BECAUSE OF YOU,
words became action.
We started On the Table MKE to bring people from across southeastern Wisconsin together to advance a more prosperous and equitable future for the region.
But you dreamed bigger. Your conversations inspired collaboration. From collaboration, you moved into action. You didn’t want to wait or think twice. You put your ideas in motion on issues of education, economic revival, housing solutions, mental health and much more.
Below are your stories of learning, listening and, most importantly, problem-solving. Read, look, and watch on, and stay tuned for more stories.
Ideas to Action award winners will be announced soon.
Where Did On the Table MKE 2019 Happen?
Thousands of people across our region participated in On the Table MKE conversations this year. Where did they gather?
We invite you to explore in the map! The majority of tables were open to the public this year, and those locations are reflected here.
• Most popular location: The Sherman Phoenix (5 conversations)
• Most historic location: Schlitz Park
• Outdoor conversations: Johnsons Park and “Tent City”
What Did Our Community Discuss at On the Table MKE 2019?
With hundreds of table conversations taking place across our region through On the Table MKE this year, our community went on quite a few journeys of listening, learning and collaborating. Consider this your roadmap—the top 10 most frequently discussed topics and the various intersecting themes within. This list was compiled based on information hosts provided us through the registration process and a post-event survey. The bubbles represent the percentage of On the Table MKE conversations that included that topic as a focus.
Across all conversations, the topic of race and racial equity arose the most frequently, often in connection with other topics. From education to health, the justice system to economic development and more, race and racial equity were integral components of the discussions. Differences in quality of life based on one’s race or ethnicity occupied a central place in the dialogue. Closing racial disparities in many different areas, both the desire and work required to accomplish this, was a frequent theme. Other groups highlighted the challenges and opportunities in breaking down and bridging racial divides. Multiple institutions and groups discussed how they could grow more racially equitable, inclusive and diverse. Some conversations focused personally on people’s life experiences with race, racism, personal biases and more. Other conversations revolved around how people of color and individuals in the most affected communities carry the heaviest load when it comes to racial equity/justice work. While race was clearly the most prominent, some conversations discussed issues of equity and justice pertaining to gender, class, citizenship status, sexual orientation, as well as the intersections between two or more of these.
Demonstrating a desire for our community to flourish, many conversations fell under the large umbrella of community vitality. Discussions reflected the idea that achieving greater community vitality must involve addressing our greatest challenges: racial inequity and its roots, homelessness, mass incarceration, economic disinvestment, violence and more. The importance of building community, social connection and interpersonal relationships also arose as a common theme. In addition, groups discussed building partnerships and alliances across cultures and among traditionally marginalized communities. The tie between being a connected community and a vibrant community was embedded in the discussions. Multiple groups discussed community service both organically and through established programs. Discussions highlighted the value of service and personal responsibility to community.
Many discussions reflected how important youth are both in and to the community. Groups created space to hear directly from youth and generate solutions on issues affecting them like bullying and immigration. Other groups carved out space for youth to be part of discussions on broader issues affecting the community like inequity and public safety. Increasing the amount of and access to education and employment opportunities, particularly for students of color, was a focal point for multiple discussions. Some groups discussed increasing youth engagement, empowerment and leadership within schools and in areas like community organizing and entrepreneurship. Many dimensions of education including developing the whole student, social-emotional learning, community schools and fusing K-12 education with the workforce were present throughout conversations. The importance of early childhood education and child care also arose, especially issues of affordability and access to quality care.
Numerous groups focused their conversations on the topic of mental health. Issues like suicide, depression, trauma and stigma arose in targeted conversations for a range of different groups including older adults, youth, girls, the African American community and faith communities. Physical health surfaced as well through issues like reducing infant mortality, promoting healthy eating, vaping and more. Some groups dialogued at the intersection of health care and equity, discussing gaps in access and quality of care, traditional “one-size-fits-all” models of care, and how these dynamics work to exacerbate health disparities. The social determinants of health were evident throughout conversations, and groups approached issues like gun violence and racism from a public health standpoint. Multiple conversations discussed supporting victims of human trafficking and their loved ones, particularly in the areas of mental health, health care and employment.
The economic reality for many communities, specifically communities of color in Milwaukee, was at the center of numerous conversations on promoting economic opportunity and development. Entrepreneurship and business development arose frequently as key tools for building greater economic prosperity and community wealth. Multiple groups identified resources for entrepreneurs and businesses, as well as discussed knowledge and insights they’ve gained in their work. On a more macro-scale, groups discussed the responsibility of investing in communities, philanthropic tools like impact investing, uniting our region around shared economic success and supporting existing minority-owned businesses. Some groups focused on issues of poverty. The stigma of poverty, the fact that it’s expensive to be poor, the relationship between poverty and health, barriers to transitioning out of poverty and more were discussed. Conversations made explicit the link between economic well-being and community vitality.
Nonprofit organizations, including funders, used On the Table MKE in a variety of ways. Some chose to connect meaningfully with those they serve, others to receive feedback and insight on new or existing programming, others to build momentum and awareness around certain issues, and for many, a combination of all of these. Drawing the connection between a strong nonprofit sector and greater community vitality, many groups dialogued about how to improve nonprofit organizations. Becoming more equitable, inclusive and diverse, both within organizations and in relationship with the community, served as a focal point for discussions. Increasing coordination and collaboration among nonprofit organizations was also frequently discussed. Groups acknowledged that issues are complex and change is hard, which requires a more collaborative approach as opposed to working in siloes.
Many groups chose to focus on homelessness as their central topic, often bringing homeless individuals to the table. Conversations provided space for them to share lived experiences and their perspectives on the causes of and solutions to homelessness. Some groups discussed stereotypes of those who are homeless, and in some areas of the region how homelessness often goes unnoticed. The focus on causes also encompassed more general discussions of housing, with some groups underscoring segregation and the role of government policies in current conditions experienced by communities of color. Whether for communities of color, seniors or youth aging out of the foster system, the need for affordable, stable housing was highlighted across different demographics. Other elements such as the proximity of affordable housing to job opportunities, gentrification and preventing displacement, and resources for home improvements also arose.
Conversations on criminal justice reform engaged a wide demographic of the community, including currently and formerly incarcerated individuals. Groups discussed the devastating impact of mass incarceration on individuals, families and communities, and how people of color are disproportionately affected. Generating and advancing tangible solutions for reforming the criminal justice system was a key thrust in many of the discussions. Public safety in the context of parks, neighborhoods and communities at large also emerged as a topic of focus. Multiple conversations discussed violence, notably gun violence, sharing the devastating impact and toll it continues to have. Groups highlighted specific policy changes and educational tools that can contribute to violence prevention.
Conversations on employment, the workplace and workforce covered a number of different issues. Multiple discussions focused on the intersection between women and the workplace, including issues of pay equity, equity in leadership roles and the dynamics of being a working mom. Some conversations put challenges related to labor shortage, job training, employee retention, recruitment and talent attraction on the table. How can we equip our workforce with necessary hard and soft skills? How can we stop losing talent from our region? How can/should we manage our region’s recruitment story? There was also an emphasis on intentionally and effectively equipping individuals and populations on societal margins for meaningful employment.
Raising awareness of important issues and specific efforts cut across a range of conversations. Groups noted the helpfulness of the On the Table MKE platform in amplifying voices and increasing visibility of issues. Narratives occupied an important place in discussions, as persistent issues were often tied to perspectives and beliefs that people hold. Replacing false narratives and changing negative perceptions arose in connection with issues like immigration, homelessness and older adults. The role of media was central as well, including the need to diversify media organizations to be more representative of the community, telling positive stories and fostering healthy social media use.
- Government & Civic Participation
- Arts & Culture
“The challenges are systemic. We have 400 years of racial inequity to overcome and repair. It will not happen easily or overnight. The opportunities lie in the fact that there are dozens of committed individuals, young and old, black and white, committed to doing the work.”
Blue Table Talk
Check out videos from our Blue Table Talk series, featuring Anita Mogaka and hosts from On the Table MKE!
Activating Civic Engagement through the Arts
Several organizations including Artists Working in Education, Leaders Igniting Transformation, Imagine MKE and Wisconsin Voices, gathered at No Studios to discuss how to activate civic engagement through the arts. The On the Table MKE event kicked off with a “pre-flection” where participants examined what civic engagement means to them, what it looks like, what works of art have inspired them to take action, and what action they took. The conversation continued into breakout tables with each organization leading a different topic.
Leaders Igniting Transformation discussed integrating arts into civic engagement as a value to the movement for Milwaukee’s most impacted communities.
What can you do?
- Participate in the 2020 census
- Pledge to vote in the 2020 elections
Artists Working in Education discussed the barriers to creating a thriving art ecosystem, and what skills are needed to be a successful creative entrepreneur.
What can you do?
- Attend the AWE annual fundraiser
- Become a member
Wisconsin Voices discussed the access points for civic engagement groups to integrate arts into their work, and what those groups need to know to make it mutually beneficial.
What can you do?
- Pledge to complete the census
- Connect with a partner around art needs
Artists Working in Education invited three artists, Sarah Luther, John Kowalczyk, and Cassie Genc, to document the small group conversations.
The Imagine MKE event concluded with participants reflecting on their experience. A few noteworthy comments heard this year include:
"The pipeline for arts in Milwaukee is in trouble without more funding for MPS.”
“Art is what allows you to imagine beyond what is typically thought of as what makes our city safe. Art code switches bureaucracy for everyday people.”
“I want to find out more about starting a community calendar which a) shares events that arts orgs are hosting in the community, b) includes important dates/topics on civic engagement.”
“Looking forward to getting involved more with w/MATC (Julie) and (AWE) LaShawndra to do more “Civic Engagement” because it is more fun than it sounds.”
The Entrepreneurial Journey
Hosted by BizStarts & Diverse Dining
For some, On the Table MKE was a time for quality dialogue. Others established plans for further collaboration. The clear majority found On the Table MKE to be an effective catalyst for community benefit.
At a new, local business in Milwaukee’s Silver City neighborhood, Orenda Cafe, BizStarts hosted a conversation led by Emerald Mills, founder of Diverse Dining. The topic of the table was centered around the entrepreneurial journey and using our experiences and abilities to find creative solutions that strengthen our community through entrepreneurship.
True to the theme of On the Table MKE, Mills said meaningful conversations centered around cultivating connections, courage and compassion through food. Mills sees dinner conversations as a way to bridge the racial, social, economic and generational gaps affecting Milwaukee.
“Milwaukee has one of the largest wealth gaps between whites, blacks and Hispanics. However, local businesses provide jobs and opportunities for wealth creation. I truly believe that no real change happens outside the context of relationships.”
- Emerald Mills, founder of Diverse Dining
Building Cross-Cultural Collaboration
Partner/Emcee: Emerald Mills from Diverse Dining
Ten tables with different subtopics, including "Building Trust", "Overcoming Barriers", "Effective Communication", "Defying Cultural Norms" and "Healthy Conflict."
The State of LGBTQ+ Issues in Milwaukee
Hosted by Joe Pabst & Sarah Berg
Participants found that On the Table MKE exposed them to diverse perspectives and new connections.
Foundation donors were especially active in driving dialogue on a range of topics with important philanthropic and community implications. They led tables focused on investing in our region, LGBTQ+ issues, arts and culture, and impact investing. Donors Sarah Berg and Joseph Pabst hosted the table on the state of LGBTQ+ affairs in southeast Wisconsin and the role philanthropy can play in enhancing the quality of life for our community. Participants discussed the experiences among individuals of different races that identify as LGBTQ+ and how supporting organizations and allies can work together with donors to be more effective with their work.
“One of the key takeaways for me was how important relationships are, not just between us and donors connecting directly, but also between the organizations who do the work,” said Maxine Webb, development director at American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Wisconsin. “It’s important to keep the communication lines open because we serve the same communities. I appreciate the Greater Milwaukee Foundation for bringing us together to have a conversation about what is working, what isn’t working, and how we can do better.”
Coming Together in Cedarburg
Hosted by the Greater Cedarburg Foundation
Within our four-county region, Milwaukee and many other communities use On the Table MKE to hold key conversations.
This year, the Greater Cedarburg Foundation, partner foundation of the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, convened approximately 25 community leaders at The Student Union in Cedarburg to discuss local challenges and opportunities. While Ozaukee County ranks as one of the wealthiest counties in the United States, it is not immune to challenges. Participants echoed this through a sticky-note exercise where each person generated the top three concerns facing the community from their perspective.
Concerns within the following categories emerged: employment, mental health, substance abuse, childcare, health/dental care, transportation, older adults and diversity.
Participants delved deeper into a handful of categories through their discussion.
“In many ways our small community is doing very well, and I was curious what was going to come out of this conversation,” said Peg Edquist, conversation host and former Greater Cedarburg Foundation board chair. Edquist noted that because of the conversation, “there is a much greater awareness of needs in our community.”
The group discussed the need for more affordable and reliable transportation options for people commuting to Cedarburg for jobs. Many individuals are depending on Lyft and Uber.
The group discussed the challenge of childcare affordability for middle-class families and especially for families living in poverty. Annual childcare costs are higher than both in-state tuition and average rent in Wisconsin, according to the Economic Policy Institute.
The group discussed the need to ensure the availability and accessibility of services to meet basic needs. The need for mental health and substance abuse services, particularly for women, is prominent.
As for next steps, participants identified the need to encourage greater volunteerism in the community and cultivate deeper, more regular ties among stakeholders, especially between those doing and those funding the work. One participant shared volunteerozaukee.org as a great online resource for community members to find opportunities to serve and give back. The website provides a current list of one-time and ongoing volunteer opportunities, as well as a database of local agencies and more.
At one point in the conversation, participants took time to reflect on their personal experiences in nonprofit work, board service, employment and philanthropy. Some members of the group, specifically nonprofit leaders, shared how they’ve found opportunities to connect on a recurring basis. The group discussed the idea of formalizing these convenings and inviting others from the community who may have an interest in collaborating around these challenging issues to join.
Mental Wellness and Faith Communities
Hosted by Progressive Baptist Church
In the African American community, family, community and spiritual beliefs tend to be great sources of strength and support. However, research has found that many African Americans rely on these for emotional support rather than turning to health care professionals, even though medical or therapeutic treatment may be necessary.
Faith and spirituality can aid in the recovery process, but many African American professionals encourage a “both-and” approach instead of an “either-or” in the pursuit of mental health support. This is why the work of MIRACLE, led by Progressive Baptist Church, has been so impactful. Meeting weekly in the church fellowship hall, dozens of community members, faith leaders, mental health professionals, law enforcement, mental health advocates and providers discuss ways of improving access to mental health services, advocating for policies that benefit communities and reducing the stigma of mental health in communities of color.
So its On the Table MKE conversation was no different. Led by Progressive pastor and leading mental health advocate Walter Lanier, the group put the issue of mental health front and center through its conversations on the intersection of health, faith, and community.
Lanier talked about mental health resources available through MATC and other providers and urged attendees to use the tools they need to thrive. Mental health expert and advocate, Brenda Wesley, joined him in the discussion by sharing her personal story about the impact of mental health on her son.
The discussion aimed to foster a safe space for community support and to ensure leaders are best informed to help their congregations achieve mental wellness and success in life.
Mental Health & Church Leaders
Hosted by Parklawn Assembly of God
Arguably, one of the most demanding jobs is that of a clergy leader. The demands placed on clergy by themselves and others put pastors at far greater risk for depression than individuals with other occupations. While most pastors report satisfaction with their current emotional health, nearly half say they have suffered from depression at some point over the course of ministry, according to “The State of Pastors” report from Barna Group.
Forty-six percent of pastors polled acknowledged they have struggled with depression during their time as a pastor. The statistics are startling and a local ministry said it was time to reduce the stigma around depression and mental health.
Parklawn Assembly of God, located in Milwaukee’s Sherman Park neighborhood, decided to tackle the issue of faith leaders managing their own mental health head on. They held a private table discussion as part of On the Table MKE for faith leaders with the goal of creating an open and transparent dialogue about the real issues pastors face as they lead their congregants. Parklawn is no stranger to addressing the full needs of its people. As part of its Aspire program, the church community gathers on a weekly basis to address social and economic issues its members and the greater community face.
Nearly two dozen church leaders joined the discussion, sharing their experiences and the hope that these conversations would no longer be considered forbidden thoughts. Some talked about building relationships and being vulnerable with other leaders as an opportunity to break the silence on these issues and be better advocates for themselves and their members. And some shared that without the education and knowledge on the signs and the support available, faith leaders feel ill-equipped to manage their own needs or those of others.
Event organizers remained hopeful that these leaders, representing a number of churches in Milwaukee, can bridge the gap between these difficult topics directly impacting them and their congregations.
A number of attendees expressed a desire to continue building support for mental wellness conversations in the church to reduce the stigma of depression and other mental diseases with communities of faith. One leader remarked, “There is no shame in paying attention to your mental health.”
Black Clinicians of Milwaukee
Hosted by Dr. Khyana Pumphrey and Dr. Ramel Smith
Mental illness does not discriminate based on race, color, gender or identity. How one copes with these conditions may be different.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, African Americans, like many minority communities, are also more likely to experience socioeconomic disparities such as exclusion from health, educational, social and economic resources. These disparities may contribute to worse mental health outcomes.
A host of professionals and providers of mental health services joined together at The Retreat on Oct. 10 for an On the Table MKE discussion about the disparities in access and how practitioners are impacted by the work they do every day.
Led by leading African American mental health professionals Dr. Khyana Pumphrey and Dr. Kweku Ramel Akyirefi Smith, the practitioner-only discussion was a collection of shared experiences by African American clinicians from the greater Milwaukee community. They focused on the business of mental health in the African American community and support for other industry professionals. Their discourse focused on the challenges and opportunities of working with the African American community and managing client needs in their specialized fields.
In order to help others, these leaders recognized the need to be in tune with themselves so they shared useful books along with a list of upcoming workshops and events geared to providing resources for growth.
The group has committed to supporting one another, sharing best practices and creating mentoring opportunities for one another.
The Importance of Mental Health Services for Today’s Youth
Hosted by Medical College of Wisconsin at the Boys and Girls Club Milwaukee
Table of community members from organizations such as Medical College of Wisconsin, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, Charles E. Kubly Foundation, Lutheran Social Services, REDgen, Red Cross, Boys & Girls Club, Mental Health America of Wisconsin, Milwaukee Succeeds, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and more was lead by Dr. Jon Lehrmann, Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin and Kristin Schultz, PhD, Kelben Foundation.
- Understanding health care policy
- Lack of time & health services
- Lack of attention and direction on the issue
- There is one person/500 kids to serve their mental health
- Negative stigma and lack of understanding surrounding mental health
- Shortage of caretakers in the U.S.
What are you seeing that is working?
- Storytelling, helping people to not feel alone
- Peer to peer mentorship
- Providing access to school-based mental health initiatives and home visits to families
- Increased preventative care
- Giving teachers mental health support and training to better serve their students
- Comprehensive primary and mental health care
- Isolation avoidance, creating inclusive community spaces
- Identifying stress-inducing policies and systems
- LISTENING and LEARNING
“Our objective here today is to have an honest and constructive conversation about our community’s greatest needs, resources and opportunities to promote the well-being of our youth."
-Dr. Jon Lehrmann
Inspiring Entrepreneurship & Economic Development “On the Block”
Hosted by Alderman Russell Stamper II
One inspiring table that drew residents, business leaders and representatives from anchor institutions located on the Fond Du Lac and Center Street corridors was focused on economics and business. Originally the home of the first African American bank in Milwaukee, the site of this table was the Business Resource and Innovation Center (BRIC) building. The BRIC is a business incubator and co-working space that has housed business professionals and entrepreneurs since 2017.
Fusing On the Table MKE with “On the Block,” the discussion focused on economic development and inspiring entrepreneurship. Hosted by Alderman Russell Stamper II of the 15th District, the event also featured speakers Ellen Gilligan, president and CEO of the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, Robin Reese with the North Avenue Fond Du Lac Business Improvement District and Dr. Jennifer Potts with the Center Street BID. Reese and Potts served as moderators of the small group discussions. Representatives of the Wisconsin Black Historical Society and the Center Street Library were also present.
“My philosophy has been, as long as you have a business plan, an idea and ability for how to develop it, the city will support you,” said Stamper, who also chairs the Community and Economic Development Committee of the Milwaukee Common Council. “All ideas are on the table. We want to provide the 15th District with every opportunity possible to make entrepreneurial development happen.”
Attendees discussed solutions to creating businesses in their neighborhood and accessing the resources the city has to offer to expand businesses in the corridor. The moderators captured the information on a whiteboard and shared the results with Stamper’s office.
Some expressed appreciation for the diversity of the crowd assembled and shared that it truly reflected the greater community.
“There is a whole world right in front of us,” one attendee remarked. All of the attendees agreed that a continued line of open communication between the residents, city, and the BIDs is needed to see the community flourish.