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A message from our President & CEO

April 21, 2021

Yesterday’s verdict in the Derek Chauvin case is historic. It is indisputable evidence that the racial reckoning our country is undergoing is accomplishing what we and the generations of civil rights leaders before us set out to accomplish: progress toward liberty and justice for all Americans, notably those Americans who have still not yet enjoyed the full rewards of those freedoms. I do not consider this verdict a victory. Victory and true justice would mean George Floyd was still with us. But the verdict does honor Mr. Floyd’s life with confirmation of the truth about his death: that he was murdered by a law enforcement officer who swore an oath to protect him.

I first want to say to Mr. Floyd’s family, we send our love and support to you as you continue to grieve his loss. He did not die in vain. Arguably, his death exposed the issue of police violence to more people than ever before, and for many, seeing is (finally) believing. So this is the not end of the George Floyd murder case. The work continues. We continue to fight for fundamental change in policing. The cycle of state violence against black lives won’t stop if we stop. So, we push forward. We do so peacefully but with a renewed and relentless drive. If the 331 days since Mr. Floyd’s death have taught us anything it’s that the vast majority of Americans stand in solidarity with justice. The vast majority of Americans recognize that structural inequities simply have not changed for Black Americans and that more must be done. I feel encouraged by the progress we have made since Mr. Floyd’s murder, and I am motivated by the progress that is undoubtedly still ahead of us. Along with the countless lives lost at the hands of law enforcement officers before him and those since, we will not let Mr. Floyd’s death be in vain. We dedicate our actions to honor the lives of those lost, ensuring they are not forgotten, and we push forward.

In this spirit, our organization is focused not on words, but on actions. Last summer we formed a Solidarity Action Committee that works to implement strategies that combat the inequities and systemic racism that plague the Milwaukee community. Our approaches are peaceful, solution-oriented, and aligned with the mission our Clubs. This committee has worked tirelessly to advance equity goals in all facets of life from the workplace to the polling place and beyond. This work is hard but necessary. It reflects work that has been going on for centuries and will continue for as long as it takes.

Lastly, and importantly, please know that Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee stands in solidarity with all those who are calling for police reform. We know that peaceful resistance is the path to progress, to freedom. History proves it. The 11 months of overwhelmingly peaceful protests since Mr. Floyd’s murder alone have spawned remarkable progress in dismantling systemic racism, reforming police departments, increasing diverse representation, reducing racist symbolism in our country and more. We have seen an awakening I would argue is unmatched, and we have only just begun. Let’s continue to fight for a world where this does not happen. Let’s continue to fight for a world in which the freedoms of liberty and justice are fully felt by all Americans. Let’s continue to fight for a world in which black lives matter.

In solidarity,

Kathy Thornton-Bias
President & CEO,
Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee

  • A message from our President & CEO
    June 15, 2020

    Like many of you, all of us at Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee have been struggling with how to process our feelings and wondering if our country will ever heal its wounds.

    Our community and our nation are indeed at an uncomfortable and undeniable point of reckoning.

    In these great United States, there is an embedded and prevailing violence against people of color, and in particular against African American men and boys that spans more than two centuries. This precedent is deeply rooted in our history.

    It is especially gut wrenching to think that the young men and women that we support and serve at the Clubs, could be treated with the same sort of malice, violence and disregard.

    Boys & Girls Club of Greater Milwaukee is a non-profit organization whose mission it is to empower and inspire all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens. We believe, AN INJUSTICE AGAINST ONE IS AN INJUSTICE AGAINST ALL.

    Boys & Girls Club of Greater Milwaukee serves an average of 5,000 kids a day, the vast majority of whom are African American and Latino. We believe, BLACK LIVES MATTER.

    Boys & Girls Club of Greater Milwaukee was founded by a woman at a time when women could not vote, admitted girls into the Clubs when it wasn’t the national norm, and kept our doors open during the Sherman Park unrest. WE SHALL NOT BE MOVED.

    In this spirit, our organization is turning its attention towards actions instead of “just” words. We are in the early stages of developing a Social Action Plan that will spell out specific ideas and tactics our agency will deploy in response to the inequity and systemic racism that plague the Milwaukee community. Our plan will be solution oriented, inclusive of the community voice, and aligned with the mission our Clubs have been committed to for 133 years.

    We hope you will join us in this important fight! Follow us on Facebook to learn more.

    Kathy Thornton-Bias
    President & CEO,
    Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee

  • A Letter From Boys & Girls Clubs of Wisconsin

    A message from the Executive Committee of Wisconsin Boys & Girls Clubs:

    The Boys & Girls Clubs of Wisconsin:

    Taking Action in Response to Racial Inequality

    Boys & Girls Clubs have stood for inclusion for over 160 years, and our commitment to creating a safe space is unwavering. Our mission is to inspire and empower all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens. We cannot inspire kids when they live in fear of losing parents, or their own life and liberty. We cannot enable them to reach their full potential while they witness communities being torn apart in a fight over whether their own lives matter. We need our youth to know: You matter, your dreams matter, and your life matters.

    Statements of advocacy are hollow when void of action. It’s time to make change, rather than discuss it. We need real results beyond hashtags and town halls. Seven out of ten club children across our state are kids and teens of color. As we step forward together to resolutely affirm Black lives matter, we best honor good intentions with real outcomes. It is time to do the work of dismantling systemic racism.

    We support peaceful protest for change. When a segment of the population is denied justice under the law, it is the obligation of all citizens to make their voices heard. Continued civic engagement is at the core of serving as a responsible citizen, and our sustained action can take many forms.

    Within clubs, we will continue to create permanent infrastructure to enforce and maintain policies of inclusion and diversity. We will hold relevant trainings for staff, evaluate our internal hiring practices, and review compensation and promotion policies. Board recruitment and development will reflect diversity and inclusion, and we will implement meaningful best practices to avoid all discrimination.

    Within local communities, we will urge mayors, county officials and law enforcement to review use of force policies and report out on reforms. Local officials matter most in changing criminal justice practices, and voter turnout in these elections is low. We will encourage citizens to complete the census, register to vote and show up at the polls.

    Within institutions — including our own boards, state alliance, area council and national organization – we will push for programs, policies and partnerships to better support equity work. We will ask for relevant racial trainings in regional and national conferences. We will value our staff of color to ensure they feel included. And we will encourage all to reward diversity at the club level, push for policies of inclusion, and amend strategic plans to reflect this new reality.

    As individuals, some will march in protest or sign petitions. Others will donate to victim funds or support black-owned business. And all of us will vote. But we will also need to step out of our comfort zone, including uncomfortable conversations with coworkers, friends and family on recognizing white privilege. One of the intentional outcomes will be learning and unlearning biases that can cause harm in our clubs and communities.

    As leaders, it’s our responsibility to ensure this work is sustained. Everyone has the opportunity to choose how they participate, but no one has the choice of whether or not they are a participant. We must plan, strategize, organize, advocate and unify around policy change to address racial disparities in education, health care, employment, incarceration and our criminal justice systems.

    Ultimately, it’s going to be up to a new generation – including youth in our clubs right now — to continue to shape the strategies that move us forward. We best serve our youth tomorrow with meaningful actions today.

    The Executive Committee of Wisconsin Boys & Girls Clubs