By Ethan Duran
On the evening of March 21, residents and public officials gathered in Mobcraft Beer Brewery and Taproom to discuss justice, peace and inequality in Milwaukee for the first Political Open Mic night hosted by NEWaukee and Bridge the City.
Ben Rangel and Kyle Hagge, cohosts of the Bridge the City podcast, interviewed a panel of four elected officials in front of an audience of residents, officials and activists. When the panel interview was over, members of the audience were invited on stage to talk about their concerns.
The panel was made up of District Attorney John Chisholm, State Representative Evan Goyke, Director of the Office of Violence Prevention Reggie Moore and Executive Director of Safe & Sound Katie Sanders. After the panel was over, Dr. Patrick J Wolf of the University of Arkansas and Justice Rebecca Dallet of the Wisconsin Supreme Court took turns speaking.
In between the fermentation tanks of Mobcraft’s brewery room, the panel discussed crime, the police and the wide gap of segregation. At the start of the discussion, Mayor Tom Barrett stepped on stage to make his introduction. He talked about the big news for Milwaukee–the city hosting the Democratic National Convention next year. Barrett’s goal for Milwaukee is to attract the Republican National Convention in 2024.
The topics discussed on stage related to the overincarceration of African-American men, the trauma violence has on a community, problems with city education, and proposed solutions like Housing First and collective efficacy. “The work lays in front of us, not behind us,” said State Representative Evan Goyke when faced with a question about overincarceration. Other panelists agreed that the city’s problems would have to be solved from the ground up.
It was no coincidence that Open Mic night was hosted just before the April elections. In the back of the room, the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin had a table set up with pamphlets to spread the word about voter registration. Jacqueleen Clark, otherwise known as “Jackie For Social Justice” got the chance to talk on stage about the electoral college during the open discussion portion.
Clark felt strongly that the electoral college was a problem, because it held power no matter if people voted or not. After the event was over, Clark talked about how it the power of voting belonged to the people. “We need to announce this: There is a new government and a new progressive movement,” Clark said. “Everyone has to get involved, especially the African-American community.”
The closing fifteen minutes of the event were dedicated to leaving the open mic to the audience. Some speakers spoke about marijuana legalization and others demanded change in the expensive healthcare system and its approach to mental health. Molly Schuld, a former high school science teacher said she wanted to ask the panel how youth could get involved in policy. Schuld said that a lot of high schoolers raised in Milwaukee were smarter about the city’s problems but had no idea where to go with their passions.
The event was the first in a four-part series discussing Milwaukee’s problems and possible solutions to them. Jeremy Fojut, one of NEWaukee’s owners, said that talent being used to engage people in civics and starting a face-to-face discussion instead of “gotcha” arguments over Facebook.
The next event will cover K12 Education at Gathering Place Brewing Company on May 16.
For more information visit NEWaukee’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/NEWaukee/.