Interview by Taylor Morant
The rasping sound of a paint brush stroking a wood panel filled the room. The room was lined with half painted and drying panels of outlines and symbols. There were only three painters that day, so every sound made was rang clearly. Hence, my interest in exactly what the other artists were working on was sparked. An outlined body of a woman with her fist held high laid on the ground in front of us. She was the only woman in the mural that wasn’t a silhouette, and yet I didn’t know her name. I asked the lead artist her name as he painted in the color of her face. He gave me a name, Markasa Tucker. I went home and decided to do some homework.
Markasa Tucker did not mince words when she said, “This generation is not taking no for an answer, and are ready to commit to the long haul in this current rebellion.”
Before there was George Floyd, there was Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Sandra Bland, Philando Castille, and the list goes on. One person on that list is Dontre Hamilton, who was shot and killed in 2014, by former police officer Christopher Manney, in Milwaukee’s Red Arrow Park. The officer was fired but not prosecuted.
Just as the death of George Floyd was the spark for many to fight and stand on the side of Black Lives Matter, the killing of Dontre Hamilton is what motivated 41-year-old leader and activist Markasa Tucker years earlier.
Tucker went to school to be a sports reporter, and worked in media as an assignment desk editor and radio producer at local news and broadcast stations. She also managed two child care centers before joining the organization, Wisconsin Voices. From editor, to leader of a revolution, this was not at all what Tucker expected to be doing.
“I did not see this coming honestly, but God saw different. When Dontre Hamilton was murdered by a former officer, I didn’t think, ‘oh here’s my chance to be a leader,’ I thought, here’s my chance to extend myself to this family in any way that I could,” Tucker said.
Now, six years later, Tucker is director of African American Round Table, an African American led coalition formed to unite the community and transform policies, so that they may succeed and ensure better conditions for the black community.
She explained how she does this through educating and providing “access to tools, resources, information,” training and developing, and supporting with her presence and absence. As Tucker said “Like a momma bird letting a baby bird take a risk, and do something without oversight…teaching them to trust themselves more and not rely on me.” This analogy is particularly noteworthy, as she says her greatest accomplishment was the birth of her now 12- year-old daughter, Zoe Isabella.
Tucker’s activism is primarily based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, though she does support leaders and protestors across the country. Milwaukee itself has had a strong impact in civil rights history.
“I am humbled by the opportunity to be a part of the lineage of those before me and walking alongside those that are engaged in the movement right now,” said Tucker.
Oftentimes when someone thinks of Milwaukee, they think of the sports team, The Milwaukee Bucks, or something more negative, like Milwaukee status as being one of the most segregated cities in the country.
“Unfortunately, our city is known for many negative statistics, but there are so many advocates, activists, and community leaders who have been on the front lines and behind closed doors working tirelessly to change those statistics. We won’t stop until freedom is won!” she says.
While in the midst of a pandemic, protestors are doing just that, and are still taking to the streets, fighting against injustice. The phrase “the revolution continues" has become the mantra for many political activists today including Tucker. The fight against inequality and oppression has had no end. Just like those that have come before them, young people have been at the forefront of this protest. Tucker sees the response of these people as “beautiful.”
She says, “I am so excited to see our people, especially young people leading the protests in the streets, and community leaders coming together to strategize and organize to get our people free!”
As for her community, Tucker says, “My city is filled with art, good food, culture, and resilient people, who are part of a full-fledged rebellion happening right now, to ensure black people are no longer treated as second class citizens, but treated with respect and dignity.”
She has committed her life to the fight for black liberation “from any oppressive systems, circumstances, or conditions.” She wants the world to know that Milwaukee is filled with greatness, but also is in need of access to opportunities and resources.
When asked how she empowers and impacts her community, Tucker believes it starts with first, focusing on herself. She described how she does this by first educating herself, and taking the time to “imagine, write, participate in leadership development, and principle struggle to gain an understanding for myself and learn from others.” For her, this also includes knowing when to say no. By empowering herself first, she works to empower and develop the next generation of new leaders. A position she was at only a few years ago.
As a message to those out protesting in the streets or fighting behind closed, doors Tucker said she is “In love with this insurgence of energy, passion, and will to win!” She says “This work is not easy, but in the words of Assata Shakur, we have nothing to lose but our chains.” A lesson reflected in her dedication to the movement now, and her willingness to pick up and completely change her life path. -GGH
Markasa wanted to share this link with us. www.liberatemke.com
CONNECTIVITY CONTRIBUTORS REACTIONS
// What did you learn after hearing this story of empowerment?
I've learnt if we want to empower people or change the world positively, we must start with ourselves.
// Did hearing this story erase any stereotypes you believed?
When it comes to the black community or fight for justice, I know no stereotypes but rather the truth.
// What similarities did you discover between yourself and this woman/gender-expansive person?
The passion to emancipate ourselves from mental slavery which includes that liberation isn't possible.
// What connects you and this woman/gender-expansive person?
The sense of strength and motivation.
// What moved you about this woman/gender-expansive person's story?
Passion playing its purpose in life's journey.
// Are you inspired? Does this story motivate you to change something/do something in your own life?
This story portrays the vital elements to success which includes; passion, consistency, optimism and courage. This alone, keeps my fire burning.
- Eduek Bassey Nsentip
In a time of so much performative activism, here you have someone who was deeply committed to activism in her community, bettering her community that has aftershocks in other communities and works to better the country and move towards our eventual racial equality and equity goals altogether. I think we should take a page out of her book and try to focus our efforts in our own communities and see where that leads us in the end.