MILWAUKEE — From 53206 to Wisconsin's first Black Lieutenant Governor.
Mandela Barnes sat down and reflected on his life’s journey into politics in a one-on-one interview with TMJ4 News. He spoke about his career and how he hopes to inspire others from where he grew up.
Barnes spent roughly half his childhood in Milwaukee's Amani neighborhood on North 26th Street, between Hadley and Locust streets.
“It was still a community where you knew everybody. You can go outside and my neighbors were all pretty close,” Barnes recounted.
From the good memories to revelations about the harsh realities, Lt. Gov. Barnes says growing up in 53206 helped shape him into what he turned out to be.
“It’s where I first learned about the justice system and how it doesn’t work, and how communities could be torn apart because of it,” Barnes said.
“That’s what taught me about staying true to your roots, and putting something into an area and making something of it,” Barnes said.
These days, Barnes spends more time in Madison and traveling the state, but always in the back of his mind is keeping communities like 53206 at the forefront of conversations involving equity.
“The challenges that people deal with should not be the case at all. As leaders, we got to be committed to removing those barriers,” Barnes said.
While Barnes is the first Black Lieutenant Governor in Wisconsin, he doesn’t want to be the last. He said it’s imperative people from areas like 53206 need to make their way to the political table in Madison.
“The majority of people who are making decisions for marginalized communities, the majority of people dictating what people deserve and need - they aren’t spending time in these communities,” Barnes said.
TMJ4 News also asked if he plans to run for U.S. Senate against Sen. Ron Johnson.
“As it stands right now, I am serving as Lieutenant Governor. It’s been the honor of a lifetime and I’ve been able to do some amazing work with Gov. Evers. He’s been a great partner, so as it stands right now, this is the deal,” Barnes said.