The Wisconsin Public Television documentary, “Vel Phillips: Dream Big Dreams,” tells the story of a Wisconsin woman who fought for civil rights. While the documentary provides lessons from history, it also prompts the question: How do we win civil rights battles today?

On the stage, panelist Andre Lee Ellis stands to the left, talking into the microphone. The other panelists sit in chairs to the right.

Panelist Andre Lee Ellis shares a story as Maria Rodriguez and other panelists listen.

On Saturday at the Aurora Sinai Medical Center, Establishing Our Future: Garnering from our Past, a community program inspired by “Vel Phillips: Dream Big Dreams,” allowed participants to discuss this important question, and to offer insights for solving Milwaukee’s challenges. Sponsored by the Milwaukee County Department of Aging and Wisconsin Public Television, the event featured an intergenerational storytelling panel presentation and audience talkback. Ex Fabula provided coaching for the storytellers prior to the event.

During the storytelling presentation, we heard stories from both the past and present about the struggle for equality. Reggie Moore, Founder and Executive Director of the Center for Youth Engagement, shared a story of the positive choices he made, despite his childhood neighborhood taking a turn for the worse. He said that “staying alive is a very low bar” for young black men, “but having them prepared for the life they wanna lead is the level we have to step up to as a community.” He said a key to providing youth with hope for a better future is involvement in youth programs and exposure to what opportunities are available outside their environment.

Rufus King International Baccalaureate High School student, Kalan R. Haywood II, shared his story of the present day, telling about educational opportunities that led him to leadership roles he has today. He ended his story with the request that youth, adults and older adults work together, saying, “We all have big dreams like Vel Phillips did. So let’s work together to get those big dreams accomplished.”

After the panel members shared their stories, audience questions were read and the panel members shared their answers. One of the audience members asked what we can do to help change our city’s continuing challenges. Carlyle Chan, M.D., Professor of Psychiatry at the Medical College of Wisconsin, said he listened to a lecture in which it was said that human nature doesn’t change, and power remains an issue throughout history. He said that since many things and people do not change, fighting for what is right is a constant struggle. Reggie Moore said that it is important that positive changes are not undone by future generations: “We just have to think of a way to make sure that the next generation not only understands what was fought for, but also how to keep it.”

Vel Phillips stands next to a woman who holds up the framed artwork that was presented to Vel Phillips.

Vel Phillips poses with gift.

Next, we were honored by an appearance of Vel Phillips, who was presented with a framed artwork in her honor. She expressed gratitude for the gift and shared that she was impressed with the presentation.

Ex Fabula community partnerships like this help people tell their stories. Storytelling is a powerful way for people to connect, which builds a stronger community. You can help us to continue our mission of building a stronger community by making a donation. We truly appreciate your sponsorship. Without you, outreach efforts like this would not be possible. We look forward to seeing you at more outreach events!