By Greg Quigley   Published Oct 29, 2002 at 5:01 AM

More than 300 young professionals and other community leaders packed Turner Hall last Tuesday night to talk about one thing: diversity in Milwaukee.

Café Mosaic, hosted by the Young Professionals of Milwaukee (YPM), included a provocative video about diversity in Milwaukee and a "café" format discussion. YPM partnered with the Milwaukee Urban League Young Professionals, Hispanic Business Council, Milwaukee Artist Resource Network (MARN), United Performing Arts Fund (UPAF), Milwaukee LGBT Community Center and Public Allies, forming a group called Team Mosaic, which helped develop the event.

Starting off the evening, YPM president (and co-owner) Jeff Sherman, said that metro Milwaukee does have a lot of challenges and opportunities regarding diversity, and that we shouldn't expect a quick fix.

"Café Mosaic won't solve our problem, but it will help," said Sherman. "Tonight isn't about another task force or report on diversity, it's about facilitating an open conversation and getting to know one another one person at a time. We know that if we mix better -- professionals, races, cultures, attitudes, preferences -- that ultimately we will understand better and further our careers, relationships and community," he added.

Prior to the café format beginning, those in attendance were shown a video titled "Mosaic Milwaukee." The video was created by YPM for the community and will be made available at cost to anyone interested in a copy. Young professionals, James T. Harris and Rebecca Ryan hosted the video, and were shown visiting Alterra at the Lake, UWM and the Shops of Grand Avenue, where they discussed diversity with members of the community. As the Mosaic Milwaukee video ended, the words "It starts now ... with you ... with me ... with us" flashed across the screen and made a perfect opening for the café discussion.

Taking the lead from the video, the group sat at tables and discussed diversity and segregation in four, 15-minute segments. A "host" remained at the same table throughout the night, while others moved to different tables every 15 minutes. The table host recorded responses, ideas and insights spurred by the two questions: "Metro Milwaukee has the rap of being segregated, how does it hold us back as individuals and as a community?" and "What have you seen, heard or personally experienced that indicates our moving forward?"

The responses will be used by YPM's Mosaic Team as they create five future mosaic cafes, which will be held over the course of the next year. "We truly want to shift attention from training diversity to living diversity and that begins one conversation at a time over and over again," said Shelley Jurewicz, executive director of YPM.


In case you missed the first round of conversations at Café Mosaic, here are some of the points brought up by those in attendance (note that this is just a sample of thoughts - to get the whole effect of a café you'll have to attend one yourself.)

A few thoughts on Milwaukee's diversity from those in attendance:

  • "It's OK to feel uncomfortable. It's how we grow as people."
  • "As I look around this room, I see Milwaukee's future leaders and know we'll be alright."
  • "Milwaukee is a melting pot, the only problem is we're not melting together."
  • "Living diversity starts in the schools."
  • "We need to improve the socioeconomics of our neighborhoods."
  • "Companies aren't locating in Milwaukee because of our segregation."
  • "There has been more press on the issue. Good or bad press, it's still press so at least people are starting to talk about it."
  • "The youth need to help the older people understand the importance of the issue."
  • "There are so many cultural activities that aren't advertised. We need to promote these more."
  • "We need to make sure lower income persons still have the opportunities for higher education."

Feel free to post your own thoughts using the talkback feature below, or attend the next mosaic café to contribute your thoughts in person.

Greg Quigley is a member of the YPM Creative Council and a freelance business writer. He can be reached at