This month, we celebrate Black History Month, also known as Black Futures Month. Every February, I find myself reenergized by the power of community, hopeful, and inspired by the power of the people.

But y’all, this work ain’t easy. Through the constant trauma of attack after attack on our rights and communities, it can be easy to feel despair, exhaustion, and activist burnout. 

What keeps me going is the fact that we don’t fight alone. We’re fighting collectively alongside community leaders, coalition partners, and everyday Wisconsinites who want a better future.

Our mission at the ACLU of Wisconsin is to protect civil rights and fight for systemic equality for everyone. Community is at the heart of our work, internally and beside our allies.

In that spirit, here are some recent examples of how we’re showing up in the community for Black futures:

  • Capitol Drive Voting Center: We partnered with many incredible local voting rights organizations to ensure voters in the Midtown area still have a place to vote early after the polling location in the Midtown Shopping Center was closed – where nearly 30% of all early votes in Milwaukee were cast in the 2020 and 2022 elections. Thanks to our coalition's determination and collaborative efforts, the new Capitol Drive Voting Center at 6001 W. Capitol Drive in Milwaukee opened for early voting on February 6! This amazing group of people works diligently every day to make sure voters, particularly in Black and brown communities, seize their power to vote.
  • Know Your Rights Community Training Program: Given the reality of racially inequitable policing in Milwaukee, we created a community training program to empower Black youth and community members to learn about their rights and reduce the risk to themselves when interacting with law enforcement. An initiative supported by the ACLU’s Systemic Equality Campaign and Black Space, we’ve trained seven community organizations so far, a total of 110 people.
  • Combatting Racially Inequitable Policing: We continue to monitor our settlement with the Milwaukee Police Department, requiring that they stop their racist, unconstitutional stop-and-frisk practices. MPD has yet failed to reach compliance with the terms of the agreement, with a September 2023 monitor report showing that Black residents of driving age are 4.5 times more likely to get stopped than white drivers, more than ten times as likely to be subjected to a non-traffic field interview, eight times more likely to be subject to a frisk-based encounter, and more than twice as likely to be frisked once stopped by police.
  • Fighting Discrimination in Wisconsin Schools: Our lawsuit against Greendale School District for failing to honor commitments it made four years ago to address racial harassment issues in its schools is ongoing. The Office of Civil Rights of the US Department of Education opened an investigation into the Cedarburg School District’s environment of racial harassment and bullying based on a complaint from our clients.
  • Seeking Information About Book Bans: Finally, we’ve been pushing back against classroom censorship and book bans that chill free speech and silence the voices of LGBTQ+ people and people of color. We served open records requests with six school districts – Menomonee Falls, Howard-Suamico, Waukesha, Elmbrook, Elkhorn, and Kenosha Unified school districts – seeking information about the decision to ban books from school libraries.

At the ACLU of Wisconsin, we know that everyone in Wisconsin benefits when we fight for brighter Black futures. We have to work together to achieve collective liberation. The four elections this year on February 20, April 2, August 15, and November 5 provide a powerful opportunity to exercise our right to vote for our values and fight for our communities.

This month offers an opportunity to recommit to stay engaged and boldly imagine a future where Black liberation is realized. Make meaningful changes to support Black and brown lives this Black History Month. Support a Black-owned business, donate to a Black-led nonprofit organization, read a book by a Black author, and show love to your Black and brown brothers and sisters. 

It takes hard work, constant learning, and disciplined hope, but we must rally together.