History of Rid Racism Milwaukee (RID) 

Rid Racism Milwaukee (RID) has a storied and evolving history. From its broader-focused origins almost two decades ago, RID now has a new name reflecting its primary mission: to dismantle racism and racial inequities in our community through dialogue, collaborations, education, advocacy and action. As a coalition and clearinghouse, RID is dedicated to engaging all generations and races in its efforts to connect, support, inspire and engage organizational allies and  individual activists with the entire community.

Public Issues Intergenerational Consortium 

PIIC: 1997 - 2004 

RID's origin goes back to 1997 when the Public Issues Intergenerational Consortium   (PIIC) began as a Milwaukee area public policy coalition made up of nonprofit social service agencies who provided services across the generational spectrum.   Between 1997 and 2003 PIIC co-sponsored intergenerational candidate forums, legislative breakfasts, an annual Intergenerational Unity Day in Madison, plus intergenerational community forums in Milwaukee.  Its purpose was to assist stake holders and state legislators to better understand public policy and its impact on people across the life span. 

In 1999, PIIC was introduced to the work of Dr. James Gambone, PH. D.  Dr. Gambone had created a philosophy and process for addressing community problems and issues that involved all generations in an intentional way. He believed that each generation has its own unique perspective on any given community issue impacting the larger community and needed to be represented at the table.  He codified this in a publication entitled Together for Tomorrow: Building Community Through Intergenerational Dialogue, 1997. 

 Gambone explained that there are five generations that bring their uniqueness to addressing community issues and challenges:

The Civic Generation (born between 1901 – 1931)

            They bring optimism, teamwork, a black and white sense of right and wrong, and a civic pride to every problem encountered.

The Adaptive Generation  (born between 1932 – 1944)

            They view issues as much more complex than the Civic Generation.  They are some of America's finest arbitrators and mediators.

The Boomer or Idealistic Generation  (born between 1945 – 1963)

            They believe that process and participation can solve any problem. Work is an important measure of who they are as a person.

The Diversity or GenX Generation  (born between 1964 – 1981)

            They get along very well with elders and are the first generation to have a personal experience with cultural and racial diversity.They dislike process.

The Millennial or Optimistic Generation  (born between 1982 – 2003).

             They are very interested in working together with other generations on local issues. They might represent the most significant leader in the future. Highly tech savvy.

A new generation has emerged since 2004.  It is too early to identify it, but it certainly will be a generation steeped in technical savvy and online communication.

The Public Issues Intergenerational Consortium, under the umbrella of Community Advocates,  worked closely with a number of other coalitions including the Wisconsin Intergenerational Network (WIN), The Milwaukee Junior League, the Coalition of Wisconsin Aging Groups (CWAG) , Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group (WISPERG), Wisconsin Coalition of Youth and Families, Wisconsin Association of Family and Children Agencies (WAFCA) and others -- including students from Washington High School and the Mary Ryan Boys and Girls Club in Milwaukee.  It continued to bring together all generations and races to advocate for public policies friendly to all generations.

Milwaukee Intergenerational/Intercultural Community Connection

MIICC: 2004 – 2008 

In 2004 PIIC dissolved in favor of creating a coalition (MIICC) of like-minded nonprofit agencies that began to address community issues through a process that called for both intergenerational and inter-cultural dialogue and action. Its Vision:  Milwaukee would be a model for intergenerational/intercultural community building.  Generational and cultural “silos” would become neighborhood “front porches” where all generations and cultures would experience true community.  Its mission was to work in partnership with community stakeholders to create intergenerational/intercultural communities in the Milwaukee area

Through a grant from the Charles Jacobus Family Foundation, again, under the sponsorship of Community Advocates, the Milwaukee Intergenerational/Intercultural Community Connection (MIICC) partnered with a number of organizations in the Sherman Park Neighborhood.  An intergenerational/Intercultural Steering Committee was created to help guide the activities of MIICC.  Students from Washington High School and the Mary Ryan Boys and Girls Club, plus members of the Sherman Park Neighborhood Association and other stakeholders were quite influential in providing both leadership and energy to a number of intergenerational/intercultural programs in Sherman Park.  This three-year grant ended in 2006.

On May 3, 2005, over 80 members of the Sherman Park Community met to create an intergenerational/intercultural community in civic engagement.  Three initiatives came out of this dialogue:  Community Champions, a Community Resource Fair and Give U Four on November 5, 2005, where a number of teens (Millennials) volunteered four hours to clean up the yards of elders (Civics) and then enjoy a meal together. 

In 2006, MIICC worked closely with the Nonprofit Center of Milwaukee to involve Dr. James Gambone in a number of intergenerational dialogues relating to the nonprofit and corporate sectors.  In October, Dr. Gambone also provided training and certification for a number of people in Milwaukee to be Intergenerational Dialogue Facilitators. 

A number of people involved in intergenerational dialogue and action saw the necessity to be inclusive of all races in addressing community issues.  It was further believed that to address the issue of racism that it be a regional, not just a Milwaukee, approach.   A December 1, 2006, issue of The Business Journal, entitled “Race Relations impacting business, impeding progress” reflected the findings of a survey of 1000 whites, blacks and Hispanics in southeastern Wisconsin about their views relating to race relations.

An intergenerational/interracial/intra-regional Steering Committee was created.  In 2007-2008, a planning committee took on the task of creating an intergenerational/interracial/intra-regional workshop on Saturday, September 27, 2008 at the Italian Community Center.  Dr. Gambone facilitated the all-day workshop attended by over 100 people of all generations, races and from all seven counties in southeastern Wisconsin.  The youngest was 12, the oldest 98.  The overwhelming consensus was that southeastern Wisconsin needed to address racism from an intergenerational/interracial and intra-regional perspective. There was also widespread consensus that what was most needed were opportunities for people to sit down and learn about each other instead of stereotyping each other.

Southeast Wisconsin Intergenerational/Interracial Community Connection

SEWIICC: 2009 - 2014

To formally stress the need for a more intra-regional approach to eliminating racism, the Steering     Committee created SEWIICC whose mission was:  To address racism in Southeast Wisconsin, SEWIICC believed that all races and generations needed to be involved in dialogue and action.  SEWIICC invited citizens of all generations and races who were committed to improving race relations to participate.  SEWIICC would promote existing programs and projects in Southeast Wisconsin that addressed the elimination of racism. 

To pursue this mission, SEWIICC established a Steering Committee, a Partnership Committee and general membership.  A video series was presented in 2012 that confirmed that all generations and races are affected by a multitude of issues – from poverty and unemployment to healthcare, housing and education.

In 2013, SEWIICC partnered with the Family Leadership Academy, working in three Milwaukee elementary schools (Westside Academy, La Causa Charter School and Lafollette) where students expressed their concerns through art and poetry.   In November, 2013, SEWIICC co-sponsored “Chain of Dreams,” an intergenerational/interracial symposium coordinated by the Milwaukee County Department on Aging.

SEWIICC co-sponsored with the Nonprofit Center of Milwaukee a number of community gatherings in late 2013 and early 2014 related to race-related issues impacting the nonprofit sector.  These included “The Multicultural, Multi-Generational Nonprofits: Workplace Dynamics & Engaging Young Leaders,” “Working Effectively with Refugee Populations: the Newest Wave,” and “Critical Issues Forum: Exploring Race Relations in Milwaukee.” In the summer of 2014 SEWIICC  facilitated a book club that discussed Notes from No Man's Land, by Eula Biss. 

Hoping to build a critical mass of at least 1,000 members representing all generations and races who would support its commitment to addressing racism in the community, SEWIICC decided to serve as a central “anti-racism” clearinghouse for the community.  Through a monthly e-newsletter and blog, SEWIICC connected members of the community with relevant programs, projects, news and resources.

Rid Racism Milwaukee

RID: 2014 – present 

In late 2014 the SEWIICC Steering Committee refocused its primary attention on metro Milwaukee instead of the whole southeast region, while recognizing the important relationship between urban and suburban communities. It also changed its name (RID for short) to further dramatize the key purpose of the group: to bring people of all races and generations together in dialogue and action to achieve racial equity and justice in our community.

The basic vision remains the same, but the new name has already attracted more participation and a clearer understanding of RID's mission.  In the spring of 2015, RID launched a new website (www.ridracism-mke.org) as well as a Facebook page (Rid Racism Milwaukee). We encourage you to visit our digital media sites for timely information on events, articles, news and views.

The public is welcome to attend RID's bi-monthly General Meetings as well as educational programs and discussions led by key experts and leaders in the community. These programs and discussions are posted on the website (www.ridracism-mke.org).

RID volunteers are currently working on ways to engage more people, deepen collaboration with other organizations and to expand the website directory of relevant resources and events. RID's agenda also includes the development of learning materials that will help people better understand:

how stereotyping, prejudice, bigotry, implicit bias, discrimination and racism impact all of our lives,

how we can more effectively communicate with each other about racism and,

● action steps we can all take as individuals to achieve racial equity and justice in metro Milwaukee.

Just in the spring of 2015, RID launched a major outreach campaign to listen to, learn from, support and engage other racial equity allies in the community. Since then, RID has more than doubled its network of email subscribers as well as active members. RID has also adopted an action-oriented approach to all programming and activities. The latest initiative is the development of “Digital Quilt-MKE,” a dynamic new online video network designed to connect, support, inspire and engage equity allies and activists with the entire community. 

If you are interested in becoming more involved in efforts to achieve racial equity, please complete the membership form on the website to indicate your level of interest.  Your participation is welcomed at any level – whether you just want to receive the monthly newsletter and special announcements or wish to become more actively engaged in efforts to dismantle racial disparities.  Thank you.

By Ted John – co-founder (1997) and member of the Rid Racism Milwaukee Executive Team

Thanks to Ken Germanson, a member of the RID Executive Team and Community Advocates, and Leigh Kunde, Executive Director of the Nonprofit Center of Milwaukee, for contributing to the history and to Pat Katisch, RID Co-chair, for editing.