This week’s webinar was titled “Protesting Rioting, and Looting: How it Helps and Hurts Black Communities in Milwaukee.” It was hosted by NWSP’s Britney Roberson, who was joined by Keith Stanley, Executive Director of Near West Side Partners, and Deshea Agee, Executive Director of the Historic King Drive Business Improvement District.
Pictured above: Keith Stanley (left) and Deshea Agee (right)
The three began the webinar by discussing what the greatest challenges have been for local businesses since the rioting, looting, and protesting started in late May after the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, MN over Memorial Day Weekend.
Keith said he wanted to make his message clear: he understands the pain and suffering of the community, but wants to ensure action is being expressed appropriately because “every action has a reaction.”
“It can take years for businesses and communities to come back after destruction,” he said, and “this ultimately hurts us because those are black owned businesses and minority owned businesses” being most strongly impacted by the rioting and looting.
He concluded his answer by saying “everyone has a role to play… Some people’s is protesting and putting signs up. Some people’s is getting online and putting pressure on corporations and making sure people are saying the right things.” Keith’s role is helping businesses grow and succeed in the community.
Deshea expressed that the positive protests are very important because they revolve around issues of injustice that black and brown men and women have had to deal with for years. He said, “this conversation is much louder now because of the protests.”
However, he agreed with Keith that rioting and looting takes away from the message of the positive protests and that the broader goal is for surrounding communities to see the Near West Side as vibrant. Nobody wants these short-term cases of rioting and looting to take away from business owners’ years of progress, investment, and property expansion– we as a community want to make sure they are supported.
The panelists explained that right now, the community is having genuine and deep conversations about things happening around social justice and equity. Deshea noted that conversations such as these have been glanced over in the past, but now they are happening at all levels of organizations. People are becoming vocal and are no longer accepting things they have put up with in the past. This, ultimately, will make Milwaukee a better place. Keith agreed that he is hoping for some significant progress to be made in our society and in our country within the next six months.
Next, Britney asked the panelists about the role and presence of police in Milwaukee. Both Keith and Deshea expressed the importance of having positive relationships and being able to have conversations with all types of actors. Keith explained, “we have to work with the police… we need the police.”
Keith and Deshea both gave personal shoutouts to officers they deeply respect and appreciate. For Keith, it was MPD D3 Captain Jeffrey Norman. He said Captain Norman was “very helpful for the Near West Side” and “[Norman] believes in community policing.”
For Deshea, it was Officer Mike Jones. Deshea explained that Officer Jones lives in their neighborhood and cares deeply about the community. He believes Officer Jones went into law enforcement with the right intentions and exudes an attitude of “this is our community, let’s make it better.”
Finally, Britney asked what Milwaukee residents can be doing to make sure they are supporting local businesses.
Keith emphasized the importance of consciously choosing to shop at smaller and locally owned businesses over larger, corporate businesses. He acknowledged that local businesses typically cost a bit more, but ultimately, they are “better for our community, they hire locally” and they sponsor the community children’s baseball and basketball teams. “The big guys don’t do that, I know they don’t,” he said.
Deshea agreed with the importance of shopping at local businesses and eating at local restaurants. He also encouraged people to tag, or “check in,” at local businesses and restaurants on Facebook or Instagram when they are there. Many local businesses and restaurants have been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, so tagging them on social media lets others know they are open for business.
Before the webinar concluded, Britney shared that any community members or local businesses looking for a “United for Justice & Peace” sign or a “Neighborhood Watch” sign could contact the NWSP Ambassadors. You can reach them at email@example.com.
Special thanks to Keith Stanley and Deshea Agee for joining Near West Side Partners’ weekly webinar series and to watch the full interview, please visit our Facebook page here. Be sure to tune into the weekly Facebook Live webinars on Wednesdays at 12:00 p.m. for the rest of the summer!