Join Waukesha resident Brien Lee and his blog, Sir Fido, as they explore the city and report on the interesting things they find.
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I had no plans for Thursday when I first took it as a vacation day three months ago. I knew the kids were off school and that was enough. Later I learned there were a few things going on at the colleges that day.
We are very fortunate to have great schools close by. They often present their student art, music, lectures, plays and cultural events free, or nearly so, to the public. So on the day when Waukesha's kids were sleeping late, happy to have the break from school, I was planning my day of education.
UWW often offers noontime lectures free to the public. Thursday I was happy that not only could I attend one, but the topic interested me too. The Mystery of Celtic Identity, or Who Wants to be a Celt? was not as exciting as it might have been, but the teacher did an excellent job in convincing us who the true Celts were and are. I did end up learning a bit about my Irish roots, and the students present received course credit for being there.
Another free lecture, this one across town at Carroll University, took place at 7:00 p.m. to a packed house. A highly regarded political theorist and published author, the Professor of Moral and Intellectual Philosophy at Northwestern University, spoke on racial justice at part of Carroll's International and Multicultural Lecture Series. Charles Mills kept us interested with humor and stories. Many in the audience asked questions and hundreds of students received course credit for being there. It was a great way to observe Black History Month and far more interesting than the American Idol results show playing at the same time.
The one thing that offered no class credit, just a book signing at UWW, was probably more educational than anything else the students could have done that day. Not a lot of students in the audience, but with Campus Dean Patrick Schmitt, UW Chancelor David Wilson, State Senator Spencer Coggs, the Honorable Vel Phillips, among others in attendance, you knew something big was up.
The book was "200 Nights and one Day," presenting the author's experience with Milwaukee's open-housing marches in many poetic forms. Margaret Rozga, currently a professor of English at UWW, was one of the members of the N.A.A.C.P. Youth Council in the 1960's. She marched, campaigned, protested and was jailed for trying to bring about fair housing in Milwaukee at a time when landlords didn't have to rent to people of color and were barely disciplined for running unsafe properties. Two years ago I saw her play, March On Milwaukee: A Memoir of the Open Housing Protests at the university. The play opened my eyes to the struggle and was interesting because many of the 60's era marchers and activists were present in the audience and answered questions afterward.
During the Civil Rights era of the 60's there was much more segregation and discrimination and few laws to discourage it. The Common Council felt their constituents didn't want to live in mixed neighborhoods. The poor neighborhoods on the north side were in disrepair and the slum landlords weren't held accountable. Father James Groppi was a major player in bringing about change and lead many marches across the 16th St. Viaduct. The viaduct was later renamed in his honor and Margaret Rozga was married to him.
As it was during the play in April 2007, several members of the N.A.A.C.P. Youth Council from the 60's were at the signing to talk. Vel Phillips was the first woman and African-American elected to the Milw. Common Council. Through her persistance with fair housing bills, laws were eventually passed against discrimination by landlords. Vel was present at UWW for the play's premier in 2007, and again for Marquette's commencement in 2007. She was honored, alongside my Uncle Lee, with a well-deserved honorary doctorate.
I felt very fortunate to be in the presence of history makers. People as humble as an English professor who worked to bring about change in the world. It was the very best education.