By Karen Stokes
Milwaukee’s African American community is the subject of a new documentary that is putting the spotlight on how health disparities and poverty has negatively impacted the African American community during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Filmmaker Theo Rogers’ premiere documentary “Milwaukee in Pain,” takes him back to where his career began, Milwaukee. Rogers said he felt an obligation to make the film.
“My inspiration came from family members that were suffering from COVID-19. I had two family members that passed away and I really wanted to get to the bottom of it,” Rogers said.
Rogers, 35, grew up on Milwaukee’s North Side. He bussed to the Wauwatosa school district until his sophomore year, when he attended and graduated from Milwaukee High School of the Arts. He attended college in Orlando and now lives in Las Vegas.
Rogers said Milwaukee holds 80% of African American culture in Wisconsin. Systematic racism plagues the community and has for decades, he said.
“I can tell from all of the data that African American communities are suffering with COVID-19 more than any other community at the time. They are actually passing away at a much higher rate, five times higher than whites,” said Rogers.
Economic and educational issues along with pre-existing health conditions are all concerns which cause many to struggle and to become hopeless, he said.
“Hopelessness makes people do drastic things, domestic violence increases and it makes the mayor put everyone on a curfew,” Rogers said. “We need to understand economics in our city. We need to buy Black. We need a community where we are all going to benefit. We need to understand all the resources out there. We have to build relationships with banks.”
Rogers continued, “The real meat of the documentary is pre-existing conditions. Why are we having these health disparities? A lot of it is that we don’t go to the doctor on a normal basis. We don’t have a culture of going to the doctor, we don’t have the culture of getting normal check-ups, we don’t have a culture of eating the correct healthy foods.”
Rogers’ media group, Humble Ambitious Media, Inc. is a visual production company whose focus is to promote a platform of expression to a variety of voices and perspectives; one that connects real people to real social issues while encouraging real dialog that leads to real change in communities and the world.
The group’s mission is to educate, empower and ignite conversations of social issues in communities through visual media.
“This is my first documentary and I said ‘Why not do something about my home that can change people’s lives?’,” said Rogers.
The film features some well-known Milwaukeeans, chosen from all walks of life, including Bishop Darrell Hines, Sen. Lena Taylor and businessman Gaulien (Gee) Smith.
“The documentary is coming from people in our community and that’s why we chose them,” Rogers said. “They’re leaving you with resources and a message of hope during this trying time of the pandemic.”
For more information on the documentary and streaming go to Milwaukeeinpain.com