Written by John Contreras, Racial Justice Community Engagement Manager, YWCA Southeast Wisconsin
I thoroughly enjoy being in new places and learning new things from people around me. When I moved to Milwaukee, not too long ago, I found myself visiting various neighborhoods and looking to be involved in a community however I could. For my partner, it was a matter of finding a community that shared her identity, which is Native American. So, in order to feel most comfortable, while also challenging my perspective, I chose to get involved with the Indian Community School.
See, my cultural identity is Mexican, which is not the same as the majority of the parents or students at Indian Community School (ICS), but I definitely feel at home and supported by the community, nonetheless. Although I do have some level of investment in the school due to my partner’s child attending the school, I still do believe that the school has created a welcoming and very community-based method of keeping their students and parents involved. There’s an emphasis on honoring tradition and seeking to educate others through peer to peer interactions. ICS truly is a place that resonates success through community.
Even when I speak with other parents or guests of their various events I often hear how supportive the school is to not only their student, but their family as a whole. I see investment in ways that I rarely saw during my time in primary education. I can see how an entire community of administrators, teachers, and families want to see the younger generation succeed.
On Monday, October 14th, ICS brought many of their students to attend the unveiling of Indigenous Peoples Park, which was formerly Columbus Park. Observing, I saw so much light in peoples’ eyes, hearts, and souls. I saw a community come together to celebrate the success of not simply the renaming of a park, but the success of the entire community. Again, not only students and staff from the school, but alumni and family of alumni supporting this community’s cause.
Community exists everywhere around us. We often belong to multiple communities as well. Some communities are not as efficiently knit as others, but they still serve a strong purpose in shaping reality for each individual. It is also common to center your sense of self on your role in your community and how you can provide for it. What can we give to our communities to ensure that the problems we faced as children are not repeated? I plan on giving my time, patience, and understanding.
Involvement in a new community can be as simple as attending events at first, and then becoming more involved as your comfort increases. I know I joined this community by first observing and participating, and now I am more involved in discussions and personally invited to facilitate various events.
What I strongly believe should be the responsibility of every individual that lives in this country is to find out whose land you are standing on. Whether that be your home, workplace, favorite coffee shop, or the park near home, find the truth that lies in the soil. Look for remnants of a past that is often disregarded, and even more often erased. Search beyond the surface level and get others to consider the deep history that the land we stand on has experienced.