Juneteenth and the future of Milwaukee

By Jarrett English, Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service

Juneteenth in Milwaukee

Little did they know that their freedom, paid for in rivers of blood and rebellion, would mostly remain an empty promise…

Fast forward to 2018 — only 153 years after the first Juneteenth day — and the Juneteenth celebration in Milwaukee is one of the oldest in the nation. An event that for 47 years, no matter whether there was an African World festival or not, whether there was a single event celebrating the heritage of black people in America or in Milwaukee, kept going like a reliable train that never misses its schedule. With 10,000+ people in attendance every year, Juneteenth arguably is what African World festival had always tried to be: the place to celebrate being black in Milwaukee…

It’s not just that majority black, super majority people of color Milwaukee went from being one of the best places in the nation for black people to live to one of the worst; it became the place where black children have the least chances and worst outcomes and that has become, in the most ironic of dichotomies, a place that young white people love and want to move to but young black people and other people of color can’t wait to escape.

Milwaukee Police Department on the scene.

Worse than that is the fact that the founders of Juneteenth, the children of Bronzeville, the former sustainers and maintainers of black culture in Milwaukee — the black elders who watched the Commandos and their peers in the NAACP Youth Council brave violence and possible death to march into a racist South Side for equal housing, the elders who were those marchers, who braved so much so honorably and who continue to do so  — have become terrified of their own children. These are the very black youth that they hope, and that we all need, to take up the mantle of their work…

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