I often say that the formation of the Wisconsin chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architects, WISCO NOMA, was ten years in the making. There were two attempts in the past to develop a local chapter, but at the time we just did not have the numbers. Buoyed by the diligence and energy of an increased number of young architects and recent graduates of color in the field, we finally were able to organize and charter the WISCO NOMA chapter in the summer of 2019. The majority of our members practice in Milwaukee and Madison, however our membership extends to all areas of the state. In a short amount of time our young chapter was able to bond, establish connections in the community and is on course to implement our mission.
Our collective reality was disrupted by COVID-19. As schools and workplaces closed, we were all in a state of adjustment. Now, in the midst of dealing with COVID and the disproportionate impact it is having on people of color, we also have the compounded stress of racial divisiveness. The vivid exposure of continued racial injustice and loss of black lives through casual indifference and inhumane acts has been brought again to the forefront, visible for the world to see. People all over the world are rising up; using their voices, written words, songs, prayers, buying power and other various means of activism, to protest or provide support to those on the front lines.
To be clear, there have been many including our ancestors, our cultural and spiritual leaders that have held the front lines for years, agitating to bring awareness and change against the injustices that have been plaguing the lives of black people for centuries. The convergence of the global pandemic and all its unknowns, the shutdown of the economy, and loss of black lives due to social injustice puts us at a uniquely critical moment in time. These combined events have sparked a groundswell in the people, created a shift in the thinking of many, connecting us and exposing those who want to maintain the status quo. How we tactically move forward together with next steps for systemic changes at all levels will be crucial.
Now is the time to accelerate change against the status quo. The Wisconsin chapter of NOMA stands in solidarity as part of this movement, working alongside others in our communities. In my 2020-21 term as President of WISCO NOMA, I will support our members as we work to set the foundation for our program initiatives. As we grow, my aim is to not only establish local and national connections but also to establish connections internationally with cultural leaders and organizations in the Caribbean and Africa. We need each other now more than ever as this work must be done not only for ourselves; but our youth, for humanity.
2020-2021 WISCO NOMA President
We must become bigger than we have been; more courageous, greater in spirit, larger in outlook. We must become members of a new race, overcoming petty prejudice, owing our ultimate allegiance not to nations but to our fellow men within the human community.
Haile Selassie – 1936 Address to the United Nations