Jeffrey Norman Sworn in as Milwaukee’s New Police Chief
Wisconsin Public Radio
Acting Milwaukee Police Chief Jeffrey Norman was appointed to a full, four-year term on Nov. 4 wrapping up more than a year of turmoil over the city’s top law enforcement position.
Norman was appointed acting chief last Dec. His predecessor, Alfonso Morales, was demoted to captain by the city Fire and Police Commission in August 2020, a move a county circuit court judge ruled violated Morales’ due process rights. Morales subsequently sued the city and settled for $626,000. He is now the Fitchburg police chief.
Norman is the city’s second Black police chief, and the 19th police chief in the city’s history. He joined the department as an officer in 1996, and was promoted to detective in 2002, then to lieutenant and captain. He’s worked in the robbery, violent crimes, homicide, and property crimes divisions. Norman got his bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and holds a masters in administration from Kaplan University and a law degree from Marquette.
Norman was emotional, and struggled to speak after hearing the vote.
“I am honored and deeply humbled by the board’s unanimous support,” he said. “I look forward to continue to work with FPC for the betterment of our city. Thank you.”
Milwaukee Common Council President Cavalier Johnson said in a statement that he looks forward to working with Norman.
“This appointment is well deserved and, as I have said time and time again, I can’t think of a better person for the job,” he said. “As we work to combat crime and address issues in the way we effectively police, including reforming and modernizing the department, I know Chief Norman will be a collaborative and open-minded partner.”
And the International Space Station might not be Watkins’ only stop in space. With a background in geology and studying the surface of Mars, Watkins would “certainly” be interested in traveling to the red planet, “as long as we have a ride back,” she joked in the CPR interview.
Emilie Kouatchou Makes ‘Phantom’ History on Broadway
Rising stage star Emilie Kouatchou came close to quitting musical theater during the pandemic shutdown, worried about the future. She stuck with it and has now made Broadway history.
The soprano made her Broadway debut this fall as Christine in “The Phantom of the Opera,” becoming the first Black woman in the role in the show’s 33-year history in New York.
“I put so much pressure on myself up until then that that day I was like, ‘You know what? I’m just going to forget about it and live my best life up there,’” she says. “That night was like the most fun I’ve had in a long time.”
A beaming Kouatchou at the curtain call on Oct. 27 virtually sprinted back onto the stage as the audience and her castmates cheered and hooted, holding her arms in the sky like a marathon runner snapping the finish-line tape.
“I think in New York, on Broadway, at this time in the world, Emilie’s performance just resonates that much more,” says Seth Sklar-Heyn, the show’s production supervisor and an executive producer who helped select her for the role.
Kouatchou was raised outside Chicago in Palatine, Illinois. She started performing at age 9 in community theater, once landing a role as a farm girl in “Oklahoma!”
“I initially started doing theater because I was really shy, and we had just moved to this town, Palatine. My mom wanted to get me out of my shell. And I did it and I loved it,” she says.
She graduated from the University of Michigan’s musical theater program in 2019 and landed a gig in “Oklahoma!” at Broadway At Music Circus in Sacramento, California, and a Christmas show in Indiana. She made her off-Broadway debut just before the pandemic hit in 2020 as part of the ensemble of the musical “Unknown Soldier.”
PBS series ‘The Light’ by UW–Madison alumna
Sanders wins Chicago Emmy
Courtesy of the University of Wisconsin-Madison
UW–Madison alumna Zhalarina Sanders has created an autobiographical music video series entitled “The Light“ with PBS Wisconsin, which she wrote, acted in, and produced. Originally released in May 2020, the series won an Emmy in the Chicago/Midwest region for Outstanding Achievement in Arts/Entertainment Programming.
Sanders earned her master’s degree from the School of Education’s Department of Counseling Psychology in 2018. She also earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology from UW–Madison.
Fusing hip hop and theater arts, “The Light” tells the forbidden love story of a girl exploring queer identity at the onset of the 21st century’s evolving negotiation of gender and sexuality. Told through a series of three sequential music videos, Sanders plays both herself and her mother, Diji.
“Life has great moments and it has not so great moments. To talk about and work through and make a show of the ‘not so great moments’ — it’s been a challenge,” says Sanders on creating “The Light.”
“But, it’s been so fulfilling and edifying to be able to take very personal moments and create the world that existed around them 10 years ago in a set. That blew my mind.”
A rapper, actress, playwright, and producer, Sanders serves as co-founder of The JVN Project, a hip-hop centered nonprofit that seeks to uplift underprivileged communities through the arts, youth mentorship, and social justice initiatives. She has performed her award-winning work in the United States and abroad, appearing on stages such as the New Amsterdam Theatre on Broadway and the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in London.
As an undergraduate student at UW–Madison, Sanders was a member of the First Wave Scholars, for which she was featured in the PBS Wisconsin documentary, “Hip-Hop U” found at this site: https://pbswisconsin.org/hiphopu/.
“The Light” is available for viewing on the PBS Wisconsin website (https://pbswisconsin.org/the-light/).
Jessica Watkins will be the first Black woman to live and work on the space station
For the first time, a Black woman will live and work on the International Space Station, starting in April of next year.
Jessica Watkins, who was born in Maryland but now considers Colorado home, is slated to spend six months on the ISS as a mission specialist. It will be her first mission in space.
The crew for this mission — known as Crew-4 — will be the fourth rotation of astronauts on the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft to the ISS.
Watkins joined the ranks of NASA astronauts in 2017 and has worked in the space agency’s research centers, particularly on the Mars rover, Curiosity.
Watkins says she grew up admiring astronauts like Mae Jemison, the first Black woman in space, and Sally Ride, the first American woman in space. And she hopes her work aboard the ISS will inspire more kids of color to aspire to space travel.
“I do hope that all young girls, especially young girls of color that are interested in STEM and interested in exploring space, feel empowered to do so,” Watkins told Colorado Public Radio last year. “I just hope young girls across the country feel that way now.”
Colin Powell, first Black secretary of state, dies from COVID-19 complications
Colin Powell, the trailblazing military commander and first Black secretary of state whose career was defined in part by America’s two wars with Iraq, died of COVID-19-related complications on Oct. 18. Powell reportedly had been diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a form of blood cancer that makes it difficult to fight infections.
Powell, 84, was born in New York City to Jamaican immigrants, served four U.S. presidents and rose to become the first African American and the youngest chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the nation’s highest-ranking military officer. He died Monday at Walter Reed National Medical Center. His family said he was fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
“We have lost a remarkable and loving husband, father, grandfather and a great American,” Powell’s family said in its statement.
Powell served two combat tours in Vietnam before climbing the ranks and overseeing the first Gulf War in 1990-1991, when American and allied forces drove Iraq’s invading military from Kuwait. Powell also served in Vietnam in 1962 as an adviser to a South Vietnamese infantry battalion and then again in 1968 as a battalion executive officer and assistant chief of staff of operations. During his second tour, Powell received the Soldier’s Medal for rescuing fellow soldiers from a burning helicopter despite being injured himself.
He steadily rose through the ranks over his decades-long career, becoming national security adviser to President Ronald Reagan and a four-star general. In 1989, President George H. W. Bush selected Powell to be the 12th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Powell was 52, which made him the youngest officer to serve as the nation’s highest-ranking military appointee.
Leaders from across the political spectrum mourned Powell’s death and remembered him as a man of integrity who broke racial barriers.
“Colin was a trailblazer and role model for so many: the son of immigrants who rose to become National Security Advisor, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and Secretary of State,” former Vice President Cheney said in a statement. “I’m deeply saddened to learn that America has lost a leader and statesman.”
Women of Distinction 2021: The Greater Milwaukee Urban League
Dr. Eve M. Hall began her career with one principle in mind.
“At my core, I always wanted to be in a position where I could make change,” she says.
Her initial focus primarily always included working directly with young people, but in the ’90s, when she was working as the district School to Work director of Milwaukee Public Schools, she saw the importance of reaching and encouraging adults.
“Just one teacher is responsible for at least 30 to 50 students every year. Multiply this with the responsibility of a principal. Think about how much he or she can change and positively influence those students’ lives.”
Hall’s career as a changemaker has since taken her from the Governor’s Office to Thurgood Marshall College Fund to the African American Chamber of Commerce of Wisconsin and finally to her current position as the president and CEO of the Greater Milwaukee Urban League.
“The Urban League is instrumental in helping citizens understand how we can coalesce our efforts to make our community, our city, our state a better place to live.”
Join us in saluting Hall as one of Milwaukee Magazine’s third annual Women of Distinction!
Spotlights an Influential Black Panther Party Leader
It was the first time in decades that she’d seen his glow.
At the California foundry that fired a bust of Black Panther Party co-founder Dr. Huey Percy Newton, his surviving spouse supervised as a bronze caster put finishing touches on what is now the first permanent public art piece honoring the party in the city of its founding.
“It just glowed, like he did,” Fredrika Newton said. “His skin just glistened.”
The unveiling took place on Oct. 24 at Dr. Huey P. Newton Way and Mandela Parkway, near the spot where Newton was murdered in 1989. It came as Panther alumni, descendants and others gathered to mark the 55th anniversary of a party that has long been both celebrated and vilified.
Newton remains a divisive figure. Many people still dismiss him as the leader of a band of beret-wearing, gun-toting hustlers — and no doubt would deplore the prospect of an American city memorializing him with a statue. Others say his failings were a drag on the Black Power movement.
Still, many love him to this day, venerating him as a man who, with Bobby Seale, sought to unite all Black, impoverished and oppressed people against America’s racist, capitalistic and unjust interests. His influence on the Black Lives Matter movement is undeniable.
“Huey was maybe the only man I’ve ever known that was a truly free man,” said his older brother, Melvin Newton. “He was universal. He felt that no one could be on his back, if he stood up. And he always stood ramrod straight.”
The youngest of seven children, Newton was born on Feb. 17, 1942, in Monroe, Louisiana. His parents, Walter and Armelia Newton, moved the family to Oakland during a wave of the Great Migration, when the promise of work and less overt racial oppression lured thousands of African American families out of the Jim Crow South.
Newton struggled with his education, unable to read or write in high school as he was arrested for petty crimes. It was only after graduation from high school that, one might say, his real education began; a self-taught reader, he studied the works of W.E.B. Du Bois, Frantz Fanon and James Baldwin.
By his late 30s, he had a doctorate in social philosophy from the University of California at Santa Cruz, and he was well on his way to global fame and notoriety. Newton met Seale at a community college in Oakland, and the two founded the Black Panther Party for Self Defense in October 1966.
Black Travel: The Movement
Travel + Leisure
The Black travel movement has come a long way since the days of the Green Book. Now online communities and influencers are inspiring a new generation of global explorers.
Few people would relish being told where they can and can’t go. But that was the reality for African Americans living in the Jim Crow era.
From 1936 to 1966, The Negro Motorist Green Book and subsequent titles helped keep Black travelers and their families safe, with warnings about “sundown towns,” where people of color could face intimidation and violence after dark, and recommendations on the hotels, restaurants, and businesses that would welcome them.
Thankfully, the original Green Book is no longer a necessity for the African American community. Black travelers have become an economic force, spending $109 billion on vacations in 2019, according to a recent study by MMGY Global, a marketing agency. Yet we still have concerns. In response, a powerful new Black travel movement has emerged over the past decade — one centered on giving travelers of color the advice, inspiration, and sense of community we need to explore the world.
Black Santas Are Appearing in US Disney Parks This Season for the First Time
Without an official announcement or fanfare, US Disney parks are including a Black Santa Claus in Christmas celebrations this year for the first time in the company’s 66-year theme park history.
At both Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California, and Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, a Black Santa has been spotted at certain meet-and-greets and at after-hours Christmas parties.
A Disney spokesperson told CNN that Santa Claus is represented in various ways in local and regional communities and around the world — and in that spirit, Santa Claus will reflect the diversity of surrounding communities at both Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World Resort.
Disney parks are the latest place where families can see a non-white portrayal of Santa Claus, with more Black Santas appearing in recent years at shopping malls and in a recent Oreo cookie commercial.
As expected, Disney guests and the general public have taken to social media with strong opinions.
Victoria Wade, a theme park social media influencer who is Black, tweeted about the inclusion of a Black Santa at Disney parks, writing, “Never in life did I think disney would actually put a black Santa in the parks.”
The move made her emotional and more likely to spend money attending the parks’ Christmas parties, she said in her post.
“With Disney implementing this change as part of their diversity and inclusion initiative, it really allows me to feel more comfortable and seen when I visit the parks,” she told CNN.
2 Men Wrongly Convicted of Assassinating
Malcolm X Are Exonerated
Two men who served decades in prison for the 1965 assassination of civil rights icon Malcolm X had their convictions formally thrown out Nov. 18.
But only one them, Muhammad Aziz, was in the New York City courtroom to hear a judge announce his exoneration — and see long-delayed justice finally done.
The other wrongly convicted man, Khalil Islam, went to his grave in 2009 insisting he was innocent.
“I’m an 83-year-old man who was victimized by the criminal justice system,” Aziz, who was wearing a mask, told the court shortly before he was exonerated.
New York County Supreme Court Judge Ellen Biben agreed.
“I regret that this court cannot undo the serious miscarriage of justice,” she said. “There can be no question that this is a case that cries out for fundamental justice.”
Moments later, Aziz’ name was cleared and he was shaking the hands of his lawyers and hugging family members in the courtroom amid loud applause.
Outside the courthouse in Lower Manhattan, Islam’s jubilant sons savored the moment with tears in their eyes.
“It’s good but bittersweet,” said Ameen Johnson, 57.
His 56-year-old brother, Shahid Johnson, said what happened to his father speaks volumes about the American justice system.
“It can’t be a system that’s correct because it wouldn’t take this long” to exonerate his father, he said.
Earlier, Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance apologized to Aziz and Islam on behalf of the law enforcement agencies that sent them to prison.
“I want to begin by saying directly to Mr. Aziz and his family, and the family of Mr. Islam, and of Malcolm X that I apologize,” Vance said. “We can’t restore what was taken from these men and their families, but by correcting the record, perhaps we can begin to restore that faith.”
Vance was followed by civil rights attorney David Shanies who told the court “these men became victims of the same racism and injustice Malcolm X stood against.”
Then referring specifically to Aziz, he said: “He has faced enough injustice and suffering for a thousand lifetimes.”
Trailblazing Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson to Retire from Congress After Serving Nearly 30 Years
Democratic Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas announced her retirement on Nov. 20, after serving nearly 30 years in Congress, according to a statement from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Pelosi said in a statement that Johnson is “a dedicated and highly effective leader on behalf of Dallas area families and the entire nation for her thirty years in the Congress and nearly 50 years in public service.”
Johnson was the first Black woman elected to state public office from Dallas, according to Pelosi, as well as the first African American and woman to be the chair of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.
“On behalf of her many friends in Congress, we thank the Chairwoman for her leadership for the people of Texas and all Americans, and wish her and her family, including her beloved son Kirk and grandchildren Kirk Jr, David and James, the best in their next steps,” Pelosi said.
The 30th Congressional District encompasses much of the city of Dallas and parts of Dallas County.
2 Black Fraternity Brothers Become First Black Menswear Hat Brand in Nordstrom
Meet the two Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. members who made history at Nordstrom with their Black-owned luxury hat collection.
Co-founders Tajh Crutch and Archie Clay III broke into the fashion industry in 2016 with their high-end hat line WEAR BRIMS. Modeled around three basic principles: family, faith, and confidence, the Troy University and Tuskegee University alums came together to break generational curses and secure their family’s future.
“When I reached out to Tajh, I knew he would be the creative genius to help bring this to life. So from there we started the journey and building the #1 hat company in the world but minority-owned was the goal because they aren’t any major big box hat companies that are minority-owned.”
The fashion entrepreneurs first met in the spring of 2011 during a new members cluster for Alpha Phi Alpha. Their bond as fraternity brothers carried over into their ambitions as fashion designers and helped them make history at a major retailer.
In addition to becoming the first Black-owned luxury hat brand to be sold in Nordstrom stores within the United States and online, WEAR BRIMS has also secured a partnership with Neiman Marcus. The genuine support the brand has received from the likes of Lance Gross, Keri Hilson, Eva Marcille, Chris Paul and Cedric the Entertainer helped get visibility in several Nordstrom stores as well as a spot in Beyonce’s Directory of Black-owned Businesses.
“It feels amazing and a major accomplishment for the brand but most importantly the individuals that support us,” Archie said. “It’s beautiful to know that big retailers like Nordstrom see value in our brand – it just makes us want to go harder and continue to push the boundaries of hat and fashion.”
WEAR BRIMS joins an emerging dominance of Black fashion designers and stylists who have created what is dubbed as “Black Luxury”. It’s a movement Archie and Tajh take pride in being a part of and are excited to see where it goes.
Bubba Wallace is 1st Black Driver
to Win a NASCAR Cup Race Since 1963
Because of Them We Can and Associated Press
The hard part wasn’t dodging his way around a crash and then driving to the front of the field at Talladega Superspeedway. That was just instinct for Bubba Wallace.
The challenge was the 45 minutes after Wallace took the lead, when the sky opened and he anxiously sat in the rain — hoping, wishing, praying — that NASCAR would call off the rescheduled race and declare him the winner.
With a crowd gathered behind his pit stand chanting its support — one man told his 6-year-old son, clad in a Wallace shirt and jumping up and down along the fence, that he was “witnessing history” — NASCAR pulled the plug and Wallace became just the second Black driver to win a race at the Cup Series level.
“Got some credibility to my name now,” said Wallace, a first-time Cup winner in his 143 starts. “I’m just like, ‘Finally, I’m a winner and I’m a winner in the Cup level,’ and it’s just like ‘Hell yeah!’ It was a huge weight lifted off my shoulders.”
This was so much more than just a first win on Oct. 4.
Wallace is the first Black driver to win at the top level of the elite stock car series since Wendell Scott in 1963, a race in which he wasn’t declared the victor until long after Buck Baker had already been awarded the trophy. NASCAR at last presented Scott’s family with his trophy from that race two months ago.
As much as Wallace wanted the moment to be solely about his first career win, he couldn’t ignore its significance in a predominantly white sport with deep Southern roots and a longtime embrace of Confederate symbols.
“It’s definitely been tough going to some of the tracks this year, we get some of the most boos now,” Wallace said. “Everybody says as long as they’re making noise that’s fine, but you know, I get booed for different reasons, and that’s the tough thing to swallow. I appreciate all those who were there doing the rain dance with us, pulling for us, supporting me my whole career, but especially those who have supported me with everything that’s gone on the last 15-16 months.”