Milwaukee is reeling after several high-profile murders and other attacks involving domestic violence.
Thursday night, community members and advocates expressed frustration, sometimes aimed at the Milwaukee mayor, during a forum to discuss the problem at the Wisconsin Black Historical Society Museum. The forum was hosted by the City of Milwaukee Office of Violence Prevention.
Beneath murals of black leaders and photos of the historic 96th Annual NAACP convention, people took turns at the mic voicing questions and concerns to six panelists who combat domestic violence.
Reggie Moore, director of the City of Milwaukee Office of Violence Prevention, says the main purpose of the event is "to hear about what's actually being done on the issue of domestic violence in Milwaukee. And also to hear what's missing, and allow for organizations that are working on the front line to share the work that's happening, and also to hear from the community, what they feel like is missing and needed."
Some people on the panel had their own experiences with domestic violence, including Michael Washington — a Milwaukee homicide detective whose sister was shot and killed by her ex-husband a little more than two years ago.
Many highlighted a consistent message: There are advocates in the community, but not enough funding. Panelist and long-time advocate LaTrice Buck talked about this.
“The resources around is ... one of the things that we struggle with based on population in Milwaukee," said Buck. "Sojourner Family Peace Center has 52 beds and Women's Center has 26 beds. I mean, we struggle with access around capacity for shelter services, for in-home community outreach services.”
Other panelists, who work with men charged with crimes of domestic violence, stated that they don’t receive funding to reach out to men who aren’t part of the criminal justice system. And community activists, like Vaun Mayes, wondered why he’s heard of millions of dollars funding other projects, such as the streetcar.
“We got all this money that’s being thrown around, but we have no investment in the stuff that’s supposed to be saving, and services that are supposed to be changing the conditions in our community,” he said.
Mayes says the community needs leaders who are serious about this work.
Mayor Tom Barrett joined the audience part-way through the session, and community member Elizabeth Brown turned to address him. She accuses Barrett of not investing enough city funding on issues like domestic violence prevention and other issues that have affected people in the black community.
“And everybody, even my people right here that say you’re a nice man because you come in for the photo op with black people and black children," said Brown. "But you watch us suffer, you’re watching us dying. You’re watching us crying, and you’re doing nothing but asking us to wait. I see you, I’ve seen you, you’re done."
Barrett, who’s running for reelection in April, took the microphone to respond to the claims. He says he takes the issue of domestic violence very personally.
“I can give you names of kids in our community who have died," said Barrett. "Women who are victims of domestic violence. I'm not asking anybody to wait. I'm not asking anybody to wait.”
Barrett says he knows what a serious problem this is in the community.
“I know we need more resources," he said. "And I'd like to have more resources. And we're fighting to get more resources.”
Barrett said he’s worked with state lawmakers to try to secure more funding for city services. He says he’s going to continue to do what he can to try and address these issues.
People can access resources for countering domestic violence at: milwaukee.gov/staysafe or by calling 2-1-1.