NY Times hosts live community discussion in Sherman Park

Event designed to change neighborhood's perception
Posted at 8:34 AM, Sep 13, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-13 09:34:33-04

"Affluent and Black, and Still Trapped by Segregation."

That was the title of a New York Times article on Milwaukee in the wake of last month's violence in Sherman Park.

That article, and the local families featured in it, were the focus of a community discussion Monday night.

The New York Times aired the discussion live on the publication's Facebook page.

For the attendees, the goal now is to change the spotlight on Milwaukee from negative to positive, and to be a leader in improving race relations.

"We need to begin this conversation," moderator Denise Thomas said. "The disparity is especially stark in Milwaukee."

More than a conversation, it's a call to action.

"How can we come together and be action-oriented in this city?" JoAnne Sabir asked. "We have to move beyond theoretical debate."

Sabir and her husband, Maanaan, are helping to lead the discussion. They, and their children, were the focus of the newspaper article.

Both earned advanced degrees and left high-paying jobs, to open The Juice Kitchen at 16th and North, just a few blocks from where they live.

It's a neighborhood in need of more investment. More than one in three families there live in poverty. But the Sabirs are choosing to stay, and set a crucial example.

"We want to provide a footprint for our kids, and the community," Maanaan says. "We also want to provide a system of leadership. I know for a fact that I can go outside right now and talk to 10 boys, and then help them find jobs. If I can do it -- and I'm no one -- then I know someone who has a lot more power than me can do it too."

"We make it hard sometimes," JoAnne adds. "We ask ourselves how can we possibly make a dent in all that's going on. But really, all you have to do is get engaged in the community.  Making friends out of your comfort zone. Explore different parts of the city. There's so much that connects us. More than that divides us."

The diverse group of people who were part of the discussion are in the process of planning more discussions, and developing a tangible action plan. They say it can start with all of us being more mindful in our every day lives.