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The NBA playoffs have brought a lot of national attention to Milwaukee. Most of the attention has been well-received. I mean who doesn’t want to be recognized for having one of the most dominant NBA teams?
However, when ESPN’s “First Take” crew was discussing playoff basketball and potential visits to the remaining contenders’ cities, we received some not-so-loving attention. They said they don’t want to visit “terrible” cities, including Milwaukee.
Since then, Milwaukeeans flooded social media to share their feelings. For a few days, it was hard to go on any social media platform without seeing someone post a response. I initially shared in this outrage, but I’ve had some time to reflect.
Let me start by sharing — I love Milwaukee. Milwaukee is and forever will be my home. Legend has it, I was born on April 14 as a testament to my love for the 414. The Allen-Bradley Clock Tower served as my timekeeper for most of my childhood. I’ve been to more tailgates at Miller Park (yes, MILLER PARK) than Sunday services, and I’m pretty sure my first words were probably “Bucks in 6.”
So hearing people talk bad about my city stung. It felt like a mosquito bite — a sting that wasn’t painful initially but has resulted in an itch that I haven’t been able to scratch away.
It’s something other Milwaukeeans haven’t been able to scratch away either. Many have responded to these “terrible city” comments with high-quality images of places like the Milwaukee Art Museum, lakefront and Hoan Bridge, as if to say we cannot be “terrible” if we have such beautiful places. Don’t get me wrong, we should always celebrate the beauty of our city, but we need to recognize (and do something about) the important reality that Milwaukee has a “terrible” side.
These beautiful images do not negate the fact that we are still one of the most segregated cities in America. We are ranked one of the worst places for men of color to live, and we have one of the highest infant mortality rates in the country . . . and don’t get me started on all these damn potholes! It’s fine for some to say we have a beautiful city, but we must recognize that the quality of life for many people who live in our city is, in fact, “terrible.”
Also many of the people that are the most offended by the idea of Milwaukee being “terrible” have a phobia of crossing the 16th Street Viaduct. Milwaukee is more than downtown. If you care about Milwaukee, you need to care about the Amani and Clarke Square neighborhoods the same way you care about the lakefront.
DONT CLAIM MILWAUKEE IF YOU DONT LOVE ALL OF MILWAUKEE!!!
Despite our challenges, I want to share some of what I find truly beautiful in my resilient city. We have neighborhoods that are engaging residents in reclaiming their streets. New, locally owned businesses are popping up. Artists are using their medium to tell the stories of the communities and organizations that are changing the lives of people in our city.
Let’s channel that anger and frustration we felt about our city being called “terrible” and use it to continue moving Milwaukee forward.
Francisco “Pancho” Sanchez is a lifelong Milwaukeean and community school coordinator at South Division High School.
Deborah Henderson says
A fantastic story that speaks from your heart…I am also proud that you are an educator and will have the ability to uplift and broaden young minds to think outside the box. Thank you for bringing up issues that are unspoken truths here in Milwaukee.
Kamisha Harris says
I know that’s right! This piece is beautiful, real, and straight from the heart. I was born four days before 4/14 day.
Let’s be honest, they weren’t calling Milwaukee terrible because of the actual issues it has. When pressed to defend their points, Smith said he doesn’t “like cold weather” and Rose stated she misses “the country club”. This was nothing more than shallow people with shallow opinions. If they really wanted to break down in what ways Milwaukee was terrible they could have, but they didn’t.
Meg Bruzan says
Wonderful article! Couldn’t agree more that we need to all help to take care of the places many avoid. Thank you for your voice!
I share your 4/14 birthday! And your love for Milwaukee. Thank you for writing!
Great article, Francisco! I agree with you. Let’s embrace and care about every neighborhood and its residents. What’s one way to easily explore all the neighborhoods of our city? RIDE MCTS!!! Jeff in Silver City
Wonderful editorial, I am also Milwaukee person born and raised here even if my family is from Mexico. Love my city
You ask for us to channel our anger. Let’s elect a mayor who will lead our people to safety and prosperity. Let’s find judges who will sentence truth and justice to keep the evil off our streets. Let’s encourage our teachers to ignite that calling in their soul to help out children engage in learning. We need to find a police chief willing to stand up to politics and fight for the taxpayers. We need a governor to bring businesses back to the state for our unemployed to work and our city to grow. We need a city council that will quit using their position to push their own individual political agenda and truly lead their communities to a better Milwaukee.
But without this change in leadership, Milwaukee will continue to decline like it has. Our neighborhoods are barely hanging on by the fingertips of our residents.
Change is needed at the top and it is needed immediately.
Kevin Hensen says
I drive through Amani everyday on my commute to work and own a couple of houses there. The residents, along with the Dominican Center, are doing great things. But nobody wants to be stuck on 27th and Burleigh St…we got spun around pretty good there after getting hit by a speeding stolen vehicle while traversing that intersection a couple of years back. The following day, Mayor Barrett and Chief Flynn made a public statement about resuming the practice of high speed chases to apprehend motorists violating laws on our city streets. I can no longer have my relatives come to visit us, in our “terrible” city, because coming to our neighborhood via the city streets is simply too dangerous. I will drive anywhere with Milwaukee’s zip codes because I know what to watch for, but we’ve been dropped by our insurance carrier from too many accidents, and one can’t assume that if they simply drive with caution and obey the traffic lights, that they won’t get hit. If there’s one vehicle driving with reckless abandon within your field of view, you might remain confident that no harm will befall you. But quite often, you’ll see multiple vehicles, weaving in and out and across oncoming lanes, unscathed only as other motorists abide by the law…but with more people doing this, the riskier it gets driving on our streets. Most of these vehicles have no plates and for well over a year now, I’ve seen nothing being done about this problem. My belief is that we have, or could incorporate, new technologies to combat this problem, for the safety of our residents and visitors, but nobody seems to care enough to do anything. Yes, there are many great things about this city, yet to discover and take pride in, but many business offerings that grew out of, and enhanced the quality of life here, have largely deserted the area and retreated to the suburbs. If we can’t solve any of the problems in the inner city, it won’t be safe for anyone here…and for those people with safety as their main concern, this city is a terribly dangerous place to visit.
John Beckwith says
Finally someone with some common sense…. This city is getting worse by the day. Nothing will change unless the leadership wakes up and ACTUALLY DOES SOMETHING TO FIX THE PROBLEMS