Editor Kurt Chandler's monthly letter to our readers.
I paused again and again as I read the page proofs of this month’s cover story, “Reasons to Love Milwaukee.” I was struck by the uplifting messages within the 50 vignettes, each a small portrait of what makes living here awe-inspiring at times.
In one vignette, Associate Editor Claire Hanan, who edited the package, tells the story of Lucas, a parking lot attendant at the Milwaukee Public Market. Lucas helps out drivers with their ticket stubs and payments. A pretty humdrum line of work, I would guess. So one day he decided to teach himself how to play guitar, using his downtime in the ticket booth to practice. His boss had no problem with that. And soon Lucas, a shy young man, was gutsy enough to play an open mic at a local bar. Bravo! It’s a success story wrapped in a mini-narrative, a charming slice of life of a charming Milwaukee character.
Inspiration seeps out of one vignette after the next. Take the story of Katherine Wilson. She doubles as a Latin dance instructor and executive director of the Zeidler Center for Public Discussion. The latter might sound like a lot of hot air, but in this ultra-polarized age we live in, her goal is admirable: to help people understand (if not agree with) contrary beliefs on hot-button issues. Wilson has presented her message to leaders in Central America and Africa, not necessarily trying to change minds, but to open them.
Good deeds and goodwill abound. The artist-in-residence programs that are springing up around the metro area. The no-fee education and support center in Fox Point for people with Down syndrome. The program that provides graphic design classes to autistic children and teens. The team of high school students in Hartland that records remembrances of World War II veterans and Holocaust survivors for schools, libraries and museums. The Wildlife Rehabilitation Center that cares for more than 5,000 injured, sick and orphaned wild animals each year. The anti-hate crime partnership created by a former white supremacist and the son of the slain leader of the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek.
The positivity is a welcome balance to the (often-deserved) bad press Milwaukee has gotten lately. As I write this, our uptick in violence is again being spotlighted in the national media. As The New York Times reports, the current spike in Milwaukee’s murder rate – a 76 percent increase over last year’s – is highest among U.S. cities.
There’s no ignoring Milwaukee’s gun violence, chronic poverty rate, or rampant unemployment among African-American men. It’s hard to talk up the city when the news can drag you down. But I look at our “Reasons to Love Milwaukee” package as an antidote to the hardships faced in this city, and most others. We’re all in this together. And amid the struggles and challenges are plenty of reasons to feel good about who we are and what we do. That’s worth calling out – and celebrating.