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WUWM's Teran Powell reports on race and ethnicity in southeastern Wisconsin.

'We don't really stop dreaming': BLOC celebrates 5 years

Day 1 of new ambassador orientation, BLOC welcomes new ambassadors to its organization
BLOC welcomes new ambassadors to its organization.

Milwaukee-based Black Leaders Organizing Communities, or BLOC, started in November 2017 with “a dollar and a dream.”

That’s how executive director Angela Lang and deputy director Keisha Robinson describe it.

BLOC is a civic engagement organization dedicated to uplifting, educating and empowering the Black community.

Angela Lang is the executive director of Black Leaders Organizing Communities, also known as BLOC.
Angela Lang is the executive director of Black Leaders Organizing Communities, also known as BLOC.

It’s not just about the politics. BLOC’s engagement also includes back-to-school celebrations, toy drives and wellness check-ins.

This year, BLOC celebrates five years of engaging Milwaukee. The group also recently expanded some programming to Racine and Kenosha.

For Lang, the 5-year milestone still doesn’t feel real, but she is proud and humbled. And Robinson says it feels amazing.

But BLOC’s work can be challenging.

Lang addresses the challenges and what keeps the BLOC team going: "Our team of ambassadors show up and do this work day in and day out while dealing with tremendous grief and trauma themselves. There are times they'll go through really traumatic situations and still come to work. And then there are times they're going out in the field and going out on doors and sometimes they're seeing our own community being traumatized."

Keisha Robinson is the deputy director of Black Leaders Organizing Communities, also known as BLOC.
Keisha Robinson is the deputy director of Black Leaders Organizing Communities, also known as BLOC.

Lang continues, "So, being able to do this work in places that people neglect and choose not to go, it's hard to see your community in terrible conditions in some cases and then try to tell people and connect the dots about how politics maybe or maybe not can change it right, depending on their experience."

Addition to BLOC organizers navigating personal and broader community trauma, Lang says they also have to deal with threats, especially since 2020.

The more you speak truth to power, the more harassment you get these days, she says.

"Ever since 2020 we're seeing a rise in far-right extremism," Lang explains. "We're seeing a rise in all of these different things and yet here we still are —organizing under these tremendous threats; whether it's threats from, you know, the Proud Boys and you know potential secret, you know, videotaping and trying to catch us in the act of doing something or if it's folks like law enforcement. "

Lang says BLOC organizers in Milwaukee are not alone in dealing with law enforcement harassment.

"I don't have like statistics, but it's my understanding in talking to, you know, our colleagues across the country we are not unique in that and that there's Black organizers all across the country that are doing work around criminal justice reform or just building Black power — because that is a threat to the status quo. We've seen organizations across the country be targeted by law enforcement. People posted up outside our office and in some cases harassing our folks," she says.

Extended conversation with Angela Lang and Keisha Robinson.

Even still, Lang says, organizers are dedicated to this work day in and day out.

And the BLOC team continues to look toward the future.

"We don't really stop dreaming," Lang says, "but I think what I want to see is BLOC continue to engage deeper in the work."

She continues, "There's not a shortage of work in this city, there's not a shortage of work in this state when it comes to Black folks. But I just I just want liberation for Black people so much and whatever we got to do to get it. And if that means constantly having 50 ambassadors plus on, even if it's a quote off election year, we'll do it. If it means training and developing our own folks, great."

Lang says she hopes BLOC will continue to build out programming in Racine, and hire ambassadors in Kenosha. Possibly, she adds, opening a community center that offers a multitude of services like legal assistance, business advice, financial literacy and more. Expansion is the goal.

Lang says, "We’ve got a lot on our minds, and we have a lot to dream and to vision, and I think we have a lot ahead of us."

Do you have a question about race in Milwaukee that you'd like WUWM's Teran Powell to explore? Submit it below. 


Teran is WUWM's race & ethnicity reporter.
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