The majority of talk radio in Wisconsin is hosted by white men with right-wing talk shows that appeal to white listeners and, consequently, white callers.
Luckily, Sherwin Hughes, a talk show host on black-owned WNOV (AM-860), provides a much-needed African-American voice on Milwaukee radio that offers black opinion and commentary.
Hughes’ show, "The Forum," airs Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to noon on WNOV. Prior to a career in radio, Hughes, who is 41, served as the YMCA Community Development Coordinator.
In 2002, Hughes was field representative for Congressman Tom Barrett and two years later he was hired as a statewide constituency director for the Kerry / Edwards campaign. Hughes was later a business analyst in Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett’s department of administration and in 2005 he was appointed as Gov. James Doyle’s sole designee on the Wisconsin State Elections Board.
In 2007, he became the chair of that nine person, bi-partisan body, making him the only African-American in state history to serve in the administrations of both an incumbent mayor and governor simultaneously.
Hughes went on to work for STH & Associates, LLC, a political consulting firm and as Lena Taylor’s director of communication. Finally, in 2010, Hughes became Wisconsin state field director for Democrats for Education Reform before he was hired by WNOV.
OnMilwaukee recently chatted with Hughes about radio, Milwaukee and racism.
OnMilwaukee: Did you grow up in Milwaukee?
Sherwin Hughes: For the most part. My parents moved from 28th and Atkinson to Brown Deer when I was young. While my parents worked I spent a lot of my childhood with relatives on 27th and Capitol. I graduated from Brown Deer High School and UW-Milwaukee.
Where do you live today?
I reside on the North Side. My family still lives in Brown Deer.
How did you get involved in radio?
I co-hosted an old-school hip hop radio show on 98.3FM called "The Old School Basement Party" from 2008-2010. "The Forum" was originally launched on Blowradio.com in 2010 (Homer Blow’s online radio broadcast). The run was admittedly short.
A few years ago I was asked to guest host a broadcast on WNOV. After some negotiating, I was offered my very own political talk program on WNOV about three weeks later. I retained the name "The Forum."
How long have you hosted "The Forum?"
I have hosted "The Forum" since July of 2012. 54 months if you want to get all specific. The mission is to inform with a bit of humor and provide a haven for the critical thinking intellectuals of the big 3: Millennials, Gen Xers and Baby Boomers.
Who are your role models?
Hard-working people. Those who sacrifice for the greater good and don’t require recognition.
If you had three wishes for Milwaukee, what would they be?
I’d rather be proactive in shaping Milwaukee into what I want it to be instead of wishing.
Have you seen true change in Milwaukee?
Milwaukee is a bit more modern, a bit shinier and marginally more 21st century. Have I seen a true change? That’s subject for debate. It’s still as segregated as it was when my parents arrived in 1968. I have changed more – personally – than Milwaukee has changed as a city – politically, socially. I can, however, go to The Eagles Club. Unfortunately, none of us can go swimming there. Therefore, we all lose.
Do you feel discrimination on a regular basis in Milwaukee?
Asking me if I feel discrimination on a regular basis in Milwaukee is as arbitrary as asking Hillary Clinton if this is a man’s world. If only her first name was Barack … or Bill.
When people say we should not be having these conversations in 2016, that this was all resolved through the Civil Rights Movement of the '60s, what do you say to that?
If anyone questions why we need to have the race conversation in 2016 then they are a part of the problem. Racism has become more covert – so much so that it often eludes those who feel it doesn’t exist. Racism is economic, political and still quite geographic.
What did you think of the "safety pin" controversy?
If you truly care about the marginalized, then you don’t need a safety pin to show it.
What can white people "do" to improve things?
I’m not in the business of telling white people what to do because I don’t want white people to think they can tell me what to do, but since you’re asking … Stand up, white people! Call out overt discriminatory, prejudicial and racist behaviors. Instead of nodding and smiling while your friend / family member tells a n*gger joke, or a Muslim joke or a Mexican joke muster up enough courage to tell them that there is no place for that kind of hate or ignorance. Anywhere.
"The Forum" and OnMilwaukee discussed segregation in Milwaukee restaurants on a broadcast last week. Listen to that below.
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.