A while ago, I joined my Democratic colleagues on the state and federal level in expressing concerns about last year’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) decision to repeal Net Neutrality rules. However, aside from the obvious reasons for alarm, I am also anxious about how this issue impacts social justice movements like #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter.
The concept of net neutrality is that all searches on the internet should be treated the same and bars internet service providers from blocking, slowing, or giving preferential treatment to certain online sites, services or content. With the internet becoming such a household staple and commonly used public resource, the Obama administration believed we needed to treat it like other forms of telecommunications that have safeguards to protect free and open access to the public.
This week, a majority of the United States Senate agreed. In taking up a vote to repeal the FCC’s net neutrality rule changes, a bi-partisan group of federal legislators are trying to stop new rules put in place by the Trump administration from taking effect on June 12th. However, the Senate vote may be largely symbolic, as few expect Republicans in the U.S House of Representatives to even take up the measure. But make no mistake, this is a hugely important issue.
Net Neutrality ensures that the internet remains free and accessible in this country, with increased transparency that treats all content equally on the internet. However, Trump’s rules changes could result in groups that want to suppress sites dedicated to women’s rights, like #MeToo, censor or suppress these views on the internet. Women have been able to bypass male dominated industry “gatekeepers” and get their message out with a simple Facebookpost. Whether making a public statement or organizing a rally, we have clearly seen the impact of unfettered access to the internet. It is not impossible to imagine broadband providers favoring some content and slowing or blocking others that they find controversial.
Without doubt, social justice movements like #BlackLivesMatter found their voice, amplified their message and elevated their cause in great part through the use of social media. It took traditional media a long time to catch up to their calls for equity in treatment, while they were reaching millions around the world via the internet.
Additionally, Net Neutrality was meant to prevent large corporations from blocking access to certain websites and charging users higher rates to use what are called internet “fast lanes”. It was understood that we needed to create a level playing field for local businesses and small start-ups to allow them to compete in the global economy. Trump’s actions will likely hurt everyday Wisconsin entrepreneurs.
Given these concerns, there are states that are now drafting bills to create their own Net Neutrality protection legislation. Like the state of New York, I am exploring a bill to require state contracts only be awarded to internet service providers that are compliant with net neutrality guidelines. We have an obligation to protect our residents when the federal government won’t.
On Thursday, May 17th, marked an historic milestone in American history. Regrettably, most Americans were totally unaware of the 64th anniversary of the landmark 1954 Supreme Court case, Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, in which the justices ruled unanimously that racial segregation of children in public schools was unconstitutional.
Leon D. Young
Brown v. Board of Education was one of the cornerstones of the civil rights movement and helped establish the precedent that “separate but-equal” education and other services were not, in fact, equal at all.
In 1896, the Supreme Court ruled in Plessy v. Ferguson that racially segregated public facilities were legal, so long as the facilities for blacks and whites were equal. The ruling constitutionally sanctioned laws barring African Americans from sharing the same buses, schools and other public facilities as whites — known as “Jim Crow” laws — and established the “separate but equal” doctrine that would stand for the next six decades.
But by the early 1950s, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was working hard to challenge segregation laws in public schools and had filed lawsuits on behalf of plaintiffs in states such as South Carolina, Virginia and Delaware. In the case that would become most famous, a plaintiff named Oliver Brown filed a class action suit against the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, in 1951, after his daughter, Linda Brown, was denied entrance to Topeka’s all-white elementary schools.
In his lawsuit, Brown claimed that schools for black children were not equal to the white schools, and that segregation violated the so-called “equal protection clause” of the 14th Amendment, which holds that no state can “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” The case went before the U.S. District Court in Kansas, which agreed that public school segregation had a “detrimental effect upon the colored children” and contributed to “a sense of inferiority,” but still upheld the “separate but equal” doctrine.
When Brown’s case and four other cases related to school segregation first came before the Supreme Court in 1952, the Court combined them into a single case under the name Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. Thurgood Marshall, the head of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, served as chief attorney for the plaintiffs. (Thirteen years later, President Lyndon B. Johnson would appoint Marshall as the first Black Supreme Court justice.)
At first, the justices were divided on how to rule on school segregation, with Chief Justice Fred M. Vinson holding the opinion that the Plessy verdict should stand. But in September 1953, before Brown v. Board of Education was to be heard, Vinson died, and President Dwight D. Eisenhower replaced him with Earl Warren, then governor of California.
Displaying considerable political skill and determination, the new chief justice succeeded in engineering a unanimous verdict against school segregation the following year.
In the decision, issued on May 17, 1954, Warren wrote that “in the field of public education the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place,” as segregated schools are “inherently unequal.” As a result, the Court ruled that the plaintiffs were being “deprived of the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the 14th Amendment.”
Although racial minorities have made several educational advancements since Brown v. Board of Education, the decision failed in a wholesale dismantling of school segregation. In New York City, for instance, more than half of public schools are reportedly at least 90 percent Black and Hispanic, and in Alabama nearly a quarter of black students attend a school with white enrollment of one percent or less.
Many civil rights advocates even point to what they believe is a “resegregation” trend. According to a report issued by the Economic Policy Institute, low-income black children are currently more racially and socioeconomically isolated than at any time since the 1980s.
Hundreds of teens flocked to the Washington Park Library Wednesday afternoon to participate in the Milwaukee Public Library’s Northside teen job fair. Over 15 employers and organizations such as Summerfest, City Year Milwaukee and the Milwaukee County Zoo had booths at the fair, many companies hiring summer interns or employees.
The Milwaukee Public Library regularly holds two job fairs for teens every spring, one on the Northside and one on the Southside. The library also held resume writing workshops and mock interview sessions leading up to the fair.
Elizabeth Lowrey of the Milwaukee Public Library helped organize the job fair. She said the library reaches out to many of the employers and organizations who were present at the event.
“We try to listen to the community, and what we heard is that teens need jobs and good experiences,” said Lowrey. “We are trying to make sure that teens have opportunities for them to learn and to grow.”
The teen job fair was held during spring break for the Milwaukee Public School System.
Tatiana Diaz, the Youth Arts Specialist for Artists Working in Education, came to the fair looking for summer interns. Artists Working in Education is a non-profit working to sponsor professional artists to help teach the youth in Milwaukee.
“The inner city is underserved when it comes to careers and education,” said Diaz. “So, us coming to them makes it easier.”
Another organization that was present at the event was the Milwaukee Social Development Commission, a Community Action Agency that serves low-income families in Milwaukee County. The SDC came to the fair to provide information about their programs, such as youth recreation opportunities and job preparation services.
The Goodwill Workforce Connection Center was also present. They attend multiple job fairs in the area every week, and often hire individuals in the community as young as age 16.
“I came here to stay active for the summer and to find a job that will keep me off the streets,” said Marcus, a high schooler from Milwaukee. “No one else will make me money, so I might as well get out there and work on my own.”
MADISON – A month ago Assembly Democrats attempted to pass Assembly Bill 65, a bill introduced by State Representative Terese Berceau (D-Madison) requiring universal background checks on firearm purchases in Wisconsin. Democratic efforts then were stymied by Assembly Republicans who, refusing to vote on background checks for gun purchases, instead pulled several procedural stunts, and ultimately gutted Democrats’ universal background check proposal.
Today, Assembly Republicans amended Assembly Bill 1031 with an amendment relating to firearm background checks that, remarkably, did nothing to address the gun show loophole or private gun sales. State Representative Melissa Sargent (D-Madison) re-released the following statement concerning Republicans’ continued refusal to adopt universal background checksin Wisconsin:
“Republicans should have to justify their actions today, and they should have to answer to every child who is afraid to go to school, every teacher who is afraid to go to work, and every family who has been affected by gun violence due to Republican inaction.
I stood with high school students from our community in the Capitol just last week while they begged Wisconsin lawmakers to take action on gun violence. And yet, based on Republicans’ theatrics this afternoon, it’s clear our kids’ pleas didn’t just fall on deaf ears, they fell on ears that just don’t give a damn
Inaction is complicity. It’s not a matter of if the next shooting is going to occur, it’s when, and it could happen in our watch in Wisconsin if Republicans don’t start acting like the adults our kids expect us to be.”
Melissa Sargent is a State Representative in the Wisconsin Assembly, representing the 48th Assembly District, which covers the east and north sides of the city of Madison and the village of Maple Bluff.
[/media-credit] Students and faculty gathered after the walkout to share how they want to see gun laws reformed.
“Life is not a partisan issue.” This statement was repeated many times by numerous students while standing hand in hand outside of Rufus King International High School last Wednesday in a march of remembrance for the seventeen students who were killed in a high school shooting in Florida last month.
More than 1,200 students and staff marched in silence around the school’s football field while the names of the students who were killed in the Feb. 14 Parkland, FL shooting were read aloud. The walkout and march were part of the National School Walkout that was intended to encourage lawmakers to take action on gun laws.
“They say that we are not activists,” said Rufus King student government members Ruth Fetaw and Morgan Coleman. “They say that we cannot be voices and agents for change, but on behalf of the 17 lives lost on a day that was supposed to be full of love…we say enough is enough.”
There were multiple protests planned at Milwaukee Public Schools including North and South Division, among others, according to the #Enough National School Walkout website. The number of students who decided not to participate in the march was not released.
[/media-credit] MPS Superintendent Dr. Darienne Driver released a letter to MPS families in support of the walkout.
MPS Superintendent Dr. Darienne Driver said in a letter released to parents before the march that she supports students in expressing their constitutional rights to assembly and peaceful protests. She also said that students are not required to participate. Dr. Driver was also present at the march and spoke to media following the event.
“As a superintendent, when people ask me what keeps me up at night, it’s keeping my children safe,” said Driver. “This was a student led initiative, and they said it best when they said life should not be a partisan issue.”
Olivia Schmitz also took part in the march. She said that she hopes that lasting change occurs because of the large numbers of students taking initiative.
“It was incredible to see everyone show up and taking this seriously,” said Schmitz. “Our school has had a week of action involving sessions of education relating to this issue. We will be holding letter writing campaigns and be contacting representatives as well.”
Pulaski High School issued a “code red” earlier in the day on Wednesday, after there were false reports of a gun on campus. Although there was no gun found, the lockdown was still a reminder that a shooting could occur at a moment’s notice.
Last week, the Trump administration proposed providing firearms training for some school personnel. Superintendent Driver offered her opinion on this new proposal.
“That argument is void of reason and rational thought,” said Driver. “Schools are a safe haven, and the idea of putting a weapon in a school is absolutely ludicrous.”
As the march came to an end and students met in the middle of the football field to speak to the school and media who had gathered there, a young student spoke through tears to share a story about her cousin whom she had recently lost to gun violence in Milwaukee.
“I just want to tell my cousin that I love him. All I have to say is that I just want it to stop, and I miss him.”
Local students have announced their plan to join in Madison on March 25 to march 50 miles south to Janesville, to the home of House Speaker Paul Ryan, in what they’ve named the 50 Miles More March. Led in part by Shorewood High’s own Katie Eder, the students have sited the 1965 Selma to Montgomery civil rights march as inspiration for keeping the school safety issue front and center following the March 24 March for Our Lives protest in Washington D.C.
They will make their way down to Janesville, a journey that will take them four days’ time with overnight stays at local high schools along the way. Like the Selma to Montgomery march, our young people will be putting their time and bodies on the line to remind those who are entrusted with their safety and well-being that many issues truly transcend politics. And like the Selma to Montgomery March, I am reminded that it can take looking at our children to be reminded what pure, unbiased intentions look like.
On one hand it saddens me to see that the fight for common sense legislation is still going on decades after Dr. Martin Luther King led thousands to Alabama’s Capitol in 1965. On the other, I could not be prouder to see the young people of my district following in Dr. King’s footsteps, and peacefully protesting so that the 17 students and staff members killed in the Parkland, Florida tragedy will be more than just another set of numbers.
It came as no surprise that a large portion of the students marching, including several of the event organizers, are from Milwaukee area high schools. It’s not the first time our young people voiced their concerns in the form of non-violent protest. This very month four Milwaukee Public Schools participated in an organized effort to oppose ending the DACA program. Time and again, our young people have shown how willing they are to step into action and cut to the heart of reforms we have allowed to become far too political in nature.
They’ve made it clear that if Paul Ryan and other Republicans continue to roll over for special interest groups on these issues, they’ll find overwhelming opposition in the form of continued protest in the streets, the schools, and ultimately in the ballot box. The loose gun legislation in this country is a problem that needs more than thoughts and prayers, it needs to be addressed through constructive discourse and swift legislative action. I commend the students of Milwaukee and Wisconsin as a whole for their continued push for change. The rally cry of justice that was started by the survivors of Parkland, has been echoed by the young people of Milwaukee. They too have been the victims of gun violence, and they too are done waiting for action from politicians that for too long have remained silent. Their resilience and aspirations for real change make me proud to call Milwaukee home.
Calling all educators, pupil services, educational assistants, administrative staff, and those in the process of obtaining their license! Come to the Educator Recruitment Fair on Saturday, April 7, 2018 from 8 AM to 1 PM at Shorewood High School, Shorewood, WI. Multiple schools in Southeastern Wisconsin are looking to fill vacancies for the 2018-2019 school year. Register to attend: www.cesa1.k12.wi.us.
[/media-credit] In addition to her teaching and research, UWM Professor Wilkistar Otieno devotes significant time to mentoring students, in particular women and students from underrepresented backgrounds interested in engineering.
MILWAUKEE COURIER — The University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee’s Wilkistar Otieno knows firsthand that young women, especially young women of color, need strong mentors and role models. She knows that need is magnified in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math – STEM for short. So she’s committed to making a difference. A professor of industrial and manufacturing engineering, she advises UWM’s chapter of the Society of Women Engineers. And through the UWM STEM-Inspire Program, she mentors women and students of Latino, African- American and other backgrounds, many of whom are the first in their families to attend college. It’s all part of enhancing their experience at UWM, one of the nation’s top research universities.
“What I have seen,” Otieno says, “is that these students may not pursue engineering because of a lack of access to STEM opportunities in their prior educational experiences. Or, they may face a lack of role models.”
Women account for less than 15 percent of the engineers working today, and less than 20 percent of college engineering majors are women. The desire to grow those numbers is part of what drives Otieno’s call to mentorship, which also includes her participation in the UWM National Science Foundation Engineering and Computer Science Scholars Program and K-12 STEM outreach projects.
She wears many other hats. In addition to teaching and designing graduate and undergraduate courses in engineering, she conducts long-term research projects with top Wisconsin companies like Rockwell Automation and Harley-Davidson. All the while, she works so her mentees can follow similar paths in their chosen fields.
UWM’s STEM-Inspire group pairs every participating STEM major with a faculty mentor, peer mentor and a tutor. Partially funded by the Wisconsin Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation, or WiscAMP, it provides opportunities like internships, STEM lectures, workshops, research opportunities and library study nights. This school year, the program has 18 participants, and you can learn more about the program at uwm. edu/steminspire.
Stem-INSPIRE mentors like Otieno seek to build a community among those students, whose majors cam range from mechanical or computer engineering to biological sciences or architecture. Doing so cultivates a sense of belonging, which maximizes their chances for academic and professional success.
It’s the kind of community that Otieno sought 20 years ago at Moi University in Eldoret, Kenya. She was one of only three women studying mechanical and production engineering there – out of 40 total students – during her undergraduate years. She worked closely with a small group of other underrepresented students, eager to fulfill her dream of becoming an engineer and educator.
“I had to work a lot harder than I needed to just to make the point that I belonged in mechanical engineering,” she says. She took seven to eight courses per semester, sleeping five to six hours a night.
Today, she participates in corporate research and training programs with industry partners who rely on UWM as a major educator of science and technology professionals. Her graduate students are involved in this research, enhancing their skillset as future engineers and educators.
That’s the path Priyanka Pillai is on. In May 2017, she earned her master’s degree from UWM’s College of Engineering & Applied Science, and Otieno’s mentorship played a key role in that success.
English is Pillai’s second language, and she worried her English writing skills would hinder work on her master’s thesis. Otieno stepped in as a writing coach, giving Pillai additional articles to read and reviewing early drafts of her writing.
“Dr. Otieno made me a better writer,” Pillai says, “because she is always giving her students the push to try something different.”
It worked. Today, Pillai is a supplier quality engineer and thinking about pursing her own doctoraldegree in engineering.
[/media-credit] O.N.F.Y.A.H. African dance and drum ensemble.
MILWAUKEE COURIER — Thousands gathered at the Marcus Center of Performing Arts on Sunday, Jan. 14 to celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. From 1 pm to 3 pm, local elected and community leaders gave speeches on Dr. King’s legacy, and Milwaukee Public School students delivered speeches and displayed artwork inspired by Dr. King.
Other than Atlanta, Milwaukee is the only other city that has celebrated Dr. King’s birthday since 1984. Each year, Milwaukee Public Schools students in grades K-12 participate in an art, essay and writing contest that honors Dr. King’s legacy. This year’s theme was “take a stand for truth and justice.”
[/media-credit] Milwaukee Flyers Tumbling Team.
MPS Superintendent Dr. Darienne Driver was one of the communityleaders who spoke this day.
“We have had 5,000 students participate in the preliminary contest, and 56 won,” she said. “Our young people are finding ways to get active in our community.”
Amir Johnikin, grade 3, was the first place speech winner for the 3-4thgrade category. He attends Elm Creative Arts Elementary School. Without a paper in his hand, he was one of the first to share his entire essay on stage. He stated that the same streets that Dr. King marched were the same streets where his father’s life was taken. He also mentioned African Americans like Sandra Bland, who died at the hands of police officers.
[/media-credit] Ameen Atta, winner of the 9-10th grade speech category speaks against the racism he has experienced as a Muslim.
“King had a dream that people of all races would co-exist in peace,” he said. “I challenge you to stand up for what you believe in, I challenge you to stand up for justice, and I challenge you to stand up for truth.”
Tenth grader Ameen Atta feels especially passionate about the theme when it comes to Islam. Atta won first place in the 9-10th grade speeches category.
“As a Muslim, I stand against violent, senseless acts against Islam,” he said.
He also said that it is “disgusting” to hear “hateful remarks and proposals by leaders of our community.”
“If it’s African Americans, more police. If it’s Hispanics, build a wall. If it’s a Muslim, travel ban,” he said. “But if it’s none of the above, even if the person is the deadliest mass shooter in the history of our country, the only proposal is to send thoughts and prayers to the victim.”
[/media-credit] Amir Johnakin, winner of 3-4th grade speech category challenges the audience to stand up for justice.
Mayor Tom Barrett was one of the first to speak when the event began. He believes that although Dr. King has helped bring social and racial justice to our country today, our current president is not doing so.
“Rather than having an individual who is appealing to our better angels, we have someone who is not appealing to our better angels but to our lesser angels,” he said.
In addition to contest winners, Milwaukee Tumblers, O.N.F.Y.A.H, United Indians of Milwaukee and Latino Arts Strings performed during the multi-cultural salute portion. After the event ended, the art winners were honored in a reception at the Bradley Pavilion.