(Sponsor's Name Here)'s Official Daughter, Gooey, won an award from the Milwaukee Urban League as part of their "Do the Right Thing" program, and her and about 100 other students were honored at the Recognition Ceremony Tuesday evening (December 13). Gooey's award was for "Academic Achievement".
I attended the first part of the ceremony (full disclosure requires me to report that I had a ticket to the incredible Wisconsin @ UW-Milwaukee game in the evening. However, I was told it started at 5:30 when the program was really supposed to start at 6:00, and didn't actually start until 6:15). I had told Gooey in advance that I would only stay until 6:45 or so.
Once the program started, the President of the Milwaukee Urban League Guild, Stanthia Grier and the VP Monica Payne mentioned how these are the good kids (other categories awarded included those for "Extracurricular Activities: Volunteerism/Special Talent", "Athletic Achievement" and "Social Leadership"). Grier made specific mention that these are the kids that are not selling drugs or in jail. The award winners then proceeded down the ceter aisle of the Parklawn Assembly of God Church (which had very comfortable cushioned theater seating) to a standing ovation.
I actually had a tingle thinking about all of these kids - almost exclusively black - that were indeed doing the right thing. These kids are the ones presumably in the worst parts of the city that are either taking advantage of their education or otherwise giving back to a community that needs them. I was standing and applauding the entire three or four minutes that the kids were entering the church.
Once they were seated, Ralph Hollmon, the President and CEO of the Milwaukee Urban League again stressed how important that it is that these kids - in their fragile environment - were succeeding, and that we as parents and as a community need to support these kids and make sure they continue to "Do the Right Thing". Then Hollmon introduced Kwabena Nixon, the "Spoken Word Artist" (as he is titled in the program).
(And I can't remember if it was Hollmon or Nixon who said this, but on a day when they were honoring a large number of black youths, there was not one media member or one TV camera present. "But hold up a liquor store and they are all over it". I wholeheartedly agree with that comment. Where were the "Friends we can count on"?)
Nixon started with the audience warm up. "Do you like the Packers?" met with a huge ovation (until he mentioned that he was from Chicago and was a Bears fan). He asked "Do you Praise the Lord?" (a fair question, being that we were in a church. I am not Pentacostal, but the Lord is pretty cool, so I clapped with the crowd). Then he said "What about Obama?". I gave him the benefit of the doubt - I was one of five whites (on my count) in a church with about 400 blacks. I rationalized to myself he was working the crowd.
And Nixon did get their attention. He told the story of how his dad was "a hustler" who died when he was 10 or 11. He said his mom was "a partier" and it was a miracle he was born, much less ever got to school. He talked about the many friends he buried over the years, and that he vowed not to end up like them. He commanded the church. He was a powerful speaker, and had the entire crowd (including me, to be quite honest) in the palm of his hands.
Nixon continued to talk about how each one of you (not sure if that was directed at the students, or the entire crowd) need to take responsibility for your own selves. (Paraphrasing) "You can't make a name by being gunned down in the streets. Sure, if you do, they will make a shrine with teddy bears and crosses and write your name on the wall where you died and will make T-shirts with your photo on them, but in three days the teddy bears will be gone, the writing on the wall erased, and the T-shirts wrinkled and in the back of a drawer. You need to account for yourselves if you want to be somebody". Again, he was very powerful, and I was getting amped up.
Until he said....
"Ronald Reagan and George Bush weren't there for you when drugs hit the streets of the inner city, and Scott Walker ain't going to save you now".
What in the hell is that message doing in a ceremony honoring students for academic, athletic or social achievement? Wrong, wrong, wrong. Wrong place, wrong time, wrong audience. For the record, drugs didn't "hit the street" on January 21, 1981, so technically Jimmy Carter wasn't there for them either, nor was Bill Clinton there after Reagan/Bush, and Obama isn't exactly eliminating drugs now. But that is not my point.
The guy was making a beautiful, moving speech to a group of still-impressionable youths being recognized for "Doing the Right Thing", and Nixon had to invoke the evil, nasty Republican presidents of the last 30 years.
As mentioned earlier, I had to leave at 6:40ish, so I waited until Nixon finished his time and then I left. Hopefully, the big white guy walking out of what was really a black rally (disguised as an event for the children) sent a message to someone.
I am sure it didn't, though. But it did drive home the message that the "other" side doesn't care about "for the children" any more than "my" side does. Any chance to drive home the message...
My blog posting is not at all about what he said about Obama/Reagan/Bush/Walker, regardless of my viewpoint. It is that those comments were not appropriate when we were supposed to honor the achievements of urban youths. Those comments should have never been spoken at that time. In a regular Milwaukee Urban League meeting? Fine, I have no problem with groups of like-minded people discussing politics. But was it arrogance that led Kwabena Nixon to discuss those politicians amongst the children? Did the Milwaukee Urban League and its Guild approve or encourage those remarks? THAT is what I have the problem with.
(Footnote; The back of the program mentions "The Milwaukee Urban League is an Affiliate of The National Urban League Project Ready Program. A United Way Funded Agency".)