Energized After the Equity Summit 2018

Dear Friends,

I and nearly 100 others from Wisconsin traveled to Chicago last week to attend the Equity Summit 2018: Our Power. Our Future. Our Nation. What an amazingly inspiring experience! Total attendance was over 4,000 people from 2,000 communities and 150 foundations across the country. We were able to engage in some of the most diverse perspectives on the common topic of equity that I’ve ever seen.

As Angela Glover Blackwell, Founder, and CEO of PolicyLink (the Equity Summit host) stated, “In 40 years of professional work for change, I have never seen so many people, across every line of identity, coalesce around a vision of inclusion, fairness, and dignity, and the challenge animating Equity Summit 2018 is how to seize and shape this hour.” This profound challenge truly shaped this 2-day experience of the audacity of hope, commitment to lean in and a sense of resolve, as one speaker described our task, “to design our nation into one that works for all.”

All of our Milwaukee Succeeds partners know firsthand, how big and heavy a lift we’ve committed to - success for every child in every school, cradle to career. The current state didn’t happen overnight and will not get resolved overnight. However, when we get to experience the power of solidarity, and the true belief in radically imagining a world that works for all, we get renewed strength to remain committed to success for every child in every school, cradle to career.

Let’s hear from some of our Milwaukee Succeeds teammates about their experiences at the Equity Summit 2018.

See you soon,


Along with our Executive Director, all four of our AmeriCorps VISTAs were in attendance at the Equity Summit 2018. We asked each of them a series of questions to hear their takeaways from this impactful experience.

Why did you want to attend the Equity Summit? What were you most excited about?

As an African-American male, I am far too familiar with the products of an inequitable society. We have disparities in just about every category we can think of. Disparities that influence our way of thinking that often times stand in the way of envisioning and then acting on the types of community/society we wish to live in. I was most excited about being in close enough proximity as freedom fighters, organizers, educators, and advocates alike to absorb the special energies that they possess. -- Dominique Portis, Social and Emotional Learning Coordinator VISTA

Our work is dependent on equity—we cannot achieve the success we strive for if equity is not at the center. And for me, that means first being honest about where our city is at, and being honest about what brought us here. I was excited to attend the Equity Summit because I wanted to hear from and meet leaders around the country who place equity as the cornerstone of their everyday work. Along with that, I was looking forward to the personal growth that would come with attending this summit. How effectively we bring equity into our work and workplace is entirely dependent upon the internal work we’ve done to understand our historical and present role in creating current inequities, along with recognizing our position and obligation to dismantle the systems that are sustaining them. -- Laura Johnson, Community Engagement Coordinator VISTA

Tell us about one session that you attended that either challenged you the most or that you learned the most from.

Guidance. Mentorship. Foundation. Purpose. All necessary components to reclaiming control over one’s own narrative. This session challenged me in unique ways, this idea of mentorship requires intergenerational understanding; understanding and a willingness to understand one another has to be at the top of the priority list. Young people have to be at the table, engaged and holding an equitable stake in the process of healing; then imagining; then reclaiming control of their own narratives; then continue that process to the generation that follows. -- Dominique Portis, Social and Emotional Learning Coordinator VISTA

I attended a session called “How the Tax Code, the Federal Reserve, and Financial Markets Can Build Equity”. Panelists discussed how the Fed should keep short-term interest rates low until the economy is at pre-2008 labor market health, and also implored the Fed to beef up its regulatory powers to curtail speculative investing. It was challenging because it was a topic I know next to nothing about. But now I’m happy I’ve been exposed to these concerns. -- Dan Bomberg, Opportunity Youth Coordinator VISTA

What is a takeaway that you have from the summit? What is an action item that you left with?

The importance of philanthropy to support direct-action community and political organizing. Rarely do institutions and systems adequately change without some outside agitation – especially agitation done by those most affected by inequity and oppression. -- Dan Bomberg, Opportunity Youth Coordinator VISTA

I went to a session on storytelling that gave me insight on how to craft narratives around equity. One of the panelists talked a lot about writing stories that connect to values. As humans, we understand and remember information best when it is in the form of a story, but we don’t always connect to every story we hear. The stories that resonate with us most are the ones that we can see ourselves in and that we can empathize with. Returning to basic but widely-held values through storytelling can help us do just that because it locates the spaces in which we are connected instead of the spaces we are not. As an action item, I want to find and write stories that are grounded in the values that connect across all socioeconomic backgrounds, zip codes, and skin colors. I think those stories have the ability to transcend stereotypes and stigmatizations that we have all placed on each other—they might even have the ability to start telling an honest but more hopeful story of Milwaukee. -- Laura Johnson, Community Engagement Coordinator VISTA

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