Here is a brief outline of concepts and facts pertaining to ESHAC’s trailblazing role in the neighborhood movement of Milwaukee.

Stop the Boulevard!

This campaign was critical to the adaptation of Riverwest to the de-industrialization and racial/ residential drama.

Jeff Eagan spearheaded the campaing to block the creation of a boulevard to replace the city main street that is Locust between Holton and Humboldt, in the earliest and defining moments of ESHAC. He has placed his ESHAC papers at the County Historical Society which would include this and many other ESHAC campaigns and projects.

This campaign both saved Riverwest from bifurcation and the loss of key small businesses in the center of the area. It also served notice to the “Establishment” that there were some new players in town.

ESHAC as Organization to Fill Institutional Void

The founders of ESHAC spent many months in theoretical reading and dialogue around the question of participatory democracy and race/class/gender/age reconciliation strategies. The group was very aware of challenges Riverwest faced by virtue of the erosion of power among traditional institutions of such working class urban neighborhoods, e.g. Churches, ethnic associations, and unions. We were very self-consciously striving to develop projects that sparked grass roots political participation that delivered concrete benefits and moved in the direction of altering power relationships between dominant groups and various “out-groups,” be they the working classes, ethnic minorities, women’s groups, and, eventually, the gay and gray communities. Andre Gorz’s “Radical Reforms” and Saul Alinsky’s “Reveille for Radicals” were important theory guides that were discussed in groups. ESHAC set up a health organization called “ECHO”(Eastside Community Health Organization), a day care center on Holton, housing and tenants groups, block clubs, a newsletter, and lots more.

ESHAC Moves from Activist Group to a Civic Institution That Changes the Map

Somewhere around 1977 ESHAC set up a board and began to become a very powerful popular institution that eventually garnered budgets around $1,000,000 or more. I was one of the founding board members along with a very impressive group of serious activists including Father Bill Coats, Verdel Deyarmin, venerated peace activist, Rollie Bartelt, highly respected union leader, among those I can recall at this instance.

A defining moment occured when the “Journal” ran a front page map based upon a number crunching D.C.D. study that portrayed in “red” neighborhoods that were “deteriorating.” The red included Riverwest, and ESHAC, helped by brilliant urban planner Larry Witzling, organized a wonderful campaign that brought victory to a grand alliance of old Polish and German working class families with the “new classes” from the peace and civil rights movements. We mounted such intense political pressure that DCD, the City, and the “Journal” decided to amend the map and include a blue designation for “improving neighborhoods.” This happened in the Fall and Winter of 1977 and ESHAC and Riverwest did actualize this prophetic vision…Riverwest did improve and become one of the most significant polyglot neighborhoods in all of Wisconsin and quite possibly the entire Great Lakes region.

ESHAC provided the “subjective factor” in evolutionary and development dramas. I would guess that event was something of a “tipping point” for Riverwest. Little by little more and more young people began to buy and fix up their homes and blocks, successfully replacing the old Polish and German working classes who were moving on, usually into the “immensity” from age, rather than the suburbs from fear.

The Animating Spirit of the ESHAC Young Adults Reproduced Since ESHAC’s Organizational Demise

The great work of Vince Bushell, Tess Reiss, Chris Papadopolous, Jan Christiensen, Tanya Cromartie Twaddle, Omar Gagale, Scott Johnson, Bob Peterson, Chris Coradini, Karl Hedman, Marina Lee, Mike Trokan, John Ruebartsch, Debra Weber, George Martin, Jim Klisch, Jim Linneman, Jim Wilson. Self Wise, Laura Martin,Liz Miller, Patrick Frederick, Quinn Wilder, Shawn Gurath, Shelly McClone, Thomas Stocco, Wendy Mesich, Youssouf Komara, Ellen Warren, Sura Faraj, Mathibela Sebothoma, Meara Young, Alderman Michael D’Amato, Karen Royster, and scores more is a continuation of the theory and the practice of ESHAC, in my not so humble opinion.
Wind at our backs in 2006,

Godsil

Last edited by g.   Page last modified on January 16, 2006

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