Milwaukee Talks: "Real Milwaukee" co-host Cassandra McShepard
OMC: Is your mother still alive?
CM: No, I lost her in 2009. It was very frightening, but because I had to provide her the help and care that she had given me all my life, it turned out to be bittersweet. The gift of Alzheimer's is that it gives you time to grow up, time to do and redo things. It's a hell of a teacher. A cruel one.
OMC: Then what?
CM: I knew it wasn't clothing design, at that level. I also had a desire to share, to teach, to talk. I've been journaling all my life, and I wanted to speak to people. As soon as I graduated from Custer High School in 1977, I was asked to come back to talk to the next class. So the motivational speaker thing started there. How does all of that marry to radio?
OMC: Right, because you had a show for a while ...
CM: I don't take angles, I make angles. With Pat Evans, we went to 1290 WMCS, and we didn't leave until they gave us a shot. We were given a two-hour time slot to hold down, and we did it for five and a half years.
OMC: Is that what propelled you to "Real Milwaukee?"
CM: After the radio show was cancelled, I signed with Wisconsin Alzheimer's Institute to become their spokesperson. I came there two weeks before the show started. I got an e-mail saying, "We're putting together a show, and your voice needs to be heard again. Call us."
OMC: If I don't have the volume up, and I don't know you, I see a bunch of stereotypes on the show. A bunch of demographics thrown together.
CM: That's interesting. OK. I never thought about it that way. It should reflect Milwaukee of color, but there are a lot of groups that are not represented, like Indian, Asian and Hispanic.
OMC: But you can't have 12 people at the desk.
CM: Very true. It has broadened my interest because I feel the responsibility and the opportunity to speak to things that otherwise wouldn't phase me personally, but I am coming from a perspective of color. So I have to address certain things from the perspective.
OMC: Is it difficult to be the voice of the African-American community on your show?
CM: I wouldn't say that I am. I'm the one that brings knowledge from that perspective. I'm just being me. Part of me is learning, but it's fascinating to me. It's a hell of an opportunity.
OMC: Are you having fun with it?
CM: Oh my God, yes. I came in cold. It's serendipitous. The four of us together are as different as night and day, but still there is a rhythm that I can't even articulate and I've never experienced. It's amazing, and I think that makes us easy to watch. We do tackle things that aren't always comfortable, but we respect each other. We trust each other, but we don't have to agree with each other. I don't know what it looks like, but I know what it feels like.
OMC: Nicole Koglin told me you guys hang out. Is that true?
CM: We do, and I never did that at the radio station.
OMC: Talking to you off the record, your positivity blows me away.
CM: There have been times in my life when I was so afraid, so hurt, and I've had a charmed existence. Navigating this place and with its desires, I knew I had brought with it a lot of insecurities. Come back here and standing in the gap for my mother and my brother, while my world was cracking open, I wondered how that can be, how God can still be God. I have gone through five-week long nights, but when you come through on the other side, you know some things. It never hurts as bad the second time.
OMC: You sound like a person at peace with things.
CM: I'm always expecting more and better and greater, but I didn't just come to this naturally. I read a lot. I know the mind is a creative thing. You can only upchuck what you eat.
OMC: Sounds like you're looking for more.
CM: I'm still living. I'm not done yet. I've got stuff to say.
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