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First of two parts.
Without a doubt, Milwaukee has its share of problems.
But we also have so much to be thankful for.
With this in mind, we asked residents who have contributed to our Community Voices feature: “What is a person, project, organization, institution or movement that you are thankful for that’s making an impact in Milwaukee?”
Portia Cobb is a professor at UW-Milwaukee and filmmaker and wrote “How questioning a simple checkout procedure led to complex questions of racial profiling and ‘pent up anger against whites.’”
The question of gratitude is always a humbling one. It silences all the inner chatter about the outside forces in our daily comings and goings, where reflection is often difficult to wrangle.
This year has been one of highs and lows, but by nature I feel fortunate to have had the support of members of an expanding community help me navigate and stay the course of good. It is often easier to be negative and add to the negative than it is to create positive within experiences that have been negative.
Most recently I have been overwhelmed with gratitude for neighbors in a neighborhood where I have at times felt estranged. When I was t-boned by a reckless and willful driver who ignored a stop sign, totaled my vehicle and then took off, those very “strangers” in my own neighborhood came to my aid, as witnesses. I found myself shedding some of the stereotypes I realized I held of them.
Similarly, after suffering a situation of profiling earlier in the year, I have found allies in “strangers” and those who are working for the good in our city by volunteering their time and hearts to create safe spaces for discussions toward resolution and sustainable transformation toward the good in our “good city.”
The Buddhist teachings that I have embraced since my 20s continue to help me reset my own impulses to spin out. These teachings have reminded me to observe my own mind and actions; and to realize deeply that causes and effects in my life are not separate from every person I meet and encounter in my environment and community. It helps me realize with deep reflection that I am to embrace all circumstances as an opportunity to expand my lesser self, which will then serve to change things in my environment that cause harm.
I have become appreciative of those within our city — too many to name — who have selflessly taken action to promote the essence of goodness and equity for all. I am deeply appreciative of students, of faculty, of artists, of the architects of safety and inclusivity that we all desire. I am thankful for life. I am learning with each season in my life that friends, associates, strangers and the community spaces we share on this planet are not coincidental or separate from me.
I have tremendous gratitude for my dog Tico, who teaches me how to be better at being a human being. He connects me to others and to the beautiful natural spaces within Milwaukee that I have often taken for granted.
Renee Lynn Glembin is a lifelong Milwaukee resident, writer, teacher and social justice advocate who recently wrote “The loss of Strauss Brands is a win for Century City residents.”
I am thankful for Jocelyn Mason-Saffold, community outreach and education coordinator of SE-WI Planned Parenthood.
I met Jocelyn in 2016 at the ACLU Youth Social Justice Conference at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Because I work with teenagers, I know that there is a startling amount of misinformation among them about sexual health and identity.
So, I invited Jocelyn to come to my classroom to speak to my junior and senior high school students about creating and maintaining healthy relationships, taking care of themselves and understanding the gender spectrum.
Jocelyn is a natural, dynamic and authentic classroom presenter and she is unabashedly unafraid to talk about subjects that would make most of us blush. The kids instantly feel at ease with her as she answers all their questions and empowers them with knowledge and resources.
Jocelyn has come to my classroom a few times a year since then, even though every year Planned Parenthood, which provides valuable low cost reproductive health care and cancer screenings to thousands of women, has its budget slashed. Thankfully, this essential component to my students’ education has been able to continue and because of it, and skilled presenters like Jocelyn, hundreds of students have the information they need to make healthy choices for themselves.
Currently, there are 21 Planned Parenthood Health Centers across Wisconsin serving 60,000 people annually. No one is turned away for inability to pay.
Katie Avila Loughmiller
Katie Avila Loughmiller is an interdisciplinary social practice artist and co-founder of LUNA. She co-wrote “Dear white gallery owner: Here’s how not to erase the narratives of Milwaukee’s black and brown artists” with fellow members of LUNA.
There are a lot of things that I am thankful for in this city but it’s an understatement to say that I am most thankful for Latinas Unidas en las Artes (LUNA) — and not just because I am one of the co-founders. LUNA has become more than I could have ever imagined. Each incredible artist who joined and put their time, energy and passion into this group has made it what it is today.
It’s more than just a collective. It’s community. It’s family.
LUNA started two and a half years ago out of necessity. Being new to Milwaukee, I was looking for community myself and noticed that representation here didn’t quite look the way I intuitively knew it should. That’s when I met Gabriela Riveros, who was born and raised in Milwaukee and had the contact list to make the idea of bringing Latinx artists together become a reality. From there, we ensured that the collective grew into what we all wanted, instead of what one or two individuals wanted.
Our ability to keep our egos in check and truly work together is a huge reason why we went from two gallery exhibitions in 2018 to an even more amazing 2019. This includes mounting five major gallery exhibitions, being featured artists at the Milwaukee Art Museum, Silver City InterNational Festival and other community events, receiving invitations to panels and discussions with students at MIAD and UWM, and most recently, having our own temporary retail store, gallery and studio space through Pop Up MKE.
In my opinion, what makes LUNA so special is that we show up for one another time and time again. I have seen LUNA members help each other with pricing work or how to make prints of paintings. We share useful skills and tools that help us grow as individual artists. I have seen us support each other when people say harmful things that make us question our identities as artists or even as Latinx community members. Over the last two months, with the opportunity to occupy a physical space, we have gotten to know each other better — to laugh, vent and sometimes cry together, all while wearing our favorite earrings or T-shirts made by someone else in the collective.
It’s not just about us though. We have used our platform on Cesar Chavez Drive to open our doors to support other deserving artists and small businesses. And sure, it’s not always seamless and we don’t always see eye to eye on everything, but this group allows for growth. We have all learned so much by being a part of it. I know I have and that’s a gift that is priceless. And while LUNA still has learning and growing to do, we know that our art, our voices and our presence in this city is important. So get ready to see a lot more of LUNA in 2020. This is only just the beginning.
Margaret Rozga is a poet, civil rights activist, professor emerita at UW-Waukesha, as well as Wisconsin Poet Laureate. She has authored 32 Community Voices pieces for NNS since 2015, including this reflection on becoming Wisconsin Poet Laureate.
I’m grateful for all the places in Milwaukee where people of all ages and colors gather and are at peace in one another’s presence. They may not be engaged in the same activity, but they are there in close proximity, sharing the space, overhearing each other’s conversations, maybe even bumping into each other occasionally, saying “sorry” or “excuse me,” no offense meant and none taken.
I’m grateful to Molly Snyder, who in one of her OnMilwaukee.com columns posed the question about what places in Milwaukee draw in such an inclusive array of people.
One of these places that I particularly enjoy is South Shore Park, especially on summer weekends. Children climb, swing, run and jump on the playground. Their grown-ups hover nearby. Other people play in or near Lake Michigan. Still others gather in the beer garden to relax and converse with friends. I like to ride my bike along the Oak Leaf Trail south of the playground and beach where I can catch a glimpse of downtown buildings and then 10 yards farther down the trail feel immersed in a natural environment.
I’m also grateful to Supervisor Marina Dimitrijevic, who has been the leading voice advocating for making best use of spaces in the park that no longer served their original purposes.
Coming Friday: More reflections from Sergio González, Paul Mozina, Rob Smith and Markasa Tucker.
Your turn: What is a person, project, organization, institution or movement that you are thankful for that’s making an impact in Milwaukee?
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