A Tale of Two Milwaukees: The Tandem

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The Tandem’s imposing lit sign glows above the cracks of Fond du Lac Avenue.

Where we are right now in Milwaukee is endemic of our destiny as one of the great Rust Belt cities; stuck between our past as an industrial powerhouse and the crippling reality of poverty, joblessness, hopelessness, and confusion of the modern era. And yet at the same time, parts of our city are flourishing in many ways; new construction downtown, new industries, creativity, artistry, and entrepreneurship are starting to take root in the cracks, so to speak, in our post-industrial pavement. At the same time, we are slowly coming to terms with the fact that there are two Milwaukees: One of rich whites, and another of poor minorities. We are simultaneously one of the best cities for white Americans to live, with a thriving downtown, good architecture, strong businesses, and multiple colleges that makes us a “hidden gem of the Midwest”, and the location of the 53206 area code, the worst place to be African-American in the United States.

I am white, male, and moderately successful. I live twelve blocks away from 53206.

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Seriously, if you live here, go watch this.

Throughout the city, there are many small efforts that aim at resolving this duplicity, and in bringing together the fractured parts of the city of Milwaukee, making us whole again. I had the unique pleasure of seeing, from a short distance, the growth of a restaurant that hopes to help become a bridge between white and black Milwaukeeans through one of my favorite mediums: food. Continue reading

Contact your Alderperson, Milwaukee!

There has been a lot of controversy regarding the decision of the People’s Flag of Milwaukee contest and its final flag selection; now that a candidate has been selected, the real work must follow. Here is a Facebook post I wrote to my alderman, Nik Kovac, 3rd Aldermanic District, Milwaukee:

Dear Nik,

As you know, I’ve been passionately observing the People’s Flag of Milwaukee contest for some time, and today, only after the announcement of the final decision, I see all kinds of haters and belittlers crawling out of the woodwork, and even more saying how little they care. Changing the flag is SECONDARY to solving this bigger problem. We NEED to be proud of our city.

Continue reading

The People’s Flag of Milwaukee

The votes have been counted, the decision has been made. Today, June 14, is Flag Day. The People’s Flag of Milwaukee has been chosen.

Last year, Roman Mars, podcaster and member of the North American Vexillological Association, published a TED Talk in which he called out North American city flags for being poorly designed. The absolute worst in the North America? None other than yours truly, the City of Milwaukee.

Hearing this, Steve Kodis, a Milwaukee resident and graphic designer, initiated a contest to determine a new flag for the city, one that would make Mr. Mars and the rest of NAVA proud, as well as represent Milwaukee to its citizens and admirers. Over 1,000 entries were submitted at milwaukeeflag.com, and a panel of judges including local graphic designers, Milwaukee historian John Gurda, and NAVA member Ted Kaye, determined the 5 finalists out of 1,006 submissions. Through an online poll of over 6,000 voters, the winning flag design, by a very slim margin, was Robert Lenz’ “Sunrise Over The Lake”.

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Now, this may have been the city’s choice (or, all 1% of Milwaukee’s population that voted, that is), but it is far from a replacement for Milwaukee’s current, love-it-or-hate-it flag. However, the flag is being submitted to the Milwaukee Common Council for a vote, to determine whether it will replace the official Milwaukee city flag. You can find your local alderman or alderwoman here, and petition them to adopt the flag (or ditch it).

Either way, this is an exciting time for Milwaukee, as we finally are getting some attention drawn to the city flag. Whatever the outcome, this discussion is good for the city and its people, and will result in a unifying symbol of the city which will serve as a reference point for future discussions and growth.

Like the flag? You can purchase it for $50 as soon as the store is open, and fly it yourself. Don’t like the flag? I’ll be keeping an eye out for Original Milwaukee flags available for purchase, and post a link when I find one (if I find one).

Save the Yield Bar!

Recently, a much-beloved bar on the East Side, the Yield Bar, closed its doors to end an 11-year run, after their building (1932 E Kenilworth) changed hands to a new owner. However, they aren’t down for the count just yet. A GoFundMe page has been started to save the Yield Bar, and help establish some of the money required to reopen in a new location. Click this link to donate and help save a great bar!

Image lovingly stolen from Brew City Review