The “Milwaukee Rally for Unity and Pride” was held in front of the Federal Courthouse on June 11, in conjunction with nationwide rallies and marches in support of the LGBT community.

Held over the PrideFest weekend in Milwaukee, the peaceful assembly was designed to bring attention to the past successes and continuing challenges within the LGBT population for equal justice under the law. It also emphasized the need for all levels of community unity in Milwaukee across gender, religious, sеxual, and ethnic boundaries.

Speakers at the event included Chris Ott, director of the ACLU of Wisconsin, Christine Neumann-Ortiz, executive director of Voces de la Frontera, State Representative JoCasta Zamarripa, and State Senator Tim Carpenter.

Elana Kahn, director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation, and Janan Najeeb, president of the Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition, also presented messages of unity and support, both personally and from their faith backgrounds. Those public statements are published here to serve as a reminder of the continuing efforts needed to maintain equality for all residents of Milwaukee.

Statement of Unity and Pride

Elana Kahn
Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation

My grandparents came to this country seeking freedom from religious persecution and dreaming of the ‘Golden Land.’ They worked in sweatshops, sold cattle, opened a grocery store in Milwaukee, and were grateful for the freedoms and opportunities they found in this country.

They joined an American society where religion was a private matter, practiced in homes and houses of worship. The laws of this land gave them that freedom, and protected them from coercion or discrimination.

We are a nation built on laws that protect the freedoms guaranteed to us in the constitution – The free exercise of religion, freedom of speech, freedom to gather, freedom to do exactly what we’re doing today.

My grandparents came to America rooted in the Jewish value that all people are created in the image of God. All people, of equal and infinite value, no exceptions and no preferences, for we are all created with a spark of the divine. And they found a country rooted in the same concept, that all men, indeed all people, were created equal.

How blessed we are to gather today:

  • Fifty years since the Supreme Court ruled that it is illegal to deny two people of different races the right to marry.
  • Fifty years since Milwaukeeans marched, for two hundred consecutive days, against racial segregation and prejudice and in support of the passage of an open housing bill.
  • Two years since the United States Supreme Court ruled that same sex couples have the same right to marry as heterosexual couples.
  • One year since the horrific murdеrs at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.
  • Almost one year since my cousin, granddaughter of immigrants who arrived in America seeking religious freedom, married her Lisa, her partner of thirty years, surrounded in by their children and their families.
  • We gather after a year in which we’ve seen a dramatic rise in acts of hate directed against Jews, Muslims, immigrants, LGBTQ people and other minority groups.

We have come together in grief, in outrage, in desperation, and in celebration. But today we gather in pride and in unity, and fired up by the charge to continue to be vigilant in our insistence that the American aspirations of freedom, liberty, and equality extend to all of us.

We must continue to be vigilant:

  • To create and uphold laws protecting people of all faiths and creeds.
  • To reject the use of religion to deny people their rights.
  • To call out hatred whenever and wherever we see it.
  • And, in the words of the prophet Micah, ‘to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.’

I am honored to stand with you today as we rally in pride, in celebration of the multiple ways that we are different from each other – how we look, live, love and pray – and in unity as we continue to fight for the freedoms that make this country a beacon of hope.

June 11, 2017

Statement of Unity and Pride

Janan Najeeb
President of the Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition

This same weekend, timed to coincide with the holy month of Ramadan, when Muslims around the world are fasting during the daylight hours, groups gathered to rally in more than 29 large cities around the country. This same weekend, they rallied not for Unity and Pride, but for division and hate. ACT for America, the nation’s largest anti-Muslim hate group, galvanized white supremacists and Christian militias to rally against Muslims, calling for a ban on Muslims, deportation of Muslims and even internment camps for Muslims. These protests explicitly target Muslims with the intent to instigate and divide us as Americans.

But where others promote hate, we join together today in a show of love and unity. We embrace the values of pluralism, diversity and liberty for all. We recognize that regardless of what haters want, Muslims also have the right to be unapologetically Muslim!

We must stand against irresponsible politicians who for their own political gain, wish to promote fear, division and bigotry within America.

Muslims don’t have a monopoly on criminals, we reject criminals and terrorists like the one that committed the horrific attack at the Pulse Nightclub last year, we refuse to allow them to define our faith. We also should not be held responsible for the results of our country’s misguided foreign policies and immoral wars. We reject attempts by those that want to impose collective guilt on Islam and all Muslims.

For years, the LGBTQ community has stood in solidarity with the Muslim community against acts of hate, Islamophobia and other forms of discrimination. Today my brothers and sisters, we stand in solidarity against violence and racism because racism against one group cannot be dismantled until racism against all groups is dismantled.

During this blessed month of Ramadan, may God help us to recognize and celebrate the common humanity that we share.

As Muslims, we believe that God bestowed dignity upon every human being.

I would like to end with a reading from the Quran:

‘O Humanity! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may come to know and cherish one another (not despise each other). Truly, the most honored of you in the sight of God is the most righteous of you. And know that God has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).’

‘And of God’s signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth and the diversity of your languages and your colors. Indeed in that are signs for those of knowledge.’

Let us commit to unity and pride and reject division and hate.

June 11, 2017