Recalling a racially divided Milwaukee

Posted at 10:36 PM, Jun 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-19 08:14:22-04

MILWAUKEE — Some have dubbed Ruben Harpole the unofficial mayor of Milwaukee. From his high rise apartment - overlooking Lake Michigan - Harpole resides.​ A native of cream city Harpole has seen a city divided.​

"One day my wife and I were going to Saint Elizabeth Catholic Church on 2nd and Burleigh and the pastor would not serve her communion because she was black," recalls Harpole.

Discrimination and racism were all around in the 50s and 60s. However, Harpole is quick to tell you he was unbothered by it. He made it his mission to change the hearts and minds of others through engagement.​

"We would have something called a welcome circle where we would invite people," said Harpole. "The project was called Hello Neighbor, so we would get the people to come over and get a chance to know black folks - that we weren't stupid you know!"​

Educating the youth is also a big passion for Harpole. His work in the community leads to the founding of more than 25 community centers and programs in the city.​

"There is a quote that George Washington Carver used to recite to all of his students. You have everything the greatest people before you have you have two eyes, two ears two arms, two legs, and a brain -- to use if you be wise. So start from the beginning and say I can,"​ recites Harpole.

The recent death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers shook Harpole. The nationwide outcry amazed this eight- six-year-old. ​

"What was good as a lot of people saw that and it changed a lot of people's hearts and minds and especially the people that believe in God and rightness," said Harpole.

Even in the midst of America in turmoil Reuben Harpole sees hope.​

"As Barack Obama said maybe the healing can begin it didn't begin with Dr. King was marching now with what happened to George Floyd maybe the healing can begin," said Harpole. ​

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