Thousands of people protested in Milwaukee this summer after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha. They called for change and justice for Black people.
Milwaukee Action Intersection aims to carry that energy forward, including by getting people to the polls this fall. The group supports organizers in pursuit of social justice and equality for marginalized communities.
The idea for Milwaukee Action Intersection grew from a communal meal meant to sustain people doing social justice work. After participating in days upon days of protests this summer, Vanessa Parker says a friend of hers realized the only thing she was eating was granola bars. The friend asked people to come together for a meal to take care of themselves.
“Then we continue to have these potlucks just to kind of check in with each other. And we realized that the road of marching every day, for a lot of us, was not something that we could sustain. And we wanted to find something that we could do to support the movement that we could do long-term,” Parker says.
The group had a booth at Company Brewing last week, where Parker works. Company Brewing was hosting a voter registration event organized by MKE Black — an app that highlights local Black-owned businesses.
“We have a core group of about 10 to 12 that meets twice a week. And then we have visitors that come in from different organizations, and they say, ‘This is something that I'm working on. Can you contribute to this in any way?’ ” Parker says.
It was action they could sustain.
Milwaukee Action Intersection led a letter-writing campaign to city attorney Tearman Spencer asking him to drop the curfew tickets police issued in the first days of the protests. And the group is hoping to attract people to the polls by making voting more interesting.
“We actually have a kind of a poll or a tally going in our table of like, what would make voting more exciting for you,” says Parker. “And so, we're thinking about getting DJs or possibly food or just things to make it interesting if you're standing outside in line for hours, like how will the time pass better,” Parker explains.
The group got that particular idea because of the April presidential primary, says Ellie Jackson, another member of Milwaukee Action Intersection. That’s when the city had just five polling places because so many workers stayed home to avoid exposure to the coronavirus.
There were long lines that Election Day, so Jackson and a friend wanted to help improve the experience.
“We thought, how can we help make this a little bit better? We showed up, really, just with our laptops and a generator and a playlist of kind of empowering music. And we were out there for like eight or nine hours,” Jackson says.
Officials are expecting most of Milwaukee’s 180 polling places to be open for November, but also expect high voter turnout.
Milwaukee Action Intersection is also working to increase registration and turnout in what it calls a holistic approach to empowering people for the election and beyond.