cases, it was the police who taunted them rather than what is later reported on the news.
Jackson wants police officers to come from the communities they serve in order to better understand the community and its people.
“Stop spending so much time being afraid of people and communities,” Jackson said.
Jackson pushed the message to reach out to others in the Milwaukee community, and to stop believing the stereotypes of empty buildings and of the people who live on those blocks. After the Sherman Park riot, back in August of 2016, Jackson said community members, volunteers, and neighbors all worked together to rebuild the community without fear.
Milwaukee is one of the most segregated cities in all 50-states according to a census. Wisconsin as a state is one of the highest segregated states as well.
Segregation in Milwaukee wasn’t an accident said Jackson, and real estate laws and racial restrictive covenants that were in place until 1968 kept people of color out of primarily white communities.
According to research into the real estate practices in the early 1940’s done by Jackson, many real estate agencies normalized segregation until the Fair Housing Marches in 1967.
Jackson said that in spite of the decaying neighborhoods, there are plans to rebuild the Milwaukee Buck’s stadium, which has released its future design and location.
Jackson urges community members to lobby their elected officials in order to make them active community members and help rebuild Milwaukee from the inside out.