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29 Days of Black History

February is Black History Month, and in many ways, that history is still being written today. Throughout February, 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.

This year, residents were asked to submit their nominees of Milwaukee people, or other institutions, that represent influential figures in Milwaukee’s Black history.

Past honorees can be viewed here.


Image of 2024 BHM Honoree Tonda Thompson

Tonda Thompson

An advocate for healthy birth outcomes, Tonda is the founder of the National Coalition for Healthy Black Families, Inc. (NCH BF) and is an accomplished creative and business owner. A Milwaukee native, Tonda moved to Los Angeles to pursue modeling and later delved into photography and mentorship for young models. A former Public Allies member, Tonda founded the HaRUNbee 5K Walk/Run Annual Event to advocate healthy birth outcomes for pregnant people and infants. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she decided to take on a new venture in carpentry and founded She Slangs Wood where she mentors and employs young women in woodworking and carpentry. She is also the proud owner of Valor Creative Collective, a building she procured, invested in, and completely rehabbed in the historical Harambee neighborhood. Valor serves as a home for her multiple businesses and the many people she mentors and creates with.



Image of 2024 BHM Honoree John A. Hall

John A. Hall

An influential figure in Milwaukee's history, John A. Hall was known for his trailblazing work as the city's first African American clerk. Despite facing discrimination from his co-workers, Hall persevered and went on to serve the city through various titles; including his role as a bookkeeper, Principal Clerk, and accountant. Hall also served as the first president of the Milwaukee branch of the NAACP and continued to be an advocate for civil rights throughout his life. With the segregated 370th Infantry Regiment, Hall fought in World War I and was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant in January of 1918. His dedication and bravery during the war served as an inspiration for many generations to come. In recognition of his many contributions to the city, Milwaukee will celebrate John A. Hall Day on March 1st, 2024, as proclaimed by the Mayor. His dedication to civil rights and his trailblazing career as a clerk and accountant continues to serve as an inspiration to many. 


Image of 2024 BHM Honoree Derek Mosley

Derek Mosley

Derek Mosley currently serves as the Director of Marquette University Law School's Lubar Center for Public Policy Research and Civic Education. In this role, he conducts public events and works with colleagues to develop robust programming that will fulfill and expand the law school's role as a public square for timely and important public policy discussions. Prior to his current position, Mr. Mosley served the community as a Municipal Court Judge for 20 years, and also served as an Assistant District Attorney and represented the State of Wisconsin in over 1,000 criminal prosecutions in Milwaukee County.

Image of 2024 BHM Honoree Everett Marshburn

Everett Marshburn

Celebrating 55 years as a producer for public television, Everett has been at Milwaukee PBS since 2006 but spent over 30 years at Maryland Public Television. In 2024 he will be the first person to be inducted into the Wisconsin Gold Circle by the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Chicago/Midwest Chapter (the organization that governs the Emmys). Everett was the long-time producer of Milwaukee PBS' "Black Nouveau” and has been instrumental in telling the stories of the people, places, and circumstances that impact southeastern Wisconsin's black community. His passion extends to veterans affairs, civil rights, and the AIDS epidemic in long-form documentary storytelling. An advocate for the arts, you'll find him enjoying theatrical productions and showcasing local artists on his shows as well. But most importantly, Everett is the consummate professional who shares his time and talent not only in his television storytelling but also to the community. You'll find him mentoring young people and early career journalists as well as volunteering his time as a community advocate.

Image of 2024 BHM Honoree Mavis McCallum

Mavis McCallum

Mavis McCallum studied art and interior design but eventually turned to social work and served as deputy superintendent at the Milwaukee County Detention Center, the first Black woman in that position. In her younger days she served as Youth President of the National Council of Negro Women and in 1965, during her first year of college, she took part in the march for civil rights that went from Selma, Alabama to the capital in Montgomery. In retirement she has been an active volunteer with human services organizations and a community builder in the Thurston Woods neighborhood, where she and her artist husband Tom have their home. They were honored with a Mayor’s Landscape Award in 2003.

Image of 2024 BHM Honoree Jeffrey B. Norman

Jeffrey B. Norman

Jeffrey Norman was sworn in as Chief of the Milwaukee Police Department in November 2021 after serving as its acting chief for almost a year. His position is the culmination of rising through the ranks after joining the force in 1996. A lifelong Milwaukeean, he holds diplomas from North Division High School, UWM, and Marquette University Law School. His current focus is establishing trust between the MPD and the public, and making the police a force for collaboration with others to improve the quality of life in the city.

Image of 2024 BHM Honoree Willie Sinclair III

Willie Sinclair III

Willie Sinclair III is a Milwaukee-raised fashion stylist and costume designer. He was educated at UW-Madison and the Fashion Institute of Technology and is currently based in New York City. He is well-known as the wardrobe stylist for talk show hosts Sherri Shepherd and Wendy Williams. His work has also appeared in fashion magazines and on red carpets.

Image of 2024 BHM Honoree Yashica Spears

Yashica Spears

Yashica Spears is co-owner and manager of Sherman Park Grocery at 4315 W. Fond du Lac Ave. She and her husband, Maurice Wince, opened the store in 2022 to bring healthful food options and convenience to what had been a food desert. The couple is part of a team of developers hoping to bring needed services to the Fond du Lac Ave. business corridor and they also hope to expand the grocery business to other locations in the city.


Image of 2024 BHM Honoree Maurice “Moe” Wince

Maurice “Moe” Wince

Maurice Wince is a real estate developer on a mission to improve services and opportunities in the business corridor along Fond du Lac Avenue. Wince is a board member of Prism Economic Development Corp., which originated at Parklawn Assembly of God Church and created Upstart Kitchen, a commercial kitchen and business incubator for food entrepreneurs. In 2022 Wince and his wife, Yashica Spears, opened Sherman Park Grocery near Fond du Lac Ave. and Sherman Boulevard, bringing some relief to what had been a food desert.


Image of 2024 BHM Honoree Charles Clevert

Charles Clevert

Born and raised in Richmond, Virginia during segregation, Charles Clevert vowed to become a lawyer and to help people receive justice. After law school, his job search brought him to Milwaukee, a move he thought would be temporary, but he ended up staying until retirement. After first working as a state and federal prosecutor, he was appointed as a judge in bankruptcy court at age 30, becoming Wisconsin’s first Black bankruptcy judge and the youngest in the U.S. to fill that role. In the mid-1990s, he was elevated to the federal courts and became the first Black federal judge in the state.


Image of 2024 BHM Honoree Elmer Moore, Jr.

Elmer Moore, Jr.

In 2022 Governor Evers appointed Elmer Moore, Jr. as the CEO of the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA), where he has overseen awarding grants for the development of affordable housing across the state. Prior to leading WHEDA, Moore was the Executive Director of Scale Up Milwaukee, a business development program run by the Greater Milwaukee Committee. He is also Chairman of the Board for the Social Development Commission.


Image of 2024 BHM Honoree James Gordon

James Gordon

A legendary high school basketball coach in Milwaukee, Gordon led state-champion teams at Rufus King (1984) and Washington (1990 and 1993). He was also recognized for his excellence as a classroom teacher. When he retired in 2001, he had coached basketball for 14 seasons and compiled a remarkable 284-53 win/loss record. In 2005 he was inducted into the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.


Image of 2024 BHM Honoree Orville Pitts

Orville Pitts

Alderman Pitts was the first African-American man elected to the Milwaukee Common Council, joining trailblazing woman Vel Phillips. His time as a council member (1968-1976) was just one part of his interesting life. As a young man, he fought in over 100 bouts as an amateur and professional boxer. He also served in the U.S. Air Force and then the Naval Reserves.  After earning degrees in law and mortuary science, he used both as a practicing attorney and in helping to establish his family’s business, Pitts Funeral Home. In his law and local politics careers he worked to change policies and institutions that discriminated based on race.


Image of 2024 BHM Honoree Lena Jacquelyn Taylor

Lena Jacquelyn Taylor

Lena Jacquelyn Taylor -- “Ms. Jackie” as she was known—studied nursing in school but spent most of her life caring for others outside of the medical profession. She joined her mother’s business ventures that included Delta’s Grocery, Mama Delta’s and Jackie’s Country Style Kitchen, and real estate holdings. In 1994, Taylor started The Love House, a faith-based group home for people in need of a place to stay. There, she ministered to residents with good food as well as scripture. She was also mother to Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Lena Taylor. Ms. Jackie passed away in December 2023.



2024 Black History Month Honoree Wyman Winston

Wyman Winston

Wyman Winston has worked as a city planner and development director in his native Chicago as well as in Atlanta, and Portland, OR. In Milwaukee he was the first executive director of the Westside Conservation Corporation, a community development organization focused on housing counseling and restoring vacant homes to sell to first-time home buyers. From 2011-2019 he was executive director of the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA), where he oversaw state programs in affordable housing development, small business assistance, and mortgage lending for low- and moderate-income home buyers.

Emery Harlan

Emery Harlan has dedicated himself to promoting greater diversity within the legal profession. This commitment started in the 1990s in the Chicago law firm where he worked at the time, where he encouraged the firm’s leaders to recruit and hire more lawyers who were people of color. A UW Law School graduate, he returned to Wisconsin in 1994 to join a minority-owned law firm in Milwaukee, where he and his colleagues started what became the National Association of Minority and Women Owned Law Firms (NAMWOLF), an organization that works to connect large corporations and public entities with minority- and women-owned law firms. In 2016 Harlan co-founded MWH Law Group, a firm that fosters opportunities for minorities and women in legal services.



2024 Black Histsory Month Honoree Harper Donahue

Harper Donahue

Harper Donahue was appointed by Mayor Cavalier Johnson in 2022 to serve as the City of Milwaukee’s Chief Human Resources Officer and Director of the Department of Employee Relations. He is the first African American male to hold the position. Mr. Donahue began his career in public service in 2005 with the City of Madison where he worked as a Civil Rights Recruitment Specialist and as an Equal Opportunities Analyst with Madison’s Department of Civil Rights, and was named the Director of Human Resources in 2018, having served as Interim Director since 2017.  Prior to his work for the City of Madison, he was a supervisor, outreach specialist and community liaison for the PEOPLE Program (Pre-College Enrichment Opportunity Program for Learning Excellence) at UW-Madison.  Mr. Donahue earned a bachelor’s degree and an MBA from UW-Madison, and a certificate in Labor Relations from UW-Milwaukee.

Image of 2024 Black History Month honoree Oscar Johnson

Oscar Johnson

Oscar Johnson made history when he became the first African American car salesman in Wisconsin, working in the retail automotive business for over 51 years before retiring in 2019 at the age of 80.  He spent most of his career working for the Andrew Automotive Group, and was praised by company president Andy Schlesinger for his diligence and hard work.  In 2018, Mr. Johnson was named a Black Excellence Extraordinary Achievement honoree by The Milwaukee Times.  He passed away in December 2023.



Image of 2024 Black History Month honoree Kyle Ashley

Kyle Ashley

Kyle Ashley was hired to lead Governor Tony Evers' Milwaukee office in March 2023.  He is the former youth program coordinator for WRTP/BIG STEP, a local nonprofit workforce intermediary dedicated to connecting people to family-sustaining jobs.  Prior to joining Governor Evers’ staff, Mr. Ashley served as the DEI Consultant and Professional Development Trainer for Share Collaborative, the Community Engagement Manager for the national software company Unite US, and the Community Liaison and Project Development Manager at Milwaukee’s RISE Youth & Family Services.


Image of 2024 Black History Month honoree David Polk

David Polk

David Polk was named Director of the Bureau of Apprenticeship Standards, a division of the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, in 2022.  Prior to that, Mr. Polk served as the director of Apprenticeship and Trade at the Milwaukee Area Technical College where he established several new sector apprenticeships, including the first-ever arborist apprenticeship program in the country.  He has over 20 years of experience leading apprenticeship programs in both public and private sectors, with a special emphasis on recruiting individuals from low-to-moderate incomes, as well as Black, Indigenous, and other people of color.

Image of 2024 Black History Month honoree John Daniels Jr.

John Daniels Jr.

John Daniels Jr. is a local attorney who was the first African American hired by the Milwaukee-based law firm Quarles & Brady, the second-largest firm in the State of Wisconsin.  After earning his law degree from Harvard University, Mr. Daniels began his career with Quarles in 1974, and was named a partner in 1981.  In 2007, he became chairman and managing partner, and is credited with leading the firm into the 21st century.  In addition to his legal career, Mr. Daniels has had a decades-long role in Milwaukee’s civic life, having founded the MKE Fellows scholarship program for young men and chairing the boards of the Greater Milwaukee Committee, Advocate Aurora Health, and the Greater Milwaukee Foundation.

Image of 2024 Black History Month honoree Arike Ogunbowale

Arike Ogunbowale

Arike Ogunbowale is a professional basketball player for the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA).  She was born in Milwaukee to Nigerian immigrants.  Ms. Ogunbowale’s success on the basketball court began in grade school, and continued through her high school years at Milwaukee’s Divine Savior Holy Angels High School where she helped the varsity team win the WIAA Division I championship in the 2014-2015 season.  She went on to play college basketball for Notre Dame University, and was instrumental in helping the team win the 2018 NCAA Division I women’s basketball tournament.  Ms. Ogunbowale signed on to the WNBA in 2019, and has played for the Dallas Wings since then.  She was named the WNBA 2021 All-Star Game MVP, and the May 2023 WNBA Western Conference Player of the Month.


Image of 2024 Black History Month honoree Mayor Cavalier Johnson

Mayor Cavalier Johnson

Cavalier Johnson was the first African American to be elected Mayor of the City of Milwaukee in April 2022.  Mayor Johnson is a Milwaukee native and began his political career in 2016 when he was elected Alderman for the 2nd District.  He was re-elected to that office in 2020, and was chosen to serve as Common Council President.  He assumed the role of Acting Mayor at the end of 2021.  Mayor Johnson is a graduate of Bay View High School, and has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  Prior to his election to public office, he worked for the Milwaukee Area Workforce Investment Board (MAWIB), now Employ Milwaukee, where he focused on youth employment and adults re-entering the labor force.

Image of 2024 Black History Month honoree Ronda Kohlheim

Ronda Kohlheim

Ronda Kohlheim is the first person to serve as Inspector General for the City of Milwaukee.  This position was created by the Common Council in 2018 to provide independent, non-partisan analyses and reviews of municipal departments, programs, and services.  Ms. Kohlheim is a member of the Association of Local Government Auditors (ALGA), the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE), the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement (NACOLE), and the Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics.

Image of 2024 Black History Month honoree Kimberly Montgomery

Kimberly Montgomery

Ms. Montgomery served as the first African American Director of the City of Milwaukee Intergovernmental Relations Division from 2018 until her retirement in 2022.  She began her career with the city in 1996, working as the Mayor’s Legislative Liaison before going to the Intergovernmental Relations Division.  After surviving a heart attack in 2011, Ms. Montgomery was chosen to be a representative for the American Heart Association’s national Go Red for Women campaign in 2013.

Image of Black History Month honoree Jerrel Jones

Jerrel Jones

Mr. Jones, a Milwaukee native, is the first Black owner of both a newspaper (The Milwaukee Courier) and a radio station (WNOV) in the United States. Through his work in local media, he has had a strong presence in Milwaukee’s Black community, helping to shape local politics and culture.  Jones was one of the first radio executives to put rap and hip-hop artists on the air, helping Black artists to break into main-stream markets.  He was also active in the civil rights movement in Milwaukee, and was an influential figure in political campaigns both in Milwaukee and nationally. Mr. Jones was awarded an honorary doctor of humane letters degree from Cardinal Stritch University in 2022.

Image of 2024 Black History Month honoree Aliyah Reed-Hammon

Aliyah Reed-Hammon

Milwaukee’s Aliyah Reed-Hammon, a graduate of Wauwatosa East High School, is a member of Fisk University’s gymnastics team. The team is the first ever in the NCAA for a Historically Black College/University. Ms. Reed-Hammon started gymnastics at M&M Gymnastics in New Berlin when she was just 8 years old, and reached the highest level of the Junior Olympic program by her senior year of high school. She became a member of Fisk’s team as a freshman and achieved the highest score in the team’s history (so far), a 9.925.


Image of 2024 Black History Month honoree Bishop Sedgwick Daniels

Bishop Sedgwick Daniels

Bishop Daniels helped lead the congregation of Holy Redeemer Institutional Church of God In Christ, one of Milwaukee’s largest Black churches, for more than 30 years.  He founded the church in 1986, and was made bishop in 2001.  In addition to his service to Holy Redeemer, Daniels was instrumental in the opening of the Daniels-Mardak Boys and Girls Club in 2004, as well as the establishment of several schools, affordable housing for seniors, a health clinic, and a credit union.  He was chosen to serve as a delegate for the Republican National Convention in 2004. Bishop Daniels was a beloved figure and cultural icon in Milwaukee’s African American community. He passed away in November 2023.

Image of 2024 BHM Honoree James Hall

James Hall

James Hall, who passed away on January 1, 2024, was a leading Milwaukee attorney who spent his career fighting for civil rights in Milwaukee and around the country.  He graduated in 1979 from the University of Virginia School of Law. He was a past president of the Milwaukee branch of the NAACP and served on the national board of the ACLU, among his many civic contributions. He was also an adjunct instructor and lecturer at UW-Milwaukee.  In 2015, Mr. Hall was selected to receive the inaugural Robert H. Friebert Social Justice Award from the Milwaukee Jewish Federation. He was also a founding member of 100 Black Men of Milwaukee.


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