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Milwaukee’s Black History program celebrates those who fight for justice in an unjust world

“Black History is not just a section in a text book about the Civil Rights movement, it is a tapestry of the countless brave and honorable people that have fought for justice in an unjust world. This month offers us the platform upon which we can proclaim and honor the sacrifices that our ancestors, neighbors and leaders have made and will continue to make to heal the scars of our nation’s collective history.” – Ashanti Hamilton, Common Council President

Common Council President Ashanti Hamilton and Alderman Cavalier Johnson hosted the City of Milwaukee’s 3rd Annual Black History program on February 25 at the City Hall Rotunda. The celebration theme for 2019 was “Moving in Time, in Rhythm, Together.” and featured a program focused on the celebration of African-American culture.

The program kicked off with a performance by Ton Ko-Thi African drummers and dancers, with a libation by Adekola Adedapo. Former TV news anchor Vivian King was the Master of Ceremonies for the two hour event. Dr. William Edward Finlayson was honored with the Milwaukee Living Legacy Award this year. Past recipients of the award have included Spencer Coggs, Cordelia Taylor, Kathie Walker, Erica Lofton, McArthur “Mac” Weddle, Dr. Lester Carter, Neva Hill, Debrah Tatum, Brandon Pope, Mother Annie Naomi Scott, Edward Montgomery, Cherrye Trotman, and Vel Phillps.

Dr. Finlayson is a Milwaukee obstetrician and gynecologist who established his own private practice in Milwaukee from 1958 until 1997. In 1971, Dr. Finlayson founded the first black-owned bank in Milwaukee, North Milwaukee State Bank, to facilitate community development and economic growth, personal and business advancement, home ownership growth, and financial education.

Working as co-sponsors for the event with President Hamilton and Alderman Johnson were Alderwoman Milele A. Coggs, Alderwoman Nikiya Dodd, Alderman Khalif J. Rainey, Alderwoman Chantia Lewis, and Alderman Russell W. Stamper, II.

Entertainment also included a song performed by Khaliah Baker, and Golda Meir Middle School student Janiya Williams shared her winning poem from the 2019 MLK speech contest, which has been hosted by MPS for the past 35 years.

“I see the news and I flinch black kids are getting shot down for sleeping on a bench. I can’t breathe just like I can’t believe why these parents have to grieve. From Eric to Trayvon everything has gone wrong all because we forget that we were all made equal. Made as one so why can’t we just find the strength to just put down the guns. Equal, all of gods people put on this earth as brothers and sisters misses and misters, unalarmed, unharmed and unarmed.”

The entire audio of the spoken word by Williams is presented here, along with images that showcase highlights from the event.

28 Days of Black History

Black History Month is a history that is still being written today. Throughout February, several key Milwaukee Black History makers were featured on the City of Milwaukee website. The prominent online spot gave students and the general public across the city a chance to learn about and to honor some of Milwaukee’s unsung heroes.

Lee Holloway
Milwaukee County supervisor for 20 years (1992-2012); first African-American Chair of the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors and first African-American to serve as County Executive; led efforts to create a county general assistance medical program—a health safety net—that subsequently was expanded statewide as Badger Care.

WNOV
Radio station est. 1967; “The Voice” of Milwaukee’s African-American community.

St. Mark AME Church
First African-American church established in Milwaukee, in 1914; originally at 4th St. and Kilbourn, it moved a few times before settling in its current home at 1616 W. Atkinson.

Paul Robeson
Paul Robeson was an African-American bass baritone concert artist, and stage and film actor who became famous both for his cultural accomplishments and for his political activism. While working on his law degree at Columbia University in 1922, he was recruited to play for the NFL’s Milwaukee Badgers.

Mabel Watson Raimey
First African-American woman to: graduate from UW-Madison, attend Marquette Law School, and be admitted to the WI State Bar.

Joe Oliver
First recorded black settler in Milwaukee, hired in 1835 as a cook for Milwaukee founding father and first mayor Solomon Juneau. Also cast a vote in a city election in September 1835.

Milwaukee Urban League
Social agency offering programs that are designed to help African-Americans and other people of color achieve civil rights and social and economic equality so they can become more self-reliant members of society. Milwaukee affiliate est. 1919.

Milwaukee Courier
Est. 1964; the oldest African-American-focused weekly newspaper of the three in the city; Owned by Courier Communications, which also owns radio station WNOV.

Milwaukee Community Journal
The Milwaukee Community Journal is the largest African-American-owned and-operated newspaper in Wisconsin and one of three in Milwaukee. The MCJ has been a strong advocate of academic excellence since its inception in 1976.

Colin Kaepernick
Colin Kaepernick is a former quarterback of the National Football League. He played with the San Francisco 49ers from 2011-2016. He is known for his civil rights activism, expressed by kneeling during the national anthem prior to games as a protest against racial injustice and systematic oppression, especially of African Americans. He was born in Milwaukee in 1987.

Grant Gordon
First Lt. Grant Gordon, leader of the 320th Battalion was the only African American in his officer training class. After the war, Gordon settled in Milwaukee, where he and his wife, Lucinda, raised two children. He was the first African American school principal in MPS, where he worked for 35 years. He was active in the Urban League served as president of the Milwaukee chapter of the NAACP.

Howard Fuller
Dr. Howard Fuller is a distinguished professor of education and both founder and director of the Institute for the Transformation of Learning at Marquette University. He is board chair and cofounder of the Black Alliance for Educational Options. From 1991 to 1995, Howard Fuller served as superintendent of MPS.

Spencer Coggs
After a long term of service in the WI Assembly and Senate, Spencer Coggs became the first African-American to be elected Milwaukee City Treasurer (and first African-American elected to any city executive branch office).

Henry “Hank” Aaron
Baseball legend who played for both Milwaukee Braves and Brewers; his Chasing the Dream Foundation awards scholarships through the Boys & Girls Clubs, the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, and UW-Madison; State Trail namesake.

Glorious Malone
Glorious Malone was a food industry entrepreneur in Milwaukee’s Bronzeville neighborhood, along with her husband George and her father Sterling Williams. They started out by opening a grocery store together in 1961 that specialized in produce from the American south and featured George’s personal recipe for headcheese, which differed greatly from the European-style headcheese that was common around the city. After George’s death in 1971, Glorious incorporated the business as Malone’s Fine Sausage, Inc. She was the first African American woman in the U.S. to obtain meat inspection accreditation from the USDA and to own and run a federally inspected plant. After Glorious died in 2007, her daughter Daphne Jones added her mother’s first name to the company name.

Shirley J. Lanier
Shirley J. Lanier is one of three co-founders of Legacy Bank, which was the only bank in the country organized and run by African American women. Beginning in 1999, it provided financial services and business loans to Milwaukee’s central city until the economic downturn forced its sale to Seaway Bank in 2011.

Margaret Henningsen
Margaret Henningsen is one of three co-founders of Legacy Bank, which was the only bank in the country organized and run by African American women. Beginning in 1999, it provided financial services and business loans to Milwaukee’s central city until the economic downturn forced its sale to Seaway Bank in 2011. Committed to social causes, she also worked at the Social Development Commission and the Women’s Fund of Greater Milwaukee, retiring as its executive director in 2016.

Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes
The first African American to serve as Wisconsin’s Lieutenant Governor and only the second to be elected to a statewide office. (The first was Vel Phillips, who was elected Secretary of State in 1978.) He represented the 11th Assembly District in the state legislature from 2013-2017, and was defeated in a race for state Senate in 2016. Before his career as an elected official he worked as an organizer for Milwaukee Inner-city Congregations Allied for Hope (M.I.C.A.H.).

Willie Perkins, Sr.
Started Mr. Perkins Family Restaurant, a Milwaukee culinary institution, along with his wife Hilda. The restaurant, known for its soul food menu, opened in 1969, and will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2019. Its customers come from around the city to share good food and conversation, and it has also attracted a number of celebrities such as Danny Glover and Michael Jordan.

Rep. Kalan Haywood
Represents the 16th District in the Wisconsin Assembly. Elected in November 2018, the 19-year-old Cardinal Stritch University student is the youngest legislator in the state and perhaps the country. During his high school years he served on Milwaukee’s Youth Council and was elected President of that body for his last two years before he graduated in 2017.

Frances Brock Starms
Frances Brock Starms was an educator, writer and poet, and began working for the Milwaukee Public Schools in 1950. She was one of only several living persons after whom a Milwaukee Public School has been named, and there are actually three that bear her name: Starms Early Childhood Center, Starms Monumental Baptist Early Childhood Center, and Starms Discovery Learning Center. During her teaching career, she became the first African American to be appointed as director of the Head Start Program. After her retirement, she remained a strong advocate for the educational success of all children. She received numerous awards and citations and her writings have been published in numerous local publications. Her poems express the richness and enduring strength of the African-American heritage.

Dr. William Edward Finlayson
Milwaukee obstetrician and gynecologist. He established is own private practice in Milwaukee in 1958, which he ran for forty years until 1997. He also taught at the Medical College of Wisconsin and the University of Wisconsin Medical School. In 1971, Finlayson founded the first black-owned bank in Milwaukee, North Milwaukee State Bank where he serves on the board of directors and is the bank’s chairman. In founding the bank, Finlayson’s mission was not profit based. Rather, he intended to add stature and viability to underserved communities by offering full-service banking to individuals and businesses. North Milwaukee State Bank’s mission is to facilitate community development and economic growth, personal and business advancement, home ownership growth, and financial education. Finlayson is also a member of the Urban League and a lifetime member of the NAACP.

Deloris Sims
One of three co-founders of Legacy Bank, which was the only bank in the country organized and run by African American women. Beginning in 1999, it provided financial services and business loans to Milwaukee’s central city until the economic downturn forced its sale to Seaway Bank in 2011. Legacy Bank opened in a former Firstar Bank building where Sims had worked for most of her career up to that point, and she was Legacy’s first president and CEO.

Clayborn Benson
Founded the Wisconsin Black Historical Society and Museum in 1987. He currently serves as the organization’s Executive Director. The Wisconsin Black Historical Society and Museum is the only institution in the state that collects and preserves African-American history specific to Wisconsin. Benson also worked at WTMJ-TV as a photojournalist for 39 years.

Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Appointed the State Superintendent of Public Instruction in January 2019, succeeding Tony Evers after his election as governor. She is the first African American to hold that post in Wisconsin, and previously was the first female African American to serve as an assistant State Superintendent. In her earlier career at the Madison Metropolitan School District, she became the first African American President of the local teachers union.

About The Author

Lee Matz

Former Creative Director and Photojournalist for the Milwaukee Business Journal, Lee brings his years of international experience as an award-winning foreign correspondent in Asia and Europe. Lee proudly uses MCTS as the exclusive mode of transportation for covering all his news reports.