As a proud Wisconsin native, state Sen. Lena Taylor (D) can tick off stories connected with her state. They include ones about historical figures such as Joshua Glover, a fugitive enslaved person whose escape from Missouri in 1852 to Racine, Wis., inspired abolitionists and led to the state’s Supreme Court declaring the Fugitive Slave Act unconstitutional.
Taylor is equally well versed with the saga of Ezekiel Gillespie, a former enslaved person turned community leader who, in 1866, sued for the right to vote in Wisconsin and won.
Now, Taylor, who represents District 4, which encompasses portions of Milwaukee, and the communities of Shorewood, Glendale and Wauwatosa, says it’s time for Black people in Wisconsin “to reclaim our legacy.”
“Not everyone realizes there are even African Americans in Wisconsin, but we’ve been here for centuries and are trailblazers,” the state senator, 54, told The Washington Post in a phone interview. “Milwaukee is a majority Black and Brown city. We have been dealing with police stops and economic and social problems including mass incarceration. It’s left folks feeling stagnant for a long time. But this generation is bringing greater awareness to those injustices, and a lot of people are joining them.”
Taylor said that Milwaukee activists Frank “Nitty” Sensabaugh and advocate Tory Lowe are among those who have taken to the streets in recent weeks for protests following the police-involved death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May.
Now they and other residents are marching toward the nation’s capital, aiming to arrive in time for the 57th anniversary of the historic March on Washington on Aug. 28. Taylor was not involved in planning the nearly 800-mile trek, which kicked off Tuesday, but she fully supports it. Organizers did not return requests for comments.
“Frank and Tory, along with people like Vaun Mayes, Khalil Coleman have been doing all kinds of community work — gun violence interruption, helping people with evictions — prior to this,” Taylor said, noting that her office recently bestowed community service awards on some of the advocates.
The demonstrators are marching to raise awareness of police brutality and racial inequity, as USA Today reported.
In 1963, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous “I Have A Dream” speech. Rep. John Lewis, who died in July, also spoke. They were among the civil rights, labor and faith leaders who addressed a massive crowd on the Mall urging Americans to fight for jobs and justice.
For the 2020 commemoration, National Action Network founder, the Rev. Al Sharpton; Martin Luther King III; the NAACP; attorney Benjamin Crump; and the families of police brutality victims will lead a Commitment March with the rallying call of “Get Your Knee Off Our Necks.”
The National Action Network said its march was for criminal justice reform “in solidarity with those who have lost loved ones at the hands of the police,” according to a statement provided to The Post.
Organizers said that speakers will include the families of Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Eric Garner — all killed in separate police-involved incidents. Protesters and activists will gather at Lincoln Memorial Circle for a day of programming before marching to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. Safety protocols will be observed in light of covid-19, organizers said.