By Danielle Miller
Nestled into a small pavilion, community members gathered to wait out the downpour at Alice’s Garden Wednesday night as they waited through the storm to start the local conversation about Black Lives Matter and a presentation of the arts within the community.
“We are gathered to have a conversation,” said Venice Williams, executive director of Alice’s Gardens, “We are gathered for justice.”
Williams opened the event standing on a picnic table to address the crowd that crowed under the pavilion, and acknowledged the history of the garden and the land is was created on, including it’s tie to the Underground Railroad and its time as homes to those who moved during the great migration.
History, Williams said, has been perpetually repeated in it’s oppression and disregard for African Americans within the community and around the country, and that a goal of the event was to give people the strength to “engage and intersect perpetual history” and discrimination.
“The goal,” Malkia Stampley-Johnson said was to “make [the gathering happen] and to make [the garden] the gathering place,” for members of the community.
Supreme Moore Omokunde, Milwaukee’s 10th district member of Board of Supervisors addressed the group, and discussed why Black Lives Matter was so important for the community.
“The feedback to Black Lives Matter was so disheartening,” Omokunde said, and that he felt like they were “requesting validation” as a human being.
Omokunde shared his struggles as a leader in the community, and said that when dressed casually at the courthouse he faces “some sort of disrespect,” with one man telling him he didn’t belong until Omokunde identified himself.
“We have to constantly remind people our lives matter,” Williams said.
The Arts were also addressed with presentations by members of local theatre groups such as the Bronzeville Arts Ensemble, Lights, Camera, Soul, and First Stage, all of who addressed the importance of art in the community.
“You see us on stage, but rarely leading backstage,” Stampley-Johnson said about lack of representation African Americans face in leadership positions in the community.
Senator Lena Taylor also spoke for the event and stressed the importance of the garden for the community and the lessons of urban agriculture for Milwaukee.
“What we saw [tonight], love, art, community, the garden, the whole city should have it,” Senator Taylor said about the event and her hope for future growth in Milwaukee.
Those who attended also gave a farewell to Pastor Steve Jerbi from All People’s Church who announced his future departure from the church. Both Pastor Steve and Xavier Thomas, from the All People’s Church spoke to the crowd about the power of hope and faith.
“All our people need is to love, to have hope and faith,” Taylor said and that the garden “is the kind of nurturing hubs we need all over the city.” The goal of the event was to start a community conversation about injustice African Americans face both across the nation and in Milwaukee’s backyard with Williams stating if one doesn’t understand why groups such as Black Lives Matter are important, that they are the ones who need to come to these events.
“We have always mattered,” Omokunde said about Black Lives Matter and validation many African Americans feel they lack.
“It’s important to share our love and our light and keep up the fight,” Senator Taylor said.