28 Days of
February is Black History Month, and in many ways, that history is still being written today. Throughout this month, several key Milwaukee Black History makers will be profiled on the City of Milwaukee website’s main page. The prominent online spot will give students and Milwaukeeans across the city a chance to learn about – and to honor – some of the city’s notable and unsung heroes.
Marna Winbush, who died in January 2022, co-founded Mothers Against Gun Violence after her son was fatally shot in 2003 by an ex-felon who legally purchased a gun. She and her organization lobbied the Wisconsin State Legislature for stricter laws on private gun sales and purchases. Winbush also worked with other community groups to assist families affected by gun violence.
Della Wells is an African American folk artist and was born in Milwaukee 1951, though she grew up in North Carolina. Her colorful collages are inspired by her life experiences and current social issues in the United States. Della recently exhibited her work at Loyola University in Chicago, "Her Story, My Dreams: Images by Della Wells” and was the recipient of the City of Milwaukee’s Artist of the Year award for 2016.
Appointed in 2021 by county Executive David Crowley, Amos Morris is the newest director of the Milwaukee County Zoo and the first Black person to fill that position.
Rev. Walter Lanier
Son of Milwaukee Bucks Hall of Fame player Bob Lanier, Rev. Lanier serves as a pastor at Progressive Baptist Church and as chairman of the MICAH's religious leaders caucus. He was named in February 2022 as president and CEO of the African American Leadership Alliance of Milwaukee. Prior to that Rev. Lanier served as the director of community engagement and student resources at MATC, as well as leader of the school's Men of Color Initiative, which aims to improve the retention, graduation and other academic outcomes for MATC's men of color. He holds a law degree from the University of Michigan, and taught courses related to constitutional law at UW-Milwaukee while working at his own private law practice. He also serves on the Milwaukee County Mental Health Board, and previously served on the Milwaukee County Pension Board.
Ellis Turrentine played basketball at Milwaukee Lincoln High School from 1965-1969 and helped them to win state titles as a freshman and sophomore in 1966 and '67. He started on a state championship teams as a sophomore and earned all-state recognition as a junior and senior before playing at Drake. He scored 1,608 points, including 781 as a senior. He was inducted into the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2015 in the “Boys Players” category.
Sister Patricia Roberts
Sister Patricia Rogers is the former executive director of the Dominican Center, a neighborhood organization that serves Milwaukee's Amani neighborhood and focuses on housing, safety, and economic development initiatives. During her tenure the center worked to address community needs by hosting neighborhood cleanups, mobile food pantries and the resident-led Moody Park revitalization. Sister Rogers previously worked for Safe & Sound, where she managed the day-to-day operations of the $2.5 million nonprofit.
James, Jalin and Clifton Phelps are the co-owners of JCP Construction, which they founded in 2009 and have worked to make it one of the top black-owned commercial contracting companies in Milwaukee. They have worked on some of the most high-profile building projects in the city including the Bader Philanthropies headquarters, Northwestern Mutual’s downtown office tower, and the Fiserv Forum.
Deneine Powell is the first president and CEO of the African American Leadership Alliance of Milwaukee, a nonprofit focused on turning Milwaukee into a top-ranking region of choice for Black by helping the region's business community retain, nourish and advance the careers of local Black professionals.
Nyesha Stone founded local media company, Carvd N Stone, in 2017 with the intention of bringing a more positive approach to news stories about Milwaukee’s African American community. Stone has also worked for the Milwaukee Courier as an editor and reporter, and has worked for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Waukesha Freeman, Shepherd Express and CNN. She graduated from UWM in 2018 with a degree in journalism.
Mary Dowell, who died in January 2022, was a prominent corporate executive in the Milwaukee area. She was founder and CEO of MJ Dowell & Associates, and worked for 19 years at Johnson Controls, retiring as a vice president in 2015. Dowell also chaired or served on the boards of many local organizations, including the Milwaukee Urban League, Professional Dimensions, Visit Milwaukee, TEMPO Milwaukee, Milwaukee Women Inc and the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts. She also co-founded the United Performing Arts Fund’s Notable Women Initiative, and was an award-winning author of the 2016 book “Playing Through the Fence,” which featured stories of mostly Milwaukee-area women.
Lucille Berrien is a 93-year-old welfare rights activist and was involved in Milwaukee’s open housing marches during the 1960’s working alongside James Groppi. She is a former member of the Black Panther Party and the first Black woman to run for the mayor of Milwaukee in 1972. She co-founded the Milwaukee Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression in 1973. Milwaukee County’s Berrien Park is named for her.
The Community Within the Corridor
Formed by local developers in 2020, this group focuses on the rehabilitation of the former Briggs and Stratton industrial site on the north side of Milwaukee into affordable housing, community amenities, and commercial space. Team members include Mikal Wesley of Urbane Communities, Falamak Nourzad of Continuum Architects, Que El-Amin of Scott Crawford Inc., Jennifer Green of Commercial Realty Advisors, and Rayhaino Boynes of Sharp Creatives.
Que El-Amin is a real estate developer and entrepreneur who focuses on Milwaukee's needs for both affordable housing and opportunities for startup businesses. Besides running his real estate company, he also leads the Young Enterprising Society with his brother Khalif. Their organization runs accelerator and education programs for new businesses.
Khalif El-Amin is the 2012 Co-founder of the Young Enterprising Society (YES), a program that provides training and technology assistance to Milwaukee-area youth and adult entrepreneurs.
Joyce A. Hall
For most of her 36 years as an MPS faculty member, Joyce A. Hall dedicated herself to teaching reading. After her retirement in 1994, she continued her mission for more than 20 years, volunteering as a reading tutor. In 2021 she was honored by George Washington Carver Academy, which renamed its school library after her.
Pioneering mathematician and a longtime Milwaukee resident, educator and community leader, Ms. Gloria Gilmer was the first African American to teach high school math at MPS, the first African American on the math faculty at MATC, the first African American math lecturer at UWM, and the first African American to earn a doctorate from Marquette University’s School of Education. She spent her later years working in the field of ethnomathematics both nationally and internationally, and started the educational research and development company Math Tech Inc. in Milwaukee.
Andre Lee Ellis
Andre Lee Ellis is the founder of "We Got This," a mentoring and employment program for Milwaukee youth. He is also the founder & managing dir. of the Andre Lee Ellis & Company theatre group.
Rev. Willie Brisco
Reverend Willie Brisco is president of MICAH, Milwaukee Inner-City Congregations Allied for Hope; and has spent the better part of his life fighting racism in the Milwaukee area, along with focusing on issues of inequality in transportation, employment and housing.
Shaykh Ayyub Al-Amin
Born Roscoe Simpson in Flint Michigan, Al-Amin was a leader in Milwaukee's Muslim community. He moved to Milwaukee in the early 1970s, and together with his wife, converted to Islam, and helped establish the Milwaukee Islamic Dawah Center, where he served as executive director. He was also the dawah chairman for the Islamic Society of Milwaukee. Dawah is an invitation to individuals to join the Islamic faith. The Dawah Center has expanded to include a food pantry and re-entry services to those who have been incarcerated.
Victor Barnett is the founder & Exec. Director of Running Rebels Youth Services. He has also been recognized by the Milwaukee Division of the FBI and awarded the FBI Director’s Community Leadership Award for 2020. This award recognizes individuals and organizations that make extraordinary contributions to their communities.
Cheryl Bennett was named general manager of 88Nine Radio Milwaukee in September 2021 and previously served as the station’s human resources manager and accountant.
Kevin Newell is the founder and President of Royal Capital Group, a company focused on urban development, mainly multi-family housing. Royal Capital is a co-developer of the Mill Road Library, is building the 550 Ultra Lofts in the Bucks Arena District, and also will build at North Beach, an apartment complex on Racine’s lakefront and the largest residential housing development in the city in a generation.
Rev. Dr. James E. Leary
A pastor at Calvary Baptist Church, Dr. James E. Leary was one of the founders of Milwaukee Inner-City Congregations Allied for Hope (MICAH) and served as its first president. When the group was looking to hire a community organizer, Leary interviewed a young man named Barack Obama.
In October 2021, Raynetta “Ray” Hill was appointed to be the executive director of the Historic King Drive Business Improvement District and is the first African American woman to hold that position. She served as the district's associate director from 2016-18 and has also worked as the regional manager of property management and advancement services at Common Bond Communities Inc., a nonprofit affordable housing developer.
George Marshall Clark
George Marshall Clark was the victim of the only recorded lynching of a Black person in Milwaukee, dying on Sept. 8, 1861. He was buried in an unmarked grave in Forest Home Cemetery. After research by Tyrone Randle and America's Black Holocaust Museum located his final resting place, funds were raised for a headstone. In 2021, on the anniversary of his death, the stone was installed and bears the inscription, "Lest we forget."
Antonio Butts is the Executive Director of the nonprofit Walnut Way Conservation Corp., located in the Lindsay Heights neighborhood where he grew up. Through this organization, Butts works to bring economic development and opportunity to the local community.
First African American woman and person to serve as the City of Milwaukee’s Chief Equity Officer and to lead the Office of Equity and Inclusion. Nikki Purvis is immediate past chairwoman for the African American Chamber of Commerce of WI and Urban Economic Development Association. She is also Vice-Chair of the Board of Commissioners for the Social Development Commission and a board member of Legacy Redevelopment Corp. She is a charter member of the African American Leadership Alliance Milwaukee (AALAM) and a past board member of Select Milwaukee.
Rosemary Holley was a community activist and longtime member of the Social Development Commission's Board of Commissioners, having served as chairperson in 1996, 1998, and 1999. She began her involvement with the SDC after it was first created in 1966, working as a teacher's aid and supervisor in the organization's Head Start Program. Holley was also involved with the SDC's Inner City Development Project from 1972 to 1985, serving as executive director of that agency from 1976 to 1985. She passed away in December 2021.