Second of two parts.
If you’re reading this, you have a reason to be thankful.
In a year of unprecedented deaths because of COVID-19, we should not take anything for granted.
With this in mind, we asked seven residents: “What is a person, project, organization, institution or movement that you are thankful for, that’s making an impact in Milwaukee?”
I found my safe place just when I needed it the most
Jenny Lee is a stay-at-home chef and former newspaper journalist. Lee recently wrote, “OPINION: Conversations with white people about their racism can be uncomfortable. Do it anyway.”
I didn’t know joining ElevAsian in January 2020 would become so necessary when COVID-19 hit. I just wanted to join a group with people who look like me, people who are Asian American in Milwaukee.
I was oblivious to the coronavirus until it hit Wisconsin in March. I became scared when I heard that Asian Americans across the world were beaten, spit on and stabbed by strangers who blamed us for the coronavirus just because it was first detected in China. A virus exists in the air. It doesn’t discriminate. It infects anyone.
I am grateful for ElevAsian, an informal group that uplifts the Asian American Pacific Islander community in Milwaukee. Elevate Asians. ElevAsian. With all the anti-Asian sentiment because of COVID, I needed this group to talk to.
The group officially began in 2017 as a Facebook group and now has over 140 members. Co-founders Jessica Boling, Erik Kennedy, May yer Thao and Shary Tran kept seeing each other at events where they were the only Asians in the room. They became friends who started the invite-based group, which became a safe space for Asian Americans to be themselves.
I am Korean American, born and raised in a predominantly white town in Wisconsin. For most of my life, I convinced myself I was comfortable being the only Asian in the room. In the past 12 months, I experienced microaggressions that made me fall backward into an abyss. Shary was the one who taught me how to resolve a conflict with a white friend, so I could repair the friendship.
ElevAsian is a group I needed for my soul. I thank them so much.
‘And still they march’
LaTasha Lux is a proudly tattooed wife, mother, lover of sci-fi, book nerd, “Disnerd” and photographer. She recently wrote, “OPINION: ‘Afraid for my life’: Who are you supposed to call when it’s the police committing the crimes?”
This has been quite a year. It’s easy to look back on the preceding months of 2020 and point out all the bad, all the negatives. With Thanksgiving 2020 fast approaching I was asked the question: “What is a person, project, organization, institution or movement that you are thankful for that’s making an impact in Milwaukee?” Easy answer for me … The Peoples Revolution.
Since March, The Peoples Revolution has taken to the streets in all kinds of weather, protesting social justice issues that primarily impact people of color and members of the LGBTQ+ community. It has been my honor to photograph them as they march with allies in communities from Greendale to Wauwatosa, from Milwaukee to Kenosha, from Burlington to Washington, D.C.
That in itself is impressive enough, but that’s not all The Peoples Revolution is doing. By attending Fire and Police Commission meetings and school board meetings, The Peoples Revolution is shining a bright light on issues that would normally remain hidden, such as police brutality and misconduct, student-on-student racial violence and violence against trans women and men. They have arrived at the table and are demanding a seat.
As I write this, The Peoples Revolution has been marching for 173 days. Through hot summer days and now cold autumn nights, they’re still out there with calls to communities to “wake up” and chants of “Black lives matter.”
I have personally witnessed them being verbally abused and threatened, and still they march. They have been tear-gassed, fired upon with rubber bullets and pepper pellets, and still they march. They have been arrested, detained, had their property confiscated, and still they march.
I am in awe of them.
We can’t forget the essential workers
Juan Miguel Martinez is a writer, Brown Beret and union organizer from Milwaukee. He recently wrote, “OPINION: ‘They are my ancestors’: My 17-year journey to becoming a Brown Beret.”
Earlier this year, I was working at a call center that vacated most of its building due to COVID-19. My department was the one exception, and I felt that wasn’t right.
I called everyone in my department, including my supervisor, to say, “Tomorrow, let’s go to the department supervisor’s office and let her know we demand to work from home.” They all agreed, and the next day, before we went in, I was told we would be working from home. There had been rumblings about what was going to happen, and it got back to them, so we didn’t even have to storm the office.
The next day, I received a phone call from a friend I hadn’t seen in years. It was Lindsay Adams, a friend of friends whom I had become close to through community work with Common Ground. Imagine my surprise when she asked if I was interested in being an organizer for the Milwaukee Area Service & Hospitality Workers Organization, also known as MASH.
Had Lindsay heard me? It was a signal, and Lindsay was the messenger. I agreed to the job, feeling a newfound passion and sense of purpose.
Through the union I have met genuine, passionate people who live to serve the working class. There is no guff here, and most of the people working here have been organizing since they were teens. Some have been living this life since the ’60s.
Where do I fit in? I am a person who knows about the service industry, the uncertainty of the income and lack of benefits. I hear the needs of my fellow bartenders, servers and bussers. Aside from that, being bilingual and very well connected to my South Side community are obvious assets.
MASH is a veritable tapestry of personalities, all with one common goal — to show strength and power in numbers in the workplace. We deserve a spot at the table with the bosses, and the organization pushes to let us know that. Solidarity is in no short supply, and all the right causes are supported, with dignity and pride in the worker’s spirit upheld.
We get the day off on March 31 as well — the birthday of renowned labor leader César Chávez.
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