In 2021, we published 65 submissions to Community Voices, our home for opinion pieces and personal essays. Each piece is worth revisiting on its own merits, but taken as a whole, the collection is a “year in review” through the eyes and experiences of our community.
The pandemic continued to be on the minds of many, as evidenced by Clarence Montgomery’s history lesson on vaccine apprehension and Damia Causey’s reflection on why she got the vaccine. We also heard Marquis Gilbert’s journey from artist to life insurance agent during the pandemic.
While an “end” to the pandemic still eludes us, we asked six community leaders to reflect on lessons learned and their vision for a better Milwaukee. That insightful series of essays was collected as A New Way Forward.
We always work to include youth voices and 2021 saw powerful contributions. We featured inspiring winners from the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and César E. Chávez writing contests as well as the inaugural Rosa Parks Tribute Scholarship essay contest. We also published newsletters written by students at the Vel R. Phillips Justice School, including this one detailing their time with filmmaker Marquise Mays.
Milwaukee’s 2021 will be remembered for the consecration of one sports legacy and the end of another. While our city was in the national spotlight during the Bucks’ championship run, Pancho Sanchez penned a love letter to Milwaukee neighborhoods. And to honor the legendary Hank Aaron after his passing, Frank Schneiger reminisced on Aaron’s transcendence of baseball.
As voting rights became a prominent national conversation, our community spoke out about local issues. Paru Shah wrote a primer on efforts to suppress the vote; Benjamin Rangel discussed fair maps; Tehassi Hill advocated to fairly recognize Native American peoples; and Sarah Noble examined the implications of voter suppression and abortion bans.
In response to a rise in anti-Asian sentiment and the shooting of six Asian women in Atlanta, Jenny Lee wrote about the longstanding racism and misogyny directed at Asian women, while Alex Hanesakda described why he’s “done keeping his head down.” During the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan, May yer Thao shared how the evacuation sparked memories of her family’s refugee experience.
The spirit of protest continued to unfold in city’s streets. Montell Infiniti Ross wrote about the enduring impact of the March with Pride for #BlackLivesMatter; a host of community members reflected on change since George Floyd’s death a year later; and Eric Kleppe-Montenegro chronicled his local organizing work across the Colombian and Palestinian struggles.
Our neighbors weighed in on public safety concerns, including Vaun Mayes arguing “youth crime will not change until we change our approach” and Dr. Patricia Najera detailing her dismay about reckless driving in Milwaukee.
Relief funds from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 began to arrive and were immediately met by ideas on how to spend it. This included Melody McCurtis’s advocacy for participatory budgeting, Angela Harris’s critique of MPS’s input process, Ryeshia Farmer’s call to fund community over police and a coalition advocating for investment in our youth.
The term “Critical Race Theory” was thrust into the public’s consciousness, including in our own backyard. Dr. Javier Tapia explored the origins of the term, while Nicolo Onorato argued that students deserve a more honest, challenging account of American history.
This year, we debuted our first two “audio CVs.” Saryea Murchison shared her kidney failure story and Shannon Ross detailed how he found freedom through reading and writing while incarcerated.
And this is a fraction of pieces published throughout 2021. To explore more Community Voices from 2021, click here.
If you have something on your mind that you’d like to write about in the coming year, get in touch: email@example.com