Legislative Black Caucus, Barnes encourage resilience, renewal
Legislatures lift up voices of African American Wisconsinites in a press conference to commemorate and celebrate Black History Month.Image By: Jon Brockman
In celebration of the first day of Black History Month, state legislatures acknowledged the challenging story of America’s foundation by highlighting the strong resilience of African American people and the unfinished work to achieve equity across the state.
Members of the Legislative Black Caucus, Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes and Gov. Tony Evers joined together to commence the observation of the month with a press conference at the state capitol Friday.
“We are living in troubled and trying times; there is no doubt about that. But the story of black history is one of resilience, resurgence and one of renewal,” opened Rep. David Crowley, D-Milwaukee, chair of the Legislative Black Caucus.
Many speakers at the event were trailblazers in their positions.
Lt. Gov. Barnes – the first lieutenant governor and the highest elected African American person in the history of the state – believes the current legislature is likely the most diverse group of elected officials the state has ever seen.
“It is important for us to have unique voices at the table. For lack of being at the table, many communities have been off the menu, and the time to change that has been long past, but the time to fix that is now,” encouraged Lt. Gov. Barnes, speaking about equity for all.
At just 19 years old, Rep. Kalan Haywood, D-Milwaukee, is the youngest African American ever elected in the state. He took time to honor those who came before him, believing they allowed for his success, while simultaneously uplifting those to come.
“It wouldn't have happened for me without the wonderful trailblazers who came before me and paved the way,” stated Rep. Haywood. “They kicked the door open and I came in behind them. It is a great duty for me to make sure I keep the door open even wider ... You do not have to wait to be great.”
The next speaker, Rep. Shelia Stubbs, D-Madison, is the first African American elected to District 77, which serves the UW-Madison campus. The representative committed to creating pathways within the legislature so that soon she will “not be the only one.”
Rep. Stubbs brought awareness to the proximity of the Jim Crow era, while exuding hope about the opportunities the state has to “transform communities with passion and love.”
“Today I stand here because I am hopeful. I dare to change, and this is what change looks like. Doesn't it feel good? Doesn't it look good? I am hopeful that in the state of Wisconsin we can seize this opportunity to change where before it wasn’t available,” Rep. Stubbs said with joy.
Touching upon the racial disparities disrupting black communities across the state, Lt. Gov. Barnes promised to pay special attention to the implications of policies that lead to inequity, referencing education, health care, environmental justice, minimum wage and incarceration.
“While we have been told things are getting better; unfortunately, the people that we represent don’t often see that. I think about the case loads and types of calls that we got to the office when I was in the assembly, and it is just not equal for everybody. That is why we have to work together to make sure we change that,” declared Barnes. “This is a crisis mode.”Subscribe to The Daily Cardinal Newsletter