Paulara Davis’s life changed on Feb. 24, 2016, when Walworth County Sheriff’s Deputy Juan Ortiz shot and killed her brother, Christopher Davis.
Christopher Davis, 21, was a passenger in a vehicle stopped by Ortiz in a staged drug purchase. Ortiz fired his weapon when the driver attempted to flee the scene, killing Davis. Ortiz was not charged in the fatal shooting.
“There was a lot of sadness and anger,” said Davis. “We had a lot of unanswered questions.”
Davis was invited by UBLAC (Uplifting Black Liberation and Community), to speak at a recent protest to commemorate the “Bloody Sunday” march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in 1965.
The 1965 march drew 600 protesters who were met by Alabama state troopers and local police at Edmund Pettus Bridge and ordered to turn around. When the marchers refused, the police shot tear gas into the crowd and beat the nonviolent protesters with billy clubs. More than 50 people were hospitalized.
Davis joined about 185 protesters on March 5, filling one side of Auer Avenue at Sherman Boulevard. Protesters were carrying handwritten signs with phrases such as “Black Lives Matter,” or “Stay Woke.”
“Everybody came out here today to participate [in the movement],” said Maria Hamilton, mother of Dontre Hamilton, who was killed in April 2014 by a police officer. “In order for us to be resilient in this movement, we have to move.”
After the shooting of Sylville Smith in Sherman Park last August, Markasa Tucker began UBLAC, a coalition led by black women and LGBTQ community members who are working with people of African heritage to provide the tools necessary to obtain black liberation, according to UBLAC’s website.
“We are looking for people to jump on board and make some serious strides in moving Milwaukee forward,” said Tucker.
Guest speakers included Hamilton, Davis, author Jamala Rogers and motivational speaker Jendora Kelley. People of diverse races attended the march and chanted as they made their way down the streets.
Davis told the crowd that UBLAC has supported her in the aftermath of Christopher’s death.
“They opened doors for us and welcomed us into this community of people,” she said. “Without this incident, we wouldn’t have spoken out in the community on the issue (of police shootings.)”
During her spoken-word performance, Kelley encouraged attendees to keep working toward finding solutions to racial inequality in Milwaukee.
“If there is more than one problem, then there is more than one solution,” said Kelley.
Grace Moone, a white Sherman Park resident, has witnessed inequality and injustice and attended the march to be part of a change.
“I know I benefit from a system that oppresses my neighbors,” said Moone. “I am deeply committed to changing that.”
Cars passing by honked their horns and made a gesture in support of the black power movement.
“We are here to remind each other that we aren’t alone in this,” said Annia Leonard, youth leader at UBLAC. “We’ve got to show that we mean what we say.”
Melissa Garves brought her children to their fourth family protest event together. Garves started attending protests on inauguration night and thinks it’s crucial for her and her family as white people to attend events such as the UBLAC march.
“I teach my children to stand up for what’s right,” Graves said. “That means standing up for those who can’t.”
The march culminated at the Body and Soul Healing Center, 3817 N. 48th St., where Rogers encouraged protesters to continue to be involved with UBLAC.
“We need to do things differently and we have to be organized,” she said. “[The government], they’ve got plenty to throw at us. We have to be more serious and sophisticated.”
Since Christopher’s death, Davis was inspired to open Souls 224, a nonprofit organization that gives back to the community through “random acts of kindness.”
“I wanted to make a stand for something and I wanted to support my community. Everybody has freedom of speech, a fair chance and rights.”
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