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Eric Von: Milwaukee’s Problems Are Not Reserved to the Sherman Park Neighborhood

Michelle Maternowski
Eric Von with Andre Lee Ellis in the 'We Got This' community garden.

Sunday afternoon, the Milwaukee Police Department invited faith and community leaders to meet in the aftermath of devastating events in the Sherman Park neighborhood. The hope was that influential residents could help foster calm.

One person at the table was Eric Von. The Washington D.C. native has made Milwaukee his home since 1991.  

WUWM listeners have come to know the veteran journalist as host of thePrecious Livesseries that focuses on the root causes of gun violence.

Von says he didn’t know quite what to expect when he walked into the MPD gathering. He credit the department  for initiating a conversation, but says it’s up to those who assembled to make sure conversation leads to action.

“Given that they stepped out and they asked people to be a part of this, and people said yes, then there’s almost equal responsibility to make sure that this has the outcomes that everybody says they want,” Von says.

He describes the city’s challenges as daunting. “Unemployment, economic equality – and I’m not sure how you achieve that without employment opportunities that are real and meaningful to people. And we’ve got a lot of debate over what is a fair salary for someone to receive,” Von says.

Systemic racism is also a core issue. “That is undeniable, despite the fact that you have people who constantly work to deny it, deny that it is an issue,” Von adds, “Even education. An education system that provides the holistic opportunities for people who are in the system in Milwaukee.”

Von says he’s come to realize Milwaukee’s problems are not reserved to the Sherman Park neighborhood that erupted in violence last weekend, rather are citywide.

“Sherman Park as a lot of people have noted is one of the better areas of the city. If it’s bad enough so see what we saw in Sherman Park this weekend, what about the areas that statistics will show are even in worse shape,” Von says.

He urges Milwaukee residents to think about the resilience of their neighborhood.

“Your neighborhood could be next; and what are they doing to make sure that it isn’t. Then it’s up to them,” Von says.

He calls on city leaders to lead. “I think we’ve seen some of that leadership from people like Alderman Hamilton, the president of the common council; you certainly have seen some leadership from Khalif Rainey, the alderman for the 7th District,” Von says.

Von says elected officials need to step up to Milwaukee’s challenges.

“Some of these folks who have been elected office for a long time and some who are just getting there need to step their game up,” Von concludes, “they need to do what the people need done, not just what they need to do to be elected or reelected.”

Full conversation with Eric Von.

Susan is WUWM's environmental reporter.
Eric Von was the host of Precious Lives, a series that was created in partnership with 371 Productions, WUWM 89.7 FM - Milwaukee Public Radio, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, WNOV and the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism.
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