YWCA Southeast Wisconsin
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June 2017

By Ariana Badran, Racial Justice Intern, YWCA Southeast Wisconsin

Everytown for Justice

Last weekend, Milwaukee enjoyed Pridefest: a three-day long celebration of diversity, equality, and tolerance. This year’s festival had a record turnout, making it the largest LGTBQ pride event in its 30 year Wisconsin history. On Monday, Milwaukee celebrated emancipation and progress on Juneteenth Day, which commemorates the abolition of slavery on June 19th, 1865. Hundreds of people enjoyed the parade, food, music, and entertainment festivities on the joyful state holiday.

Surrounding these communal celebrations was news that exposed a different side of the city. Just several miles away from Pridefest, a deputy shot two people (one fatally) near Bradford Beach, where hundreds of people were enjoying a warm summer evening. Just yesterday, former Milwaukee Police Officer Dominique Heaggan-Brown was found not guilty of first-degree reckless homicide in the fatal shooting of Sylville Smith that occurred in Sherman Park. Following these events, community members from Milwaukee gathered together once again, this time to mourn.

What does a community do with such news? How can we celebrate progress and equality while reeling with frustration at racist crimes that represent larger unjust systems of oppression? What are our roles as individuals in tackling these issues? Though certainly not a comprehensive solution, one tangible opportunity for education and resilience is Everytown Wisconsin.

Everytown is a weeklong camp through the YWCA Southeast Wisconsin where young women gather to deeply explore social justice issues such as racism and sexism, learn how these impact participation in our democracy, and work on improving civic engagement to challenge these systems of oppression. Everytown builds a community of storytellers who are taught to understand how privilege and ability shape their own experiences as well as societal construction.

Encourage young people to participate in experiences such as Everytown. It is not some hippie-activist camp, but rather a unique opportunity for human connection and safe space for passionate young people to learn how to face oppressive structures in their lives and have difficult yet important conversations. In today’s world, this is something from which everyone could benefit.

Everytown will not stop police officers from pulling triggers and it will not reverse previous acquittal decisions. What it will do is change the perspectives of a small yet important part of Wisconsin’s diverse, resilient population. It will teach participants to learn from their experiences, celebrate progress, and work for change. And, if we do our job well, the young women’s formative experiences will have a ripple effect and spread knowledge and hope throughout Wisconsin communities.