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Four Democratic candidates for President spoke at a public forum in Milwaukee on July 11 at the Wisconsin Center, organized by the Hispanic Civil Rights organization, LULAC.

The LULAC event was joined by former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and former U.S. Congressman Beto O’Rourke (D-TX), for a bilingual evening on a national stage.

The League of United Latin American Citizens and Univision partnered to produce the nation’s first Campaign 2020 Presidential Town Hall for the Hispanic community, during the 90th Anniversary LULAC National Convention and Expo.

“Univision’s exclusive polling of Latino eligible voters attests that our community is listening closely to the candidates vying to occupy the White House in 2020. They are turning to Univision News properties to become informed voters,” says Lourdes Torres, Univision’s Senior Vice President for special projects. “Events such as these play a major role in reminding candidates that they also must talk to Latinos and we are excited to partner with LULAC in this task.”

Led by LULAC President Domingo Garcia and CEO Sindy Benavides, LULAC’s four-day convention was estimated to attract over 20,000 Latino leaders from across the country for seminars and events. Anchoring the Town Hall broadcast on-stage for Univision was the celebrated news anchor Enrique Acevedo. Alongside him for LULAC was David Cruz, also an award winning broadcast network journalist.

Each of the Presidential hopefuls gave a two minute introduction to the live audience in Milwaukee – broadcast nationwide, to pitch why they deserved the Latinx vote. That segment was followed by an interview with Acevedo, and a Q&A with members of the audience facilitated by Cruz. Departing the Town Hall stage after presenting closing remarks, the audience was asked how the candidates responded to their questions.

All images published here were taken by the Milwaukee Independent during the Presidential Town Hall. Univision provided a LiveStream of the broadcast, which has been edited into segments by candidate, and displayed with selected quotes from each speaker during the event.

Julian Castro @ LULAC MKE 2019 Town Hall - YouTube
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  • Julián Castro,
    former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development

We have these little children that are being separated from their parents, that are being kept in conditions where some of them don’t have soap, they don’t have toothbrushes, they’re crowded into pens. They’re going to be traumatized, many of them, for the rest of their lives.

From 1929 to about 2004, we actually used to treat someone crossing the border as a civil violation, not a criminal one. Post 9/11, it started being treated as a crime and then we started seeing a lot of the problems we are seeing today.

It makes no sense to make a policy based out of fear. I’m not going to make policy based out of fear. I’m going to make policy to stand up for people who need a voice right now.

The question is: are we going to continue to be a nation that expands opportunities? Or are we going to go backward and become a nation where opportunity is only afforded to those who look a certain way and who sound a certain way?

Elizabeth Warren @ LULAC MKE 2019 Town Hall - YouTube
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  • Elizabeth Warren
    U.S. Senator (D-MA)

Wow, he’s going to follow the law (in response to a question about Trump backtracking on efforts to add the citizenship question to the census)? This is not about trying to find out real information about citizenship and non-citizenship in America. This is just about trying to stir up more hate. To try to get some more people excited.

Donald Trump has one big message to the American people: If there’s something wrong in your life, if there’s something that’s not working, blame them. Blame people who don’t look like you. Blame people who don’t sound like you. Blame people who don’t pray like you. Blame people who weren’t born where you were born.

No great nation tears families apart. No great nation locks up children. We need to provide more aid around the world, particularly in central America. We should be a country that builds a future here, in America, and helps people do that around the world.

We have a chance in 2020, in a democracy, to take back the government and make sure it works for all of us. We can attack the corruption of a government in Washington that only works for those with money. We can attack it head on. And we can make this government work not just for those at the top, but for everyone.

Bernie Sanders @ LULAC MKE 2019 Town Hall - YouTube
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Hosted at the Potawatomi Hotel on July 10, the Wisconsin Celebration event kicked of the 2019 LULAC National Convention in Milwaukee, featuring a renewed round of support by elected leaders on a range of issues including immigrant drivers permits.

Governor Tony Evers and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett shared their support for legislation that would allow immigrants to get a Wisconsin State issued drivers permit. And for the for the first time publicly, Milwaukee Police Department Chief Alfonso Morales offered his support for such legislation, because he said he felt it would reduce reckless driving.

“As a Hispanic community, maybe if we get into an accident, we’re not going to flee from the police. Because with a drivers permit, there’s no need to flee,” said Chief Morales. “And for us in law enforcement, we need to a way to identify who is driving a vehicle when something happens. So, it’s a win-win for us all.”

A 2017 Stanford University study found that drivers permits for immigrants saved $3.5 million in out-of-pocket expense and transferred $17 million in costs to at-fault drivers.

“We want to thank Milwaukee Police Department Chief Alfonso Morales for making this smart law enforcement position,” said Eileen Figueroa, LULAC Wisconsin State Director. “The facts are clear, when you look at data from the thirteen states and the District of Columbia where they have implemented such legislation, there is a dramatic improvement in road safety, not to mention accelerated economic growth. In Colorado, they have realized such improvement they have allocated additional funds to get more driving with drivers permits.”

From a public safety perspective, it gives law enforcement and first responders the information they need to quickly identify an individual, evaluate the situation, and provide the appropriate response. The result is better public safety.

“In California, they realized a reduction of approximately 4,000 hit-and-run incidents,“ said Darryl Morin, Past LULAC National VP-Midwest. “This not only allowed law enforcement to focus more resources on serious crimes, but it also eliminated millions of dollars in out-of-pocket expenses as there was a dramatic increase in the number of motorists driving with insurance. This would be good for Wisconsin.”

The proposal comes a day after the Milwaukee Common Council approved a resolution calling for visas for parents and spouses of DACA or TPS recipients on July 9. The resolution urged the United States Congress to introduce and pass legislation that would create a three-year renewable visa program for the spouses and parents of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) recipients.

Common Council File #190557, sponsored by Alderman José G. Pérez, called for a visa program that would allow undocumented parents and spouses to stay and work legally to provide for the economic, physical, and emotional security and development of their family. The resolution was co-sponsored by the entire Common Council.

Milwaukee became just the third U.S. city to pass the legislation, which calls for visas and work permits to be issued on proof that the applicant has no criminal convictions.

“I’m proud of all of my colleagues on the Council for showing their unanimous support for this important resolution,” said Alderman Pérez. “Approving this legislation was a fitting way to welcome the League of United Latin American Citizens Convention to Milwaukee.”

The 90th LULAC National Convention and Exposition was held from July 10 to 13 in Milwaukee.

“LULAC has fought to advance the civil rights of Hispanic Americans for 90 years,” added Alderman Pérez. “It’s an honor to host the organization’s national convention in our city.”

© Photo

Lee Matz

15 July - Monday 16 July - Tuesday 17 July - Wednesday
  • LULAC members swarm Senator Ron Johnson’s Milwaukee office in protest of “Kids in Cages” at border
  • Lights for Liberty coalition holds vigil to shine a light on the darkness of detention camps
  • Politics and Puppets: How oligarchs profit from Trump’s division of Americans
18 July - Thursday
  • Border Patrol Agents found mocking care of migrant kids with unofficial commemorative coin
  • A list of 20 things any individual can do right now to help immigrant families
  • America’s longstanding history for harsh punishment of undocumented residents
19 July - Friday
  • Civil Rights forum in Milwaukee calls for greater national protection of LGBTQ Latinxs
  • Milwaukee’s PrideFest and Pride Parade set new records in 2019 for public participation
  • LULAC and Airbnb partner ahead of 2020 DNC to promote entrepreneurship for Latinx women

The post Chief Alfonso Morales joins Wisconsin leaders in support of drivers permits for immigrants appeared first on The Milwaukee Independent.

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The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) was joined by Puerto Rican leaders in Milwaukee on July 11, who shared the harsh reality still facing the Island in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

In May, LULAC helped lobby approval for the $19.1 billion Federal Disaster Aid bill, securing nearly $1 billion in immediate relief for the beleaguered island. However, mounting losses continue in the wake of the unprecedented devastation, and more help is needed to prevent problems from spiraling out of control.

“Even though almost two years have passed, the people of Puerto Rico are struggling to recover from a natural disaster that no other generation on the Island has ever seen before,” said Carmelo Rios, Puerto Rico Senate Majority Leader and NHCSL President. “The recovery process from the U.S. government has not been sufficient, but as part of our efforts, we are promoting Puerto Rico as a tourist destination that will help revamp our economy. We look forward to showing the world everything that Puerto Rico has to offer.”

The public conversation on “The Untold Story of Puerto Rico Continues” was joined by Regla Gonzalez, Special Assistant to the LULAC National President; Wilson Roman, Representative (District 17); Jose Enrique Melendez, Representative at Large – Puerto Rico House of Representatives; Carmelo Rios, Puerto Rico Senate Majority Leader and NHCSL President; and Annabel Guillen, President of Igualdad – Federal Affairs Advisor, Puerto Rico Senate.

LULAC shared its continued support to fellow U.S. citizens who reside in Puerto Rico, regarding their legitimate right as U.S. citizens to be able to vote in Presidential elections, as well as for their corresponding voting members of Congress. The organization also remains committed to push government officials to provide equal opportunities and treatment to the three million U.S. citizens residing in the Island.

Approximately 97 percent of Puerto Rican voters favored becoming America’s 51st state. However, the results are non-binding and the decision to make Puerto Rico a state can only be implemented by Congress. LULAC has been a strong advocate for Puerto Rico’s statehood, urging Congress to grant all American citizens, regardless of where they reside, equal protections and benefits. Giving statehood to Puerto Rico falls in line with our founding principles as stated in the preamble of the U.S. Constitution to help “create a more perfect Union.”

“Puerto Ricans deserve the same equal rights as all Americans. The island is facing detrimental hardship after filing for the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history last year. Statehood would provide the people of Puerto Rico with better career and educational opportunities as well as grant the island access to an increase in federal funds,” said Roger C. Rocha, Jr., LULAC’s former National President in a 2017 statement.

The island currently receives significantly less funds for programs like Medicaid, compared to U.S. states. Statehood would provide Puerto Rico with more power in Congress and more influence on national issues that transcend the states and impact the island.

© Photo

Lee Matz

15 July - Monday 16 July - Tuesday 17 July - Wednesday
  • LULAC members swarm Senator Ron Johnson’s Milwaukee office in protest of “Kids in Cages” at border
  • Lights for Liberty coalition holds vigil to shine a light on the darkness of detention camps
  • Politics and Puppets: How oligarchs profit from Trump’s division of Americans
18 July - Thursday
  • Border Patrol Agents found mocking care of migrant kids with unofficial commemorative coin
  • A list of 20 things any individual can do right now to help immigrant families
  • America’s longstanding history for harsh punishment of undocumented residents
19 July - Friday
  • Civil Rights forum in Milwaukee calls for greater national protection of LGBTQ Latinxs
  • Milwaukee’s PrideFest and Pride Parade set new records in 2019 for public participation
  • LULAC and Airbnb partner ahead of 2020 DNC to promote entrepreneurship for Latinx women

The post Puerto Rican leaders share love of America and need for disaster relief during Milwaukee visit appeared first on The Milwaukee Independent.

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Potawatomi Hotel hosted the Wisconsin Celebration VIP reception on July 10 for the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), kicking off the Civil Rights organization’s 90th Annual National Convention and Exposition in Milwaukee.

LULAC is the oldest surviving Latino civil rights organization in the United States. It was established in 1929 by Hispanic veterans of World War I, who sought to end ethnic discrimination against Latinos in America. According to Pew Research, Hispanics will be for the first time the largest racial or ethnic minority group in the electorate in the 2020 election, making their participation even more important and impactful.

“Latinos make up nearly 20% of the United States population and our voice is truly our vote,” said Joe Henry to a LULAC Special Advisor. “We are a young community with 28 million eligible members ready to vote. We cherish America’s democracy and will continue to fight for the right to vote.”

Milwaukee was selected as the host city for the organization’s national convention and exposition, celebrating its 90th anniversary by uniting and empowering Hispanic Americans. The four day gathering was expected to bring visitors from across the country and as far as Puerto Rico, with estimates of up to 25,000 to attend. It also provided a national stage for several presidential candidates, including former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and former U.S. Congressman Beto O’Rourke (D-TX).

“Over the years many Hispanic organizations have come and gone, but LULAC has remained. It is the shield that perseveres and protects our community in America,” said Domingo Garcia, LULAC National President. “Today, LULAC’ers are helping refugees on the border. LULAC is fighting to bring deported veterans home and helping make sure that those veterans who served our country receive the care and services they were promised.”

During the dinner, local and national leaders shared their plans and hopes for the historic convention. Featured speakers included former Second Lady of the United States Dr. Jill Biden, Governor of Wisconsin Tony Evers, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele; NY Mets and Former Milwaukee Brewers All-StarCarlos Gomez, District 12 Alderman Jose Perez, and Wisconsin Representative JoCasta Zamarripa, Domingo Garcia, LULAC National President, Sindy Benavides, LULAC Chief Executive Officer, President and CEO of UMOS and Chair of LULAC National Convention Committee Lupe Martinez, Milwaukee Police Department Chief Alfonso Morales, President of LULAC Council 340 and state director of LULAC Wisconsin Eileen Figueroa, past LULAC National VP-Midwest Darryl Morin, and Marine veteran Eugene Manzanet.

“LULAC has a long-storied history of serving our nation’s Hispanic community. From providing legal and financial assistance in Mendez v. Westminster that led to the desegregation of schools, to LULAC’s ‘Little Schools of the 400’ which served as the model for today’s Federal Head Start Program, to your efforts right here in our state to defend voting rights, LULAC has played an essential role in forming important policy and legislation,” said Governor Tony Evers.

Issues like immigration and the citizenship question on the 2020 census were hot topics. Governor Evers shared his disappointment about the stalled initiative to issue drivers permits to immigrants in Wisconsin. The legislation would have also allowed undocumented students to attend University of Wisconsin schools at the price of instate tuition.

“The Republicans took that out of the budget,” Governor Evers said. “At the end of the day, I believe it was all about politics. They chose to be divisive and less pragmatic than it was my hope they would be. But the good news is we are not giving up here in Wisconsin. We are going to have this happen.”

Wisconsin Representative JoCasta Zamarripa’s district in the State Assembly has the largest population density of Hispanics in Wisconsin. She has proposed legislative bills for years that would allow undocumented immigrants to apply for a drivers permit. She felt the LULAC convention was a good test for next years 2020 Democratic National Convention.

“I believe that, in many ways, this is a dry run for Milwaukee to prepare for hosting the DNC next year,” said Representative Zamarripa. “It also says a lot about our community, that these national conventions are choosing Milwaukee. It shows that we’re on the cutting edge with young professionals. We’re a fast-growing city.”

By registering to vote, voting, participating in town halls, and community involvement, Latinos have become an important voting bloc, and one that has threatened the privileged political establishment. Part of the backlash in immigration policy, like previous policy measures, have targeted people of color to deny or mitigate their vote.

“The 2020 national elections are a critical opportunity to position our communities of color towards a better and brighter future,” said LULAC CEO Sindy Benavides. “Democracy and voting are one of the most powerful tools we have to harness our potential to organize and advocate for a more equitable future. We urge our members and followers to use your voice, register to vote, and turn out at the polls.”

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Potawatomi Hotel hosted the Wisconsin Celebration VIP reception on July 10 for the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), kicking off the Civil Rights organization’s 90th Annual National Convention and Exposition in Milwaukee.

LULAC is the oldest surviving Latino civil rights organization in the United States. It was established in 1929 by Hispanic veterans of World War I, who sought to end ethnic discrimination against Latinos in America. According to Pew Research, Hispanics will be for the first time the largest racial or ethnic minority group in the electorate in the 2020 election, making their participation even more important and impactful.

“Latinos make up nearly 20% of the United States population and our voice is truly our vote,” said Joe Henry to a LULAC Special Advisor. “We are a young community with 28 million eligible members ready to vote. We cherish America’s democracy and will continue to fight for the right to vote.”

Milwaukee was selected as the host city for the organization’s national convention and exposition, celebrating its 90th anniversary by uniting and empowering Hispanic Americans. The four day gathering was expected to bring visitors from across the country and as far as Puerto Rico, with estimates of up to 25,000 to attend. It also provided a national stage for several presidential candidates, including former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and former U.S. Congressman Beto O’Rourke (D-TX).

“Over the years many Hispanic organizations have come and gone, but LULAC has remained. It is the shield that perseveres and protects our community in America,” said Domingo Garcia, LULAC National President. “Today, LULAC’ers are helping refugees on the border. LULAC is fighting to bring deported veterans home and helping make sure that those veterans who served our country receive the care and services they were promised.”

During the dinner, local and national leaders shared their plans and hopes for the historic convention. Featured speakers included former Second Lady of the United States Dr. Jill Biden, Governor of Wisconsin Tony Evers, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele; NY Mets and Former Milwaukee Brewers All-StarCarlos Gomez, District 12 Alderman Jose Perez, and Wisconsin Representative JoCasta Zamarripa, Domingo Garcia, LULAC National President, Sindy Benavides, LULAC Chief Executive Officer, President and CEO of UMOS and Chair of LULAC National Convention Committee Lupe Martinez, Milwaukee Police Department Chief Alfonso Morales, President of LULAC Council 340 and state director of LULAC Wisconsin Eileen Figueroa, past LULAC National VP-Midwest Darryl Morin, and Marine veteran Eugene Manzanet.

“LULAC has a long-storied history of serving our nation’s Hispanic community. From providing legal and financial assistance in Mendez v. Westminster that led to the desegregation of schools, to LULAC’s ‘Little Schools of the 400’ which served as the model for today’s Federal Head Start Program, to your efforts right here in our state to defend voting rights, LULAC has played an essential role in forming important policy and legislation,” said Governor Tony Evers.

Issues like immigration and the citizenship question on the 2020 census were hot topics. Governor Evers shared his disappointment about the stalled initiative to issue drivers permits to immigrants in Wisconsin. The legislation would have also allowed undocumented students to attend University of Wisconsin schools at the price of instate tuition.

“The Republicans took that out of the budget,” Governor Evers said. “At the end of the day, I believe it was all about politics. They chose to be divisive and less pragmatic than it was my hope they would be. But the good news is we are not giving up here in Wisconsin. We are going to have this happen.”

Wisconsin Representative JoCasta Zamarripa’s district in the State Assembly has the largest population density of Hispanics in Wisconsin. She has proposed legislative bills for years that would allow undocumented immigrants to apply for a drivers permit. She felt the LULAC convention was a good test for next years 2020 Democratic National Convention.

“I believe that, in many ways, this is a dry run for Milwaukee to prepare for hosting the DNC next year,” said Representative Zamarripa. “It also says a lot about our community, that these national conventions are choosing Milwaukee. It shows that we’re on the cutting edge with young professionals. We’re a fast-growing city.”

By registering to vote, voting, participating in town halls, and community involvement, Latinos have become an important voting bloc, and one that has threatened the privileged political establishment. Part of the backlash in immigration policy, like previous policy measures, have targeted people of color to deny or mitigate their vote.

“The 2020 national elections are a critical opportunity to position our communities of color towards a better and brighter future,” said LULAC CEO Sindy Benavides. “Democracy and voting are one of the most powerful tools we have to harness our potential to organize and advocate for a more equitable future. We urge our members and followers to use your voice, register to vote, and turn out at the polls.”

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Even though the Latino community is the fastest growing ethnic population in Wisconsin, the group has at times been considered northern cousins far removed from issues affecting border states. But the long overdue national affirmation was made official when the National President of LULAC, Domingo Garcia, cut the symbolic red ribbon to open the 90th Annual National Convention and Exposition for the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) on July 11 in Milwaukee.

The convention organized a variety of free workshops for young Latino adults and professionals, and was highly anticipated for hosting a Presidential Town Hall with top candidates.

“The City of Milwaukee features a history and heritage with an energetic and ever growing Latino population,” said Lupe Martinez, President and CEO of United Migrant Opportunity Services (UMOS) and LULAC National Convention Chair. “The conference brought Wisconsin into the limelight, and people saw all the wonderful things happening here in our Milwaukee community.”

The LULAC event was seen as important economic opportunity for Milwaukee, and a test for how the city will manage the Democratic National Convention a year later. It also afforded local leaders the chance to show the nation what governance with integrity and shared respect looked like.

“After nine decades of service, LULAC’s founding purpose remains the same. Our mission is to protect and defend Latinos across the U.S. and Puerto Rico. We know that there are many opportunities and challenges still ahead,” said Sindy M. Benavides, LULAC National Chief Executive Officer. “I want to express my gratitude for your courage, your thoughtful investment of time, energy, and resources. We have come together as a united community to empower the next generation of advocates and reach our full potential.”

The convention also signaled LULAC’s official start for defensive preparations for the 2020 U.S. Census. Under the direction of the Trump Administration, the process has aimed to punish the Latino community by undercounting the population’s representation or questioning citizenship as a method to instill fear.

“Milwaukee is one of the most segregated cities in the country, but not when it comes to building partnerships within the community,” said Eileen Figueroa , LULAC Wisconsin State Director and President of LULAC WI Council 340. “We are currently facing many injustices that affect our Latino community. Children are being taken from their mother’s arms, there is systematically inhumane treatment at the border, a disregard for human life in detention camps, and undocumented veterans who scarified everything for this country are deported. It is now, more than ever, that we need to unite and educate ourselves for the future of our people.”

The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) was founded in 1929 in Texas to serve as an advocate for the Constitutionally-guaranteed rights and freedoms of Latinos in the United States.

“What we’re seeing with our community at this very moment in America’s history is a high level of fear,” added Benavides. “And for many in our community, it’s really looking at the fact that who gets elected matters. Who sits at the local, at the state, at the national level, matters. As individuals and a collective, we have a role to play in our democracy, and when we work together we can make a greater impact.

President Donald Trump was asked to speak at LULAC’s July 11 Town Hall, along with the other 2020 presidential candidates, but he never responded to the invitation. LULAC leadership said they did not think it was a coincidence that Trump planned a fundraising visit to Milwaukee at Derco Aerospace for a day after the Democratic candidates spoke at their event.

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The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the nation’s oldest Latino civil rights organization, held its 90th annual national convention in Milwaukee from July 10 to 13. While this year’s LULAC convention will be the largest national Latino meeting organized in Milwaukee’s history, it certainly will be the first of its kind.

That honor belongs to the 1971 Milwaukee Latin American Convention, an event organized to harness an upsurge in social movement activism among the city’s growing Mexican American and Puerto Rican communities. In 1970, more than 20,000 Latinos called Milwaukee home. They were bound together not just by a common language and related cultural heritages, but also by shared concerns over employment, housing, and educational opportunities.

On the near South Side, where the majority of the city’s Latinos lived, 20 percent of residents suffered from unemployment, a marked disparity from the city’s overall unemployment rate of 6 percent. Latinos faced disproportionately higher rates of overcrowding and lower median property values than other Milwaukeeans. The city’s K-12 and higher education systems, meanwhile, failed to offer curriculum or programs that spoke to young Latinos’ linguistic diversity or cultural heritage, much less their lived experiences.

In response to these persistent inequalities, several Latino organizations emerged as vocal and integral members of the city’s larger civil rights movement. Like their African American contemporaries, Latino activists demanded full access to and participation in American political, economic and social life. Mexican Americans and Puerto Ricans formed organizations like the Latin American Union for Civil Rights, or LAUCR, as well as chapters of the farmworker union boycott movement and the Young Lords Organization. These groups produced energy and enthusiasm for change but at times lacked cohesion in their organizing efforts.

To coordinate the work of these organizations, the LAUCR proposed a statewide meeting for Wisconsin’s Latino communities in January 1971. The Milwaukee Journal referred to the conference as the “most ambitious organizing project” yet attempted among state Latinos. The LAUCR sought to create a “federation” of organizations that could address problems cooperatively while reducing the duplication of services among a growing assortment of nonprofits across the state. Most important, attendees hoped this collaboration would empower Wisconsin Latinos of all backgrounds to confront current and future needs within their own communities.

More than 800 attendees from Milwaukee, Racine, Waukesha, Delevan and Sheboygan assembled at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and St. Hyacinth Catholic Church for the convention. With delegates from block clubs, social service agencies, churches, social groups and businesses, the meeting brought together a wide range of political perspectives, ranging from those calling for militant and radical change to more conservative voices. Regardless of their political orientation, most attendees agreed on the need for a more robust and organized movement to build a strong base for social and political change.

Participants attended workshops addressing community problems, including employment, housing, education, social services and political engagement. They also heard from representatives from national organizations. Carlos Guerra, national chairman of the San Antonio-based Mexican American Youth Organization, described the recent political success of La Raza Unida Party, which had shaken Democratic Party politics in 26 Texas counties. A representative from the Chicago Young Lords Organization, meanwhile, detailed the establishment of a free breakfast program and medical clinic for children.

The conference’s most thrilling development, however, were the actions taken by a committed group of Milwaukee Latina activists. Calling their initiative “Power of Women (POW)-Fuerza Femenina,” the 60-member caucus seized the conference stage and presented a list of their demands.

They argued that women for too long had been relegated to “cooking tortillas” instead of being equal partners in building community institutions. The activists consequently urged that Latinas hold leadership positions on all boards of directors for agencies and organizations serving Latino communities in Wisconsin.

POW’s efforts to empower all members of the state’s Latino community, women included, spoke to the conference’s central message of solidarity. Participants of different nationalities and citizenship statuses spoke of “una raza unida,” a united community with the shared goal of Latino empowerment. Local media described the multiday convening as “more than a convention” and instead a “coming of age” for the city’s rising Mexican American and Puerto Rican populations.

Since the 1971 convening, Milwaukee’s Latino community has continued to grow, both demographically and politically. The 2019 LULAC national convention represents another chapter in this community’s long history of activism and political engagement, one that places it now on the national stage.

15 July - Monday 16 July - Tuesday
  • Presidential candidates Castro, Warren, Sanders, and O’Rourke visit Milwaukee for LULAC’s Town Hall
  • Chief Alfonso Morales joins Wisconsin leaders in support of drivers permits for immigrants
  • Puerto Rican leaders share love of America and need for disaster relief during Milwaukee visit
17 July - Wednesday
  • LULAC members swarm Senator Ron Johnson’s Milwaukee office in protest of “Kids in Cages” at border
  • Lights for Liberty coalition holds vigil to shine a light on the darkness of detention camps
  • Politics and Puppets: How oligarchs profit from Trump’s division of Americans
18 July - Thursday
  • Border Patrol Agents found mocking care of migrant kids with unofficial commemorative coin
  • A list of 20 things any individual can do right now to help immigrant families
  • America’s longstanding history for harsh punishment of undocumented residents
19 July - Friday
  • Civil Rights forum in Milwaukee calls for greater national protection of LGBTQ Latinxs
  • Milwaukee’s PrideFest and Pride Parade set new records in 2019 for public participation
  • LULAC and Airbnb partner ahead of 2020 DNC to promote entrepreneurship for Latinx women

The post How a vibrant local Latino history landed the LULAC national convention in Milwaukee appeared first on The Milwaukee Independent.

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Adopted from Korea along with her brother, artist Emma Daisy Gertel learned from her life journey to overcome her struggles with acceptance, belonging, and identity in order to celebrate being different and value her uniqueness.

As the creative talent behind the Westown Gateway Mural project, Gertel’s art is focused on uplifting and changing public behaviors towards each other, to help impact Milwaukee communities in positive ways. The goal of her work is to share the power of art, and make it more accessible physically, socially, and emotionally. With her latest mural along West Wisconsin Avenue, Gertel wants to leave a lasting message about transformative spaces as a reminder to celebrate our diversity rather than fear it.

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Q&A with Emma Daisy Gertel

Milwaukee Independent: Who had the biggest impact on your childhood, and do you still see that influence on your life today?

Emma Daisy Gertel: Not surprisingly, my parents had a huge impact on the person I am today. They strongly influenced my values, but beyond that, my parents have always been very proud of my brother and I and our accomplishments in life, no matter the size. Growing up, they were encouraging, but not coddling. They share their genuine amazement for the things that I do and create — art or otherwise. This has always affected my sense of self and my confidence, which in many ways has provided me with the emotional support to attempt a career in art.

Milwaukee Independent: What is the most memorable experience from your youth, growing up around the Milwaukee area.

Emma Daisy Gertel: No specific event really stands out in my memory. But overall, growing up in a very homogenized – mostly white – community in Waukesha, the memory of that experience was a resounding feeling of being different, with the desire and longing to fit in. Once, when I was little, I went to a gymnastics class and the other kids asked me why my face was so flat. I’m not sure I even understood in that moment why it felt so hurtful, but I never told my mom. I just begged her to let me quit gymnastics, but as a result I regret never learning how to do a cartwheel. Because my parents were not Asian, I didn’t know how to talk to them about those sorts of things when I was younger. I just wanted so badly to be like everyone else, to look like everyone else. I felt that way probably all the way through high school. Now I celebrate my differences, am proud of who I am, and thrive on uniqueness.

Milwaukee Independent: When did you first understand what it meant to be adopted, and how did the relationship with your natural brother help shape your self-identity?

Emma Daisy Gertel: I’m not sure I know exactly — sometime when I was very little. My parents were always very open about our adoption. They explained from the beginning what adoption was, how we arrived in America, and came to be a family. Though I understood what adoption meant, it really wasn’t until my twenties that I learned to fully embrace and appreciate my differences,. So acceptance, belonging, and identity were always parts of life that I struggled with. Because my biological brother and I were adopted together, we always had a sense of shared experience and a connection to where we came from. I think that was comforting, though I’m not sure I would have identified that feeling as a kid. I definitely took it for granted at times. That fact that we grew up together didn’t make me any less curious about where I came from. I was still just as curious to know who birthed me, where I was born, and those kind of questions. But I didn’t feel the same longing or “missing feeling” that foreign adopted children often describe. My adoptive parents are absolutely my family, and I never questioned whether we were meant to be anywhere else.

Milwaukee Independent: What inspired your creativity, and how did you select the path of painting as the form of art to express it?

Emma Daisy Gertel: Like many artists, I think my creativity just feels like a part of who I am. I don’t necessarily see it as a tool or skill, but rather the way I explore and understand life. Painting came later. I’ve only begun painting more exclusively as an adult. When my daughter was very small, I found that the demands of motherhood and juggling my time forced me to seek processes that were more portable, simpler, required less equipment and tools, and ultimately that could provide more instant gratification. Before that I did a great deal of sewing, soft sculpture, work that involved a lot of tedious process and preparation. I actually used to find the idea of painting rather intimidating, especially because I don’t come from a traditional art school background. I never had formal training in painting or color mixing or how to use tools properly. I remember when I was in high school, I took an art class and while working one day the instructor leaned over one of my projects – the only thing I ever painted in school – and said “Yep, you’re definitely a painter.” I occasionally think about that now, because he clearly identified something then that has taken me almost two decades to figure out.

Milwaukee Independent: How did you get involved with the Westown’s Gateway Mural project, and what message do you hope to send future generations with your art?

Emma Daisy Gertel: Milwaukee Downtown, BID #21 and the Placemaking Task Force put out an open request for submissions, I presented my proposal, and they awarded me the project. I have completed five other murals in various places, both public and private, over the past year – starting with one in Milwaukee’s Black Cat Alley. With the experience I’ve gained, this project felt like a natural next growth step in terms of size and challenge. As far as the message goes — I wish to instill hope through my art. Without ignoring the difficult conversations or diminishing the challenge and struggles that our city faces, my art is meant to uplift and focus on how changing our behaviors towards others can impact our communities in positive ways. How we should not discount nor take for granted the moments that make us smile, and so we can spread that joy. And lastly, the message of transformative spaces — reminding us of the strengths we have to cultivate that can help us grow into a more resilient, vibrant, and thriving city. I think flowers, in particular, are beautiful and inviting, but a whole garden is truly representative of hard work, dedication, growth, change, and abundance.

Milwaukee Independent: If you could send a message 20 years into the future and the past, what question would you ask the older version of yourself, and what advice would you give the younger version of yourself?

Emma Daisy Gertel: I would ask my older self if I held any deep regrets. I would tell my younger self to try and care a lot less about what others think.

Milwaukee Independent: What are you most proud of accomplishing either personally or professionally, and what goal are you still striving to reach?

Emma Daisy Gertel: I am most proud of the fact that I have been able to leave my mark on the city in such a visible and tangible way through public art. My goal is to keep creating on all levels — public work locally and beyond, to impact people, share the power of art, and make art more accessible physically, socially, and emotionally. I hope to prove that art is important no matter where it exists — whether in a museum or in an alley. The power of creation is important to both the creator and the viewer, regardless of validation from an external community. Our obsession with art as a commodity needs to shift. My hope is that art can provide me with a sustainable lifestyle and still remain authentically me.

Milwaukee Independent: What has your daughter taught you about yourself? And, what character trait do you see most reflected in her?

Emma Daisy Gertel: She has taught me both to follow my ambitions and dreams, but also that balance in life is so vital — that playtime in the moment is necessary and that I should worry less. It is really important to me that she sees I can create a fulfilling life in which I prioritize my goals. I hope the fact that I am normalizing the idea of art as a career means she will know that she really can do anything she wants to in life. At the same time, when I start to work too much, she reminds me to stop, take a breath, be silly and enjoy the moment, to enjoy her and simply be with family. I will forever lack the vast amount of patience, humility, and humbleness required to parent. I see my daughter’s curiosity as a shared trait. She is very curious about the way things work, how they are put together, and enjoys working with her hands in the same way that I do.

Milwaukee Independent: What would you say to a young girl in Milwaukee about finding her own self-identity or following her dreams in spite of social obstacles?

Emma Daisy Gertel: It’s sort of cliché, but I am all for doing what makes you happy. Follow the joy as they say, take risks and try lots of new thing with great curiosity. You will discover and learn so much about yourself and hopefully figure out how to make it all work along the way. My best advice against social obstacles is to be fearless, persistent, bold, and always questioning. And also to remember that everyone’s path to success is different. You can’t compare yourself with where others are at in career or life — just focus on your own goals.

Milwaukee Independent: What are you most proud of about Milwaukee, how does the city disappoint you, and what is your hope for its future?

Emma Daisy Gertel: I’m proud of the huge pool of creative, though underutilized, talent that exists here. I’m talking music, art, design, performing arts — all of it. I am disappointed by Milwaukee’s lack of risk taking — we often play it too safe and miss out on opportunities for development, or it just happens at a really slow pace. My hope for Milwaukee is that we learn to celebrate our diversity rather than fear it.

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During Wisconsin’s 2018 midterm election, which saw a record-breaking turnout, it was not the close gubernatorial race that motivated Milwaukee resident Marlon Rockett to cast an early ballot. It was the county’s non-binding referendum on whether recreational use of marijuana should be legalized.

Racial equity is a top reason why Rockett favors legalization, which 70% of Milwaukee County voters also supported. Rockett, who co-hosts a podcast on issues affecting the black community, said laws against marijuana are a “tool that’s used to help hold everyday Americans back.” And the enforcement of these laws, Rockett said, is largely concentrated on African Americans.

“There’s a lot of things in our country that hold black people back or promote the inequality,” Rockett said. “If anybody knew their history, they would know that cannabis is especially destructive.”

In fact, in 2018, blacks were four times as likely to be arrested as whites for marijuana possession in Wisconsin, a shows. Experts point to policing practices and the racial history behind marijuana prohibition as leading to arrest disparities.

Rockett said there are many benefits to cannabis, but in Wisconsin, “we only use it for one benefit, and it’s not a benefit, it’s a negative factor,” Rockett said. “And that’s to criminalize everyday Americans. We use it to hurt and break down other people. It’s crazy to me.”

A few months after the referendum that drew Rockett to the polls, the newly elected governor, Democrat Tony Evers, announced budget proposals for statewide decriminalization of marijuana and legalization of it for medical use.

Under his decriminalization proposal — which is aimed at part in reducing the state’s racial disparities — individuals possessing, manufacturing and distributing 25 grams or less of marijuana would not face penalties. Evers also wants people convicted of possessing small amounts of marijuana to be allowed to have their records expunged.

Now that Evers has signed the two-year state budget without those provisions, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, says he would favor legalizing medical marijuana. But Vos has said he opposes loosening enforcement. “We’re not going to decriminalize it so people can carry around baggies of weed all over the state,” Vos said at a WisPolitics event in February.

Enforcement across Wisconsin varies

Almost 15,000 adults in Wisconsin were arrested in 2018 for marijuana possession, a 3% increase from 2017, according to data from the state Department of Justice.

Prison admissions in Wisconsin for marijuana also were higher in 2016 for black individuals than for whites, according to the state Department of Corrections. Some experts believe this disparity can be attributed to policing practices in low-income neighborhoods that tend to have more residents of color.

“It can just limit you in every direction,” Rockett said, citing estimates that drug convictions can cost African Americans the equivalent of decades of potential wealth. “Your family’s going to suffer, you’re going to suffer.”

Under state law, possession of marijuana of any amount for a first-time offense can lead to up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. Any offense after that is classified as a felony and can result in a sentence of three and a half years in prison with a maximum fine of $10,000.

Marijuana is currently classified as a Schedule 1 drug by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, defined as a substance with “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” Other Schedule 1 drugs include heroin, LSD and ecstasy.

Even though marijuana is illegal in Wisconsin, officers have discretion if they come across someone with marijuana. An officer can ignore it, give a ticket or take someone to jail, Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney said.

When Ben, now 23, got pulled over for speeding on a Wisconsin highway in mid-January, he appeared fidgety to the officer, and the officer called for backup. He asked to remain anonymous — “Ben” is a pseudonym — because marijuana is illegal in Wisconsin. He fears further legal repercussions from speaking out.

Ben had not smoked marijuana that day, but he had smoked a few days before that and told the officer he would still have THC in his system. For the next half hour, the officers went through his car. The last place they looked was in the trunk; the last item they searched was a backpack. There, officers found 13 grams of marijuana.

He was issued a $200 ticket for speeding and a $389 ticket for marijuana possession. The nearly $600 in tickets were a financial squeeze for Ben, who said he spends much of his income on student loan debt.

If Evers’ proposal were adopted by the Legislature, officers would probably have sent Ben on his way with just a ticket for speeding.

“I understand I did something wrong,” Ben said. “But at the end of the day, I didn’t bother anybody. I was ready to take my ticket. I was open about speeding. I admitted to it. I apologized.”

Arrest brings consequences

In Juneau County, Eric Hahn was charged with two misdemeanor counts of possession in 2014 and served a year and a half of probation. Hahn was taken to jail on a Friday and remained there until his bond hearing Tuesday afternoon, Eric’s wife, Becky, said.

“For that many days, I had no husband, and my little girl had no father,” Becky Hahn said. “I’m not sure why they didn’t allow him a bond hearing that day and let him go.”

Becky Hahn said she and her husband have always been pro-marijuana. When they were younger, both of them were “rather oblivious” to the repercussions of being caught with marijuana. The Hahns use marijuana for both recreational and medical purposes. Since starting to use marijuana regularly, they stopped taking their antidepressants, say they sleep better and feel better overall.

As they got older, they realized the severe consequences of being caught with marijuana in the state of Wisconsin, where all uses are illegal. Becky Hahn said that as a day care provider in charge of others’ children, it was difficult after Eric’s marijuana possession charge.

“People think that ‘Oh, she had pot and because they had pot, they’re just these dirty hippies,’ ” Becky said. “I actually lost some business, and we struggled with that.”

Under state law, if Eric gets caught with marijuana again — regardless of the amount — it is an automatic felony. One of the biggest impacts of this, Becky said, would be losing the right to vote. She said they are both very politically active. Under Wisconsin law, felons lose their right to vote until they complete their sentences, including any supervised release.

Blacks more often penalized for pot

Ben is white, but he wanted to share what happened to him because this “happens to the black population repeatedly where unjustified and pointless incarcerations are happening.”

In April, Rep. Melissa Sargent, D-Madison, unveiled a bill to fully legalize marijuana in Wisconsin. This is her fourth time introducing the bill. In this version, Sargent hopes to address racial disparities in the enforcement of Wisconsin’s marijuana laws by broadening the availability of expungement and releasing people incarcerated for low-level nonviolent marijuana offenses.

Milwaukee is the most segregated city in the United States, according to the Brookings Institution, which found that nearly 80% of blacks would have to move to another neighborhood in the city to achieve full integration.

In Milwaukee, blacks made up 72% of “small-scale” marijuana possession arrests but 39% of the population between 2012 and 2015, according to research by the Public Policy Forum, a nonprofit, independent research organization. The Milwaukee-based group defined “small scale” as possession of 25 grams or less of marijuana. The same research found whites made up 12% of the arrests but 37% of the city’s population.

“The impact of being a person of color in our communities just makes it harder to live,” Sargent said.

The rate of using marijuana is similar between whites and blacks, University of Wisconsin-Madison sociology professor Pamela Oliver said.

“The only possibility for these statistics to happen is for police to be stopping blacks more than whites,” Oliver said. “Possession of marijuana is in the pocket. How did you know it was in their pocket unless you stopped them? We know the usage patterns are not different, so if you’re generating a difference in arrests, it has to be differential policing.”

Would decriminalizing solve disparities?

Evers said his proposal for statewide decriminalization is about “connecting the dots between racial disparities and economic inequity.” He also referred to Wisconsin’s incarceration rate of black men — which is the highest in the country.

“The bottom line is that we are spending too much money prosecuting and incarcerating people — and often persons of color — for non-violent crimes related to possessing small amounts of marijuana,” Evers said in a February tweet.

Dane County has already decriminalized possession of small amounts. Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne has told law enforcement not to bring him any cases smaller than 4 ounces — or more than four times larger than what Evers proposed.

Despite certain parts of the state deciding to decriminalize marijuana possession, Wisconsin continues to have harsh maximum penalties, Sargent said. In addition to Madison, 15 areas of the state have decriminalized, including Milwaukee, Appleton, Racine, Green Bay and Eau Claire, according to the group NORML, which favors legalization.

Decriminalizing possession of 25 grams of marijuana would make a difference since this is more than a person would be smoking on any one occasion, said Sam Kamin, a professor of marijuana law and policy at the University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law.

If Wisconsin decriminalizes, there would likely be a decrease in arrests and an overall reduction in the state’s jail and prison population, said Vincent Southerland, executive director of the Center on Race, Inequality and the Law at New York University School of Law.

However, without addressing policing practices in communities of color, the racial disparities will remain the same because of the underlying issues of how different populations get policed, Southerland said. Police tend to “saturate” such communities, he said.

“Simply legalizing marijuana does not, in turn, end the War on Drugs in the way in which the police enforce the law — that’s the fundamental problem,” Southerland said.

Arrests down but disparities remain

The state of New York, where marijuana possession of small amounts is decriminalized, has seen a decline in marijuana arrests but not a decline in the racial disparity of who ends up getting arrested, Southerland said.

“Overall, the arrest numbers are down, but if you’re black, you’re still far more likely to be arrested for it than you are if you’re white,” Southerland said.

States that have legalized, like Colorado, have seen a similar trend — overall arrests go down but the racial disparities are still there. A 2016 report from Colorado’s Department of Public Safety found that the arrest rate for marijuana possession for whites decreased by 54% while the arrest rate for blacks decreased by 23% from 2012 to 2014. Even though marijuana is legal in Colorado, people 21 years old and older cannot possess more than 1 ounce. Larger amounts may result in “legal charges and fines.”

Additionally, it is illegal to use marijuana in public places, even in Colorado. Southerland said more people of color tend to live in public housing, which has banned all smoking. That forces marijuana users to do it outside — illegally. Southerland cited it as an example of the way in which “race and economics often intersect” to create disparities.

“Almost anywhere you see cannabis illegal you see disparities in arrests, whether that’s in states that have no lawful cannabis or states that have fully legalized. The idea that marijuana is going to make problems in criminal justice disappear is not realistic. It makes them less pronounced. It can reduce the impact, but by itself, marijuana legalization doesn’t solve the problems,” Said Kamin.

Kamin believes the most compelling argument for marijuana legalization is framing it as a social justice issue and trying to address some of the “worst disparities in the criminal justice system.”

“Continuing on this same path (of prohibition) is just essentially continuing to feed the beast of mass incarceration,” said Southerland.

Racial roots of marijuana laws

Prior to moving back to Wisconsin, Ben spent four years on the East Coast attending college. He smoked marijuana for the first time his sophomore year. He started using marijuana to help him sleep, since many nights he was not able to fall asleep until 4:00 a.m.

Overall, he said his life had improved after he started using marijuana — he was better rested, improved his grade point average and generally felt more positive. At the very least, he believes Wisconsin should decriminalize marijuana, especially with neighboring states, Illinois and Michigan, preparing for full legalization.

“Moving back to Wisconsin, I feel like I’m 10 years behind,” Ben said. “It’s incredible what people get charged with and go through and deal with simply for doing something that’s not bothering anybody. It’s all just a pipeline to keep people locked up and keep the rich (people) rich in Wisconsin.”

Even though legalizing marijuana will not erase racial disparities and racial injustices in Wisconsin communities, it is a move in the right direction, Sargent said. Southerland believes the prohibition of marijuana stems from racial bias. It has historically been associated with immigrants from Mexico and with black people, and it was criminalized as a way to control those populations, he said.

“Legalization would tend to remedy or attempt to remedy some of those faulty connections between race, the drug itself and criminality that have led to disparities in policing, disparities in enforcement and disparities in who we see in our jails and prisons across the country,” Southerland said.

Before marijuana was criminalized in 1937, people used it for medicinal and social purposes — the same things Americans are being charged with crimes for today.

“What changed? That’s what we should be asking ourselves,” Rockett said.

Izabela Zaluska, with Natalie Yahr

Emily Hamer

The nonprofit Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism collaborates with Wisconsin Public Radio, Wisconsin Public Television, other news media and the UW-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication. All works created, published, posted or disseminated by the Center do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of UW-Madison or any of its affiliates.

The post Statistics show Blacks in Wisconsin arrested for marijuana possession 4x more often than whites appeared first on The Milwaukee Independent.

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By Victoria W. Wolcott, Professor of History, University at Buffalo, The State University of New York

Summers often bring a wave of childhood memories: lounging poolside, trips to the local amusement park, languid, steamy days at the beach. These nostalgic recollections, however, are not held by all Americans.

Municipal swimming pools and urban amusement parks flourished in the 20th century. But too often, their success was based on the exclusion of African Americans. As a social historian who has written a book on segregated recreation, I have found that the history of recreational segregation is a largely forgotten one. But it has had a lasting significance on modern race relations.

Swimming pools and beaches were among the most segregated and fought over public spaces in the North and the South. White stereotypes of blacks as diseased and sexually threatening served as the foundation for this segregation. City leaders justifying segregation also pointed to fears of fights breaking out if whites and blacks mingled. Racial separation for them equaled racial peace.

These fears were underscored when white teenagers attacked black swimmers after activists or city officials opened public pools to blacks. For example, whites threw nails at the bottom of pools in Cincinnati, poured bleach and acid in pools with black bathers in St. Augustine, Florida, and beat them up in Philadelphia. In my book, I describe how in the late 1940s there were major swimming pool riots in St. Louis, Baltimore, Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles.

Exclusion based on ‘safety’

Despite civil rights statutes in many states, the law did not come to African Americans’ aid. In Charlotte, North Carolina, for example, the chairman of the Charlotte Park and Recreation Commission in 1960 admitted that “all people have a right under law to use all public facilitates including swimming pools.” But he went on to point out that “of all public facilities, swimming pools put the tolerance of the white people to the test.”

His conclusion: “Public order is more important than rights of Negroes to use public facilities.” In practice, black swimmers were not admitted to pools if the managers felt “disorder will result.” Disorder and order defined accessibility, not the law.

Fears of disorder also justified segregation at amusement parks, which were built at the end of trolley or ferry lines beginning in 1890. This was particularly true at park swimming pools, dance halls and roller-skating rinks, which were common facilities within parks. These spaces provoked the most intense fears of racial mixing among young men and women. Scantily clad bathers flirting and playing raised the specter of interracial sex and some feared for young white women’s safety.

Some white owners and customers believed that recreation only could be kept virtuous and safe by excluding African Americans and promoting a sanitized and harmonious vision of white leisure. However, my work shows that these restrictions simply perpetuated racial stereotypes and inequality.

This recreational segregation had a heartbreaking impact on African American children. For example, in his 1963 “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” Martin Luther King Jr. described the tears in his daughter’s eyes when “she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children.”

Protests at pools

Major civil rights campaigns targeted amusement park segregation, most notably at Gwynn Oak Park in Baltimore and Glen Echo Park outside of Washington, D.C. And other parks, such as Fontaine Ferry in Louisville, were sites of major racial clashes when African Americans sought entrance.

By the early 1970s, most of America’s urban amusement parks like Cleveland’s Euclid Beach and Chicago’s Riverview were closed for good. Some white consumers perceived the newly integrated parks as unsafe and in turn park owners sold the land for considerable profit. Other urban leisure sites – public swimming pools, bowling alleys and roller-skating rinks – also closed down as white consumers fled cities for the suburbs.

The increase of gated communities and homeowners associations, what the political scientist Evan McKenzie calls “privatopia,” also led to the privatization of recreation. Another factor contributing to the decline of public recreation areas was the Federal Housing Administration, which in the mid-1960s openly discouraged public ownership of recreational facilities. Instead, they promoted private homeowner associations in planned developments with private pools and tennis courts.

Lasting legacy

After the 1964 Civil Rights Act desegregated public accommodations, municipalities followed different strategies intended to keep the racial peace through maintaining segregation. Some simply filled their pools in, leaving more affluent residents the option of putting in backyard pools. Public pools also created membership clubs and began to charge fees, which acted as a barrier to filter out those pool managers felt were “unfit.”

Over time, cities defunded their recreational facilities, leaving many urban dwellers with little access to pools. Ironically, some blamed African Americans for the decline of urban amusements, disregarding the decades of exclusion and violence they had experienced. The racial stereotypes that justified swimming segregation are not often openly expressed today. However, we still see their impact on our urban and suburban landscapes. Closed public pools and shuttered skating rinks degrade urban centers.

And there are moments when one hears the direct echo of those earlier struggles. In 2009, for example, the owner of a private swim club in Philadelphia excluded black children attending a Philadelphia day care center, saying they would change the “complexion” of the club.

In 2015 in a wealthy subdivision outside of Dallas, police targeted black teenagers attending a pool party. These incidents, and our collective memories, are explicable only in the context of a rarely acknowledged history.

Library of Congress

Support evidence-based journalism with a tax-deductible donation today, make a contribution to The Conversation.

The post The history and legacy of segregated swimming pools and recreational venues appeared first on The Milwaukee Independent.

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