Milwaukee's South Side Community Stands In Solidarity With The Black Lives Matter Movement

Jun 5, 2020

Protests against police violence and injustices facing the black community are still going strong internationally.

In Milwaukee on Thursday, peaceful protests crossed the city for several hours for the seventh straight night, following the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Demonstrations also call attention to the April death of Joel Acevedo, in Milwaukee. An officer, who was off-duty at the time, is charged in Acevedo’s death.

"Black Lives Matter" and "Walk with us" are just a few of the chants you can hear coming from the crowds. 

Staff and students at Carmen South Middle School of Science and Technology on the city’s south side showed their support for the Black Lives Matter movement through a vigil, honoring those who have died due to injustice. Organizers say it was an opportunity to show solidarity between the black and Latino communities.

Plastic red cups stuffed into gaps in the fence spell out BLM, the acronym for Black Lives Matter.
Credit Teran Powell

BLM, the acronym for Black Lives Matter, was spelled out by red cups stuffed into gaps of a fence. There were more than 50 posters with the names and photos of black people who’ve been killed by police. An altar with flowers, candles and more names of victims of injustice stood in the middle. George Floyd’s name and photo were there.

"We realized that in response to what’s going on across the United States and what has been going on to black and brown bodies as it relates to injustice across the world, we realized that we had to respond [to] make it known that we are allies and we stand in solidarity with our black and brown, people of color and that we’re here to uplift those voices," says Ronnie Rivera. He's the social worker for Carmen South Middle School.

Alton Sterling (left) was killed by Baton Rouge police officers in 2016. Tanisha Anderson died while in the custody of Cleveland police officers in 2014.
Credit Teran Powell

Rivera and Yesenia Saavedra, the school’s assistant principal, helped organize the event. 

Saavedra says, "We made sure to create the posters with pictures and names so that people could be encouraged to do research and inform themselves a lot more about what has been going on in the United States."

People attending Thursday's vigil kneel before posters, each one dedicated to a black person killed by police.
Credit Teran Powell

She says the vigil was to offer a healing space for the community. Saavedra hopes people would unite in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

The names on the posters included people who’ve died in Milwaukee, and those who’ve died in other cities – Terrill Thomas, Philando Castille, Laquan McDonald, Sandra Bland, Atatiana Jefferson, and many others.

A person attending the vigil kneels at Antwon Rose II's poster.
Credit Teran Powell

People who came to the vigil were admitted five at a time, and given the chance to get water or snacks. Then they could choose a poster to stand in front of. Signs were scattered to allow for social distancing. 

I spotted two friends, Gina Richard and Kathryn Brostowitz, gathered in front of a sign with the name Marco Loud, a man killed by police in Texas. 

Brostowitz says she and Richard watched the memorial service for George Floyd earlier on Thursday and it felt right to be there. 

(From left) Gina Richard and Kathryn Brostowitz at Thursday's vigil.
Credit Teran Powell

Richard shared her thoughts as well. 

"It’s really hard to put into words how everyone’s feeling, so I think being present and listening and learning is all we as privileged Americans can do right now, so we’re just doing what we can — showing support," Richard says.

"Everyone versus racism." - Brea Thomas

One of the most moving parts of the night was a speech written by Brea Thomas, who attends Carmen South Middle School. The principal, Robert Coburn, introduced her as a student who embodies the school’s core values. Here's some of her speech:

"I am Brea. I am Black. And my life matters. Seeing all of your beautiful faces, black, brown and white, altogether standing in unity because of the violence and injustice that our country is experiencing is truly a gift from God."

"I am grateful for the opportunity to stand here next to my sisters and ask God to help us on this journey to justice. We are the Carmen community, and we stand unified against racism. Everyone versus racism."

The crowd repeated “everyone versus racism" at Thomas' command.

Her speech was followed by prayers and blessings, in English and in Spanish. 

Coburn closed the event with lines from Thomas’ speech: “everyone versus racism.”

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story mistakenly misspelled Brea Thomas' first name as Bria.