New executive director of Milwaukee's Dominican Center prioritizes resident leadership
Maricha Harris was recently named the new Executive Director at the Dominican Center in the Amani neighborhood. She’s a Milwaukee native and knows first-hand the challenges and triumphs of the Amani community.
As Harris settles into her new role, she says the most critical aspect of her position is listening and learning from community members. Harris explains that the Dominican Center has a history of listening to women, and through the women's concerns, a need was found for literacy and community revitalization.
"Women wanted to read the Bible to their children. They wanted to be able to read and write a grocery list, and so the Dominican Center was founded with a focus on adult literacy," Harris says. "Through the years, leadership here at the Dominican Center has really focused on that listening, and that resident engagement, and that resident leadership."
While the Dominican Center helps women gain literacy, the center also offers neighborhood revitalizations programs. For example, 'Amani United' serves the Amani neighborhood through a myriad of programs available to the community. One program Harris highlights is the 'Block by Block' program.
>> AMANI NEIGHBORHOOD REVITALIZATION PLAN
Harris says, "Our first block is nearly complete, which is super exciting. So now we're looking at other locations so that we can work to scale the block by block initiative. But I think that is certainly something that is an amazing aspect of the revitalization plan."
Harris reflects on her experiences as a child and how that will influence the work she does at that the Dominican Center. She remembers being a little girl and not being able to play outside.
"If statistics had their way with me, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I still see myself in the children who are growing up in our most challenging neighborhoods," Harris says. "So it takes all of us working together to change some of the things we're seeing."
Harris says collaboration will be key to building on the improvements being made in the Amani neighborhood.
Harris says, "My hope is that folks, pay attention to what's happening and engage with us in supporting everyone. Everyone has something that they can contribute to the work that's happening here. And so my hope is that everyone can see themselves within the picture and the work that's happening here [in the Amani neighborhood]."