MILWAUKEE — During the April primary when that first COVID-19 wave hit Wisconsin, some voters felt they risked their lives to cast a ballot. Researchers from the Brennan Center for Justice estimate the Primary disenfranchised nearly 16 percent of Black voters in Milwaukee.
Directors with 371 Productions created a short film called "Metcalfe Park: Black Vote Rising" to tell that story. The documentary highlights how a mother and daughter in Milwaukee work to prevent it from happening again during the General Election.
The nearly 10-minute film profiles Melody McCurtis and her mom, Danell Cross, as they go door to door in the Metcalfe Park neighborhood encouraging neighbors to come up with a voting plan.
Click here to watch the documentary by 371 Productions.
The film discusses how the neighborhood is overcoming hardships as a result of the pandemic. According to Wisconsin's Department of Health data, Milwaukee County has seen about 40,000 confirmed COVID cases.
"I got to keep fighting not only for what happened to me but for what happened to my community," said McCurtis in the film.
"My whole job is to outmaneuver the systematic racism in Milwaukee," McCurtis said in the documentary.
The documentary reports on how McCurtis joined a lawsuit against Wisconsin election officials. It asked for more accessible polling locations for future elections during the pandemic and for a one-week extension to receive and count absentee ballots. The lawsuit made it to the U.S. Supreme Court but was denied.
Miela Fetaw and Brad Lichtenstein are the directors of the documentary.
"Melody and her mom Danell are just a dynamic duo of organizing power and Black pride," said Lichtenstein.
"Melody and Danell really understand what voting means to their community," he continued.
"They provide such a great inspiration for other communities like Metcalfe Park that are experiencing the same hardships during this pandemic, that are experiencing the same disenfranchisement tactics that have happened since the 1870's if not before that," said Fetaw.
"I want people to understand the history but to also feel empowered and compelled to vote to assist communities of color and other communities that have been disenfranchised," said Fetaw.
"All of these battleground states where Black votes matter, can learn and see and understand both what voters are going through in their quest to overcome some of these different disenfranchisement obstacles," Lichtenstein said.
"I hope that it just continues the conversation and gives communities like Metcalfe Park the attention that they deserve," Fetaw said.
The mother-daughter duo's genuine eagerness for change has inspired these directors off-camera and friendships have formed.
"We had the pleasure of meeting a lot of neighbors in Metcalfe Park. We had the pleasure of meeting Danell's grandkids, Melody's daughter and son who have constantly invited us back over to their home," Fetaw said.
"Melody and I were just talking about this the other day where we're family for life now. We're family for life now," Fetaw said.