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Rick Deines, a conversation facilitator with The Zeidler Center for Public Discussion, writes that the Milwaukee Film Festival provided an opportunity for Milwaukeeans to be around one another and interact as they reflected on films that teach about the challenges and opportunities of life.
How exciting it would be for a broad base of metro Milwaukee citizens to claim America’s Black Holocaust Museum as a kind of “magnet school for racial reconciliation.”
America’s Black Holocaust Museum will officially open sometime this year. It is a gem, embodying the potential as an action center for beautiful, cultural interdependence.
The urban unrest in July of 1967 ignited on Third Street (now MLK Drive) was devastating to our community.
How appropriate that Bronzeville and the ABHM can become the place where a new community is formed.
Large numbers of us from mixed racial backgrounds could return to that exact spot 52 years later for acts of reconciliation. It can be an act of repentance that doesn’t play on guilt or cheap forgiveness. It can call us to specific forms of responsible living in a newly aware community.
“Magnet” schools draw students eager to expand their understanding and practice in a particular area of interest and concern.
The museum has the potential to be a magnet school that draws people together from across the cultural and racial spectrum for meaningful dialogue, understanding and a visible presence of that action.
ABHM’s mission statement says: “We envision a society that remembers its past to shape a better future-a nation undivided by race where every person matters equally.”
This could be “the” space where uninformed stereotypes give way to reality and truth.
This could help replace the too often quoted description of Milwaukee as “the most segregated metropolitan area in the country” with something like “A City Where Equality Matters.”
Think of the impact this could have on those attending the Democratic National Convention in 2020. Convention attendees invited to see “what Milwaukee looks like” when the prejudices are stripped away?
Hope for the city and the entire nation showcased in Bronzeville!
The nation is stepping up its opportunities for awareness through Mississippi’s Civil Rights Museums, Birmingham’s Civil Rights Institute and the most recent Montgomery’s National Memorial for Peace and Justice.
Add to that list, Milwaukee’s Black Holocaust Museum in the heart of the city.
The ABHM can be an important player and partner in changing our knowledge of history, our sense of community, and our own value as awakened human beings.
A few weeks ago, the accomplished historian, writer and head griot, Reggie Jackson, guided three of us through a partially finished exhibit. I was reminded that engaging this part of American history over and over again is one important necessity for dealing with racial understanding and reconciliation in this time, in our city and beyond.
Too few of us “go public” in accepting responsibility for the ongoing “nothing ever changes” perception that dominates the narrative about race.
We white Americans do not see ourselves as “bad” people. Why do we allow this to pass without comment or action? The ongoing incidents of racial ignorance (blackface, racial taunts at sporting events) remind us that our whole history is NOW.
The ABHM can be our “magnet school” for awakening, nurturing and connecting all Milwaukeeans.
It’s OUR museum! It is our history. All of us. It is OUR hope. It is OUR opportunity for action.
The ABHM can be the intersection for healthy relationships to emerge. It will take intentional commitment from those of us who live in largely white settings to first visit the museum ourselves.
The next step may be the most important. Spread the word. Invite, invite, invite and accompany.
It will be a new day. It will come.
How to reach ABHM
For general information about the New ABHM, call (414) 374-5353 or write to firstname.lastname@example.org
Liz Caldwell says
Rick, I agree with everything you have written about ABHM. Their website is also very informative (https://abhmuseum.org). There are so many ways white people in Milwaukee can get involved with making this city better for everyone. Visiting and supporting ABHM is certainly a great way. As a member of Rid Racism Milwaukee (https://sites.google.com/site/ridracismmke/) I also invite people to join that organization and help us support ending racism in Milwaukee. As the YWCA says racism hurts everyone.
THOMAS NANCE says
It is a great sentiment that hopefully will come to fruition.
Nancy Ketchman says
Beautiful stated Rick!
Dan O'Keefe says
Thank you for reminding us of this great resource. The virtual information in the ABHM website is
huge. Has anyone put together a way of sharing some of the virtual information to small groups at a religious group, service club or other similar group? The info is mostly in narrative form. A half-hour video on a theme would encourage more people to attend.
Wenona Lee Gardner says
Where’s the Native American Holocaust Museum where 99% of my Native American people were murdered and where our lands were stolen with the ground still wet with their native blood? Milwaukee was ancestrally Native American 100%. We did not have any African Americans then. Millions of Native Americans were slaughtered millions more than the black Holocaust and Jewish Holocaust combined!
Robert T. Jenkins says
I studied and lived in Riverton, Wyoming in the midst of the Wind River Reservation, a 300 square mile Bureau of Indian Affairs sanctioned and enduring monument to travesties of injustice committed against the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho Native American Tribes.
Wenona Lee Gardner, if you want a Native American Holocaust Museum, you SHOULD BE WILLING to build it, and I WILL RESPECTFULLY ATTEND THE OPENING DAY CEREMONIES. Your Native American ancestors and you were dealt a pitiful hand by the United States Government, that DOES NOT diminish the pitiful hands dealt to others by Uncle Sam.
Wenona Lee Gardner says
I have Native American, African American, and Jewish blood and I am well aware of what all 3 went through. They are all part of me…none of them are others. My family went through 3 Holocausts. There is no denying that this is the Ancestral Home of Native Americans and it is clear need priority and not to be overlooked.
Arthur Heitzer says
Amen to all of the above. The Milwaukee Turners have been and continue to be committed to supporting this important institution for all us, in this city and beyond. We’re actually just down the street a bit on Vel. R. Phillips Avenue.
Art Heitzer, President, Milwaukee Turners