By Dylan Deprey
The director’s chair was an empty seat for nearly a year in Milwaukee County’s Office of African American Affairs (OAAA). The OAAA was created to tackle the many racial injustices and inequities that the African American community has struggled through in Milwaukee.
Following a comprehensive national search, County Executive Chris Abele appointed Nicole Brookshire as the First Director of Office on African American Affairs on June 13, 2017.
“Milwaukee’s racial inequities won’t be solved overnight, but I am looking forward to partnering with my community to move the needle,” Brookshire said. “Together, we will hold each other accountable for real progress and take the work done thus far to the next level.”
Brookshire has served as the Vice President of Operations for Junior Achievement of Wisconsin, where she managed a $5.4 million annual budget.
She also served as the Grants Compliance Manager for the City of Milwaukee Community Development Grants Administration, where she managed annual budgets, standardized grant reapplication processes to strengthen accountability and enhanced Continuum of Care for the City of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County.
Brookshire was selected from a group of 250 by the OAAA Transition Committee. The group of community leaders were led by Ralph Hollmon, retired Milwaukee Urban League President.
“Nicole is an outstanding person for this position” Hollmon said. “A number of good candidates were considered for the job, but we felt that Nicole has a great combination of skills, experiences and commitment which will enable her to work effectively with different sectors of the community to improve some of the dismal conditions that confront African Americans in Milwaukee County.”
As headlines have shown in the past, Wisconsin, and Milwaukee in particular have been one of the worst areas in America for Black people. Milwaukee holds some of the highest rates in racial disparities, poverty, violent homicides and mass incarceration, according to Tory Lowe, community advocate.
Though there was no one in particular at the helm within the first year, the OAAA has focused on simply creating jobs with two initiatives.
Opportunity Knocks, was launched in Fall 2016, and takes tax-foreclosed homes in Milwaukee County’s suburban municipalities and renovates the homes while providing job training to nonviolent House of Correction (HOC) offenders.
It then provides reentry services to the returning citizens after the renovation, and sells the house to a first-time homeowner through the County’s new Section 8 Homeownership Program and is paired with HOME funds for down payment assistance.
UpLift MKE is a unique job training placement program that works with community partners like the Milwaukee Bucks. Milwaukee County has placed over 100 individuals, particularly those in and near the Sherman Park area.
Along with Brookshire’s appointment, Abele also added an extra $500,000 in the 2017 budget in funding for UpLift MKE. He also added $165,000 for the Boys and Girls Club of Milwaukee to build a Youth Career Development project manager to serve teenagers in Sherman Park and other areas.
“I put a stake in the ground by prioritizing racial inequities, and we’re making progress as a community, but the addition of Nicole Brookshire will help take us to the next level,” Abele said.
For more information visit county.milwaukee.gov/OAAA