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Brookfield Mayor Slammed for ‘Positive’ Black History Month Proclamation

Ald. Mike Hallquist called the mayor’s proclamation “deeply inadequate.”

Brookfield Mayor Steve Ponto and the Common Council are being trashed for writing a Black History Month proclamation that was positive.

What did Ponto’s proclamation say that so offended some people?

Brookfield Mayor Steve Ponto

The mayor’s proclamation celebrates “the many achievements and contributions made by Black Americans to our economic, cultural, spiritual and political development.” It gave a history of Black History Month and said that the 2021 national theme for the month “explores the wide-ranging diversity of black family life…”

Brookfield mayor steve ponto
Ponto’s resolution

Ponto’s proclamation says that the month “calls our attention to the need to continue our efforts to build a society that lives up to its democratic ideals” and that Brookfield “aspires to be an inclusive community in which all citizens are respected and recognized for their contributions and potential contributions to our community, our state, and our country…”

That has some people positively outraged.

Ald. Mike Hallquist released a statement trashing Ponto and the Common Council, which chose Ponto’s positive resolution over an earlier version written by students. He called the mayor’s proclamation “deeply inadequate.”

He said the mayor and Council refused to recognize “systemic racism” and “chose to whitewash history and deny the many challenges faced by the Black community in Brookfield & Greater Milwaukee.” He was upset that the proclamation “contained no single recognition of hardship, past or present…”

He said that five students crafted the original resolution (the mayor’s proclamation thanked them). Hallquist claimed the mayor and Council want to put a “positive spin on centuries of suffering by the Black community.” Read his statement in full here.

We asked Brookfield Mayor Steve Ponto about the controversy, and he sent us this statement:

During the 11 years that I have been Mayor, and for the 12 years before when I was an Alderman, City of Brookfield proclamations have had a positive tone. If you read the proclamation which Alderman Mike Hallquist and the five high school students wrote, it has some positive statements but it also has many negative statements, including allegations against the State of Wisconsin and suburban municipalities. I therefore did some research on the internet and wrote a resolution which I believe is very positive in keeping with Brookfield practice. I did not re-write the students’ proclamation but wrote an alternative proclamation. In that proclamation, I set a very positive tone; I proclaimed February 2021 as ‘Black History Month’ in the City of Brookfield; and I commended the five students for their interest in government and for the suggestion that the City proclaim February 2021 as ‘Black History Month.’

Both proclamations were considered by the City’s Legislative and Licensing Committee and my proclamation was recommended to the Common Council by a vote of 5 to 0. The Common Council then adopted my proclamation by a vote of 12 to 2. The two negative votes were those of Alderman Mike Hallquist and another Alderman who didn’t want any proclamation on this matter.

What did the students’ proclamation say?

The students’ version was much longer. It also celebrated the achievements of black Americans and discussed the history of the month and the national theme.

But it added statements like this: “Despite all the progress, the legacy of slavery and segregation still persist in our nation in forms of mass incarceration, the school to prison pipeline, racial profiling, educational inequalities, housing and employment discrimination, racism and bias.”

The students’ version

It also stated that “Wisconsin is one of the worst states in the country for racial equality,” and it criticizes “financial or governmental regulations by suburban municipalities which resulted in the under-representation of Black families in these communities.”

Hallquist revealed previously that he helped writing it, saying, “To celebrate and recognize Black History Month, Shane Arnold, a colleague of mine at GE Healthcare and board member of Mentor Greater Milwaukee, and I worked with five truly brilliant students from Brookfield East and Brookfield Central to write this resolution.”

The students involved are Langston Ford and Jose Zapien Guerra from Brookfield East and Cynthia Lu, Rayanna Hassan and Jana Gharia from Brookfield Central.
Gharia told Patch: “We wrote and proposed a resolution that was thoroughly researched, thought out, and detailed. We wrote our resolution based on the facts. The fact that in the history of this country Black Americans have been mistreated, misrepresented, and discriminated against. They called our resolution ‘negative’ and continuously made comments on the tone of our resolution.”

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