This Monday marked 50 years since activists and residents of Milwaukee started to march for 200 consecutive nights to demand an end to housing segregation.
Those marches ultimately helped inspire fair housing legislation. Now, they’re inspiring a new generation of local activism.
Hundreds of people filled Milwaukee City Hall to kick-off an initiative called “200 Nights of Freedom.” On display were photos of the fair housing marches back in 1967. Some were haunting. Others, inspiring.
More than a dozen people who were part of those poignant moments in Milwaukee history were in the crowd Monday, including Prentice McKinney.
“To be able to pass that torch on to the next generation of people is exciting to me,” he said. “We have strong young people here, and we’d like to believe that we’re an inspiration for them to continue to resist and fight for what is right.”
Also in attendance, was Margaret Rouge, the wife of the late James Groppi—the former Catholic priest and Civil Rights activist who led the marches.
“It’s amazing to me,” she said. “He’s as alive today as he was when he was here. ”
Rozga and McKinney are helping lead “200 nights of Freedom” including 200 nights of public events and police initiatives as well as open, honest community dialogue on a variety of issues. Organizers hope everyone in Milwaukee will get involved.
“It can be intimidating, the idea of improving your community or getting involved,” said Adam Carr. “What we’re hoping to do through 200 Nights of Freedom, is say to every Milwaukeean, if you care about building the MKE we all need, here’s an invitation, a platform and a prompt for you to jump in and be part of the change.”
“Seeing the crowd makes me realize that people care about this history,” said Kantara Souffrant. “They want to know more about it. It gives me faith that people can come together with the common goal of changing our city for the better.”