MilMag’s Unity Awards Shine a Light on Milwaukee’s Changemakers

The event gave a platform to forward-thinking members of the community who are doing the work to build a better Milwaukee.

Milwaukee Magazine, along with the presenting sponsor Quad,  produced their first-ever Unity Awards event to celebrate those who are working toward the mission to build a more equitable and inclusive Milwaukee. 

The Thursday morning virtual showing started with a keynote address from the Rev. Nontombi Naomi Tutu, made possible by the keynote sponsor, Molson Coors. Tutu challenged the idea that difference is division and shared the importance of embracing everyone’s humanity. 

“Those who live their lives recognizing the full humanity of others are the ones who are the hope for our world,” Tutu said. “I can see from the different ways that the awardees have been involved in your community that they are truly those who carry forward the hope for humanity. That living fully into their gifts and recognizing that the only way your gift makes sense is if you share it with others, is why they tonight are being recognized as the Unity Awards recipients.” 

You can watch Tutu’s full address, here

The six individuals and organizations named the first-ever Unity Awards honorees spoke in a panel discussion moderated by Dominique Samari of P3 Development Group. Here’s a look at who was there: 

  • Ex Fabula connects community through the art of true, personal storytelling, with a particular emphasis on centering and elevating the experiences of women, people of color and those with disabilities. 
  • Tenia Fisher is an accomplished distance runner whose F.E.A.R. (Forget Everything and Run) program aims to give people of color a welcoming support group and safe group to participate in their favorite sport. 
  • Pardeep Kaleka has channeled personal trauma into bringing people together, including leading the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee and The Zeidler Group.
  • Nurturing Diversity Partners specializes in beginning difficult conversations with lectures, workshops and a dialogue series to cross racial, ethnic, religious, generational and other cultural divides.
  • Jose Trejo, principal of South Division High School, has dedicated his career to ensuring people immigrating to Milwaukee have equal rights to education. 
  • alida cardós whaley is a grassroots coalition builder, helping to organize Ayuda Mutua MKE as well as coordinating maker markets, doula training, cultural performances and more.

Each panelist shared stories about their work and explained the importance of their mission. You can watch their full conversation, here

One of the features of the virtual event was the ability for viewers to submit questions and live chat about what the speakers were saying. 

“Congratulations to all UNITY Award recipients,” Elsa Diaz-Bautista wrote in the chat. “Thank you for all you do to build and foster Racial Equity and inclusion in Milwaukee. It is truly inspiring and motivating to hear so many stories and testimonies of this work.” 

The event concluded with a question from the audience: “What does a united Milwaukee look like?” 

Several honorees responded; whaley noted that a united Milwaukee “would be one committed to liberation, reparations (repairing harm), and honoring all our relations.” Jackson reminded the audience that it’s not up to one person. “We’re all responsible for building a better Milwaukee,” he said.

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Allison Garcia is the Digital Editor for Milwaukee Magazine.