The Hunger Wall Mural
This is my first official day as the CEO of Imagine MKE. Making the choice to leave my previous job as the founding Executive Director at Feeding Wisconsin, where I spent a good part of the last decade fighting hunger, was not an easy one.
Almost immediately after sharing the news with my board and staff, I spent some time in DC and went to the National African American Museum of History and Culture. At the beginning of the Slavery and Freedom exhibit - which is incredible - there is a photo of two African American women with bags of food from the People’s Free Food Program operated by the Black Panthers, and then at the end, the exhibit features “This is Hunger’s Wall” from Resurrection City at the National Mall during the Poor People’s Campaign in 1968.
While the exhibit as a whole was moving and incredible, for me, being confronted by these two pieces were so incredibly poignant.
First, the simple idea that the Black Panthers had to take care of people by giving them free food could be perceived as so subversive that it was targeted by the FBI as a threat to the nation continues to surprise me.
After the programs ended, many of the churches and organizations that were providing the Black Panthers free food and free breakfast programs morphed into advocacy organizations and food banks, including The Hunger Task Force here in Milwaukee.
And while the anti-hunger movement has grown immensely, the evocative, primal scream drawn on the Hunger Wall mural - that Hunger is Real - is still as salient today as it was in 1968.
Standing there in front of the actual wall that was at Resurrection City, I was struck by how our work to advance social justice is so intertwined with art but for whatever reason, that the story itself – of art’s power to advance social justice and strengthen communities - is not well told, despite art’s rich history, inherent power, and unique ability to do those very things.
As I start in this role, I hope to be able to continue the work that our board, work groups, and stakeholders have committed to make this happen in our city.