Martha’s Vineyard might have a lock on “the place to be” every second weekend of August, but Milwaukee is where you want to be the weekend after that. For more than 20 years, John Daniels Jr., managing partner emeritus of Quarles and Brady LLP, and his national team of altruists have hosted the Fellowship Open Golf Tournament. Something more akin to a movement than an event, the Fellowship Open raises tens of thousands of dollars for numerous local charities in the Milwaukee area. Commendably, this carve-out of the talented tenth, who are also avid golfers, had the revelation that they could do more than vicariously support the good works of others. Their aggregated initiative can change lives and communities in ways that siloed endeavors could never accomplish.
Thus, was the beginning of the MKE Fellows – an ambitious program with a mission to stem the tide of Milwaukee’s brain drain by identifying college bound African American males from Milwaukee and promising them paid internships during their summers while in college. This foresight assurance was first extended to “the Men of Morehouse,” and the concept grew and spread to African American males from Milwaukee who attended any HBCU. The program grew so that MKE Fellows could attend college anywhere.
And, as if this is not enough, the MKE Fellows is developing a mind-blowing expansion plan. As explained by John Daniels III — John Daniel Jr.’s son and collaborator — “MKE Fellows has created a pathway for African American males to maintain and enhance their connection to Milwaukee through paid summer internships even though these students attend various colleges across the country. We are now developing specific plans to expand the Fellows program to Madison and a number of other cities beyond Wisconsin.”
The MKE Fellows Financial Forum developed as an enrichment feature as inauspiciously as the MKE Fellows itself. The organizers held a small “below the radar” Financial Forum in 2018 and the event blossomed into “a thing” this year with presenters from across the country. The Forum was staged at No Studios, a state of the art venue which was built by film maker (and Milwaukee native) John Ridley and his family for exactly the kind of gathering and discussion that the MKE Fellows Financial Forum fostered.
The 2019 edition of the MKE Fellows Financial Forum was held on Aug. 18. Panelists included Kweku Obed, an owner and managing partner at Marquette Associates of Chicago; Jeremiah Brown, public speaker and author (“Financial Freedom: Our Only Hope” and “Bank On You”) from Los Angeles; Miami resident Blair Walker, author of nine books, including the best-selling biography of famous entrepreneur Reginald Lewis; and State Sen. Jason Fields, author, entrepreneur and truth teller.
The panelists’ message, most ardently presented by Jason Fields, was that the Fellows should dedicate themselves to understanding the game of capitalism and they should play to win. The Fellows, however, being “post millennials”, were not as enamored with “the game” in its current iteration. “Can capitalism ever deliver a fair shake to the disenfranchised,?” was the first question from the audience of Fellows. And a give-and- take discussion ensued from there.
The tenor of the forum recalled one of Winston Churchill’s famous quotes : “The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings. The inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.”
Local reports such as the Race to Equity and the more recent national report by McKinsey & Company entitled, “The Economic Impact of Closing the Racial Wealth Gap” document that Black Americans have not fared well economically throughout the annals of American history. While the solutions are debated and answers remain elusive, the question, framed most famously by the title of Reginald Lewis’ biography, is undoubtedly universal and perennial within communities of color. That is, “Why Should White Guys Have All The Fun?”