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Brookfield students critical of mayor's modified Black History Month proclamation

Posted at 6:39 PM, Mar 02, 2021

BROOKFIELD, Wis. — A first-of-its-kind Black History Month proclamation in the City of Brookfield is receiving criticism from some involved in the process of creating it.

The proclamation was intended to be crafted by city leaders and Black high school students. The finished version begins by acknowledging Black achievement. It also acknowledges a need for improvements within society, and says the city, which the U.S. Census says has a white population of 84 percent, continues to want to be more inclusive and diverse.

However, some said it doesn’t really address real Black issues in America.

“When I first saw the new resolution, I was completely shocked. I didn’t expect them to completely rewrite the resolution. I thought they might make a couple of edits to it,” said student Langston Ford.

Ford is 17 years old. He and four other Brookfield students joined city leaders to draft a resolution.

Tuesday, TMJ4 News received a letter from one of the students saying the proclamation ignored their request to address key issues plaguing society today.

“I think the most frustrating part is the mayor took out the most important parts to us,” Ford said.

The students worked hand-in-hand with District 5 Alderman Mike Hallquist, who sent along the original draft of what would become the proclamation.

In the original, topics such as the school to prison pipeline, racial profiling and access to federal housing loans are among those mentioned.

Hallquist, who reached out to work with the students, called the final proclamation “whitewashed." He also voted against it alongside another alderman, Rick Owen, who voted to not recognize the Black History Month at all. Two other alders said they would’ve voted for the resolution as drafted during a Feb. 16 council meeting.

“You can’t just take a positive spin on something like racism because they don’t exist,” Hallquist said.

Mayor Steven Ponto did respond to TMJ4 News’ inquiry with this statement:

"I wrote the attached signed proclamation with the goal of achieving board support. This proclamation was unanimously recommended to the Common Council by the Legislative & Licensing Committee. It was adopted by the Common Council by a vote of 12 to 2 with only Alderman Hallquist and an Alderman who didn’t want any proclamation voting against it. The draft proclamation submitted by Alderman Hallquist and the five students is also attached for your reference.

The proclamation which I drafted achieved three goals. 1) It was positive consistent with the City’s long standing practice and didn’t make any allegations against the State of Wisconsin or other jurisdictions. 2) It proclaimed February 2021 as Black History Month in the City of Brookfield. 3) It commended the five high school students for their interest in government and their suggestion that we proclaim February 2021 as Black History Month.

It concluded by encouraging our citizens to celebrate our country’s diverse heritage and culture, and continue efforts to create a world that is more just, peaceful and prosperous for all.

I believe my proclamation was very constructive and achieved the broad support from the Council for which I had hoped."

Read the approved proclamation here:

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