NEWaukeean of the Week

Cate Phillips

"Being the most segregated city in the country. It hurts us on so many different levels."

By - May 11th, 2015 07:51 am
Cate Phillips

Cate Phillips

What is your job and its responsibilities?

I’m first and foremost a Cold Caller Extraordinaire, but my main responsibility is building the company I co-founded, B2B Dynamix, into an empire that will take over the world. A fun-loving, benevolent empire, not the unpleasant fascist variety. B2B Dynamix provides business development programs for companies that sell to other companies.

I also sit on the board of a non-profit called My Home Your Home (MHYH) and do a lot of fundraising and advocacy for Lissy’s Place, which is a haven for homeless women. Programming at Lissy’s Place promotes independence, both emotionally and financially.

Lastly, I sit on the Church Council of a place that doesn’t mind that sometimes I might be an atheist, Plymouth UCC Church. It’s a small beautiful church on the East Side that does actual good in the community without the weird rules and scary views.

How long have you lived in Milwaukee and what brought you here?

I’ve lived in Milwaukee for 17 years. The Jesuits lured me here with promises of an electrical engineering degree from Marquette and really great St. Patrick’s Day parties on campus.

What have you seen in other cities that you’d like to see in Milwaukee?

I’ve always been a big fan of the people mover in Detroit. Who doesn’t want to float around above downtown Milwaukee? I’d also like to see more Greek restaurants, similar to Greektown in Chicago. Nothing fixes a bad day like some delicious cheese going up in flames while a man yells “OPAAA!” at you. More hibachi restaurants would also be good. Come to think of it, I’m just a big fan of food on fire. And floating people.

What is the one thing you’d like to change about Milwaukee?

Being the most segregated city in the country. It hurts us on so many different levels. It reinforces poverty, lack of job and education opportunity, and is the reason we have more black men in prison than any other state. I think it also holds us back from being a truly vibrant, world class city. We’re missing an important piece of cultural fabric that other cities embrace. You think of Atlanta or New Orleans – you walk down the street or go to restaurants in those cities and you see a mix of people everywhere you go. You go to Bay View, Downtown, the East Side – I can count on one hand how many black people I see in a day. It’s depressing.

Favorite little known fact/secret/hidden gem in Milwaukee?

Secret gem for me has to be Triskele’s restaurant. They’ve been quietly doing their thing for 7 years and even to this day, every bite is like Zeus came down from Mt Olympus and placed ambrosia in my mouth. You know it’s good when the chefs from the fancy joints eat there on their days off.

Also, there is a hidden group of women leaders in Milwaukee that inspire me to be a better person on a daily basis. I sometimes refer to them as Milwaukee’s Lady Mafia but no one else would sanction the use of that term. #PDWomenWhoInspire. These ladies are getting together for a Showcase that is a Biz Expo on May 13th at 1451 Renaissance Place and you all can attend. Attending gives you lovely food (catered by Kasana, another hidden gem of a restaurant in our fair city), access to inspirational women, networking and social dynamite. If you want to know what social dynamite is, come to the Showcase and ask me.

What is the perfect thing to do in Milwaukee on a Sunday afternoon?

In the winter? Ray’s Indoor Mountain bike park – I have 5 kids and I don’t know what we’d do if that place wasn’t around. Probably go insane. In the summer? Hang out with said kids and my lovely wife on a blanket in Humboldt Park, rolling down hills, having dance parties, talking to strangers and their dogs and blowing bubbles. Before I had the kids and an empire to build? I would do what every pious Milwaukeean does on a Sunday afternoon – drink.

24 thoughts on “NEWaukeean of the Week: Cate Phillips”

  1. Donald Arenson says:

    The article from Cate Phillips is way off base. If she does not like Milwaukee because, in her opinion, Milwaukee is segregated she should move or do something about it instead of voicing a very biased opinion. I LOVE MILWAUKEE and resent her comment.

  2. Tim says:

    Hate the sin, not the sinner.

    I love Milwaukee & hate the segregation… although calling out Bay View/Downtown/East Side for it is counter-productive. The people in these neighborhoods aren’t actively working to keep “them” out. The Milwaukee metro has a huge problem with segregation, the city of Milwaukee itself needs a tune-up by comparison.

  3. Robert says:

    i often wonder where white people who complain about segregation choose to live…do they practice what they preach?

  4. Joe says:

    Business owner.
    Sits on the board of a charity.
    Marquette grad.
    Takes 5 or more people to an indoor mountain bike park (go check out the prices….not cheap).
    Frequents trendy bistros (Triskele’s is on the tip of the south side adjacent to Bay View and Kasana is in the Third Ward)
    Favorite park is in Bay View.
    The mail for her business goes to an office on Milwaukee St. Downtown.
    Corporate headquarters for her charity is at 62nd and Center (for people who are from Milwaukee, that’s essentially Tosa)
    Plymouth Church is on Hampshire and Hackett (east of UWM….3 blocks from Lake Dr.)
    Is ok with the segregation in Chicago as long as it results in great restaurants (re: Greektown)
    I wonder if her residence isn’t also in one of the segregated communities she decries. The safe bet is that it is. Her recreational choices are in segregated areas. Her office space is as well. So is her charity. So is her church. So was her choice of higher education.
    Please stop bemoaning segregation as a problem when your business and personal choices reinforce it. Why do minorities have to come to Bay View or the East Side or Downtown? Why can’t you locate your business there? Why can’t you live there? Why can’t you go to parks and restaurants there?

  5. Jeremy says:

    Interesting that Nate Silver finds Chicago and Atlanta more segregated than Milwaukee, yet the interviewee celebrates those cities.

  6. I found this recent article from FiveThirtyEight very interesting ( It looks at both diversity at a city level, diversity at a census tract level and then ultimately segregation. Milwaukee is at the same time, one of the most diverse and most segregated cities in the country. It ranks third in the adjusted metric FiveThirtyEight came up with.

    Cate raises a very legitimate issue with segregation. Ironically, her examples of Atlanta and New Orleans both also appear in the ten most segregated cities. Atlanta is number 2, New Orleans is 10th. Milwaukee actually has a higher diversity percentage than both those cities. All of these figures are limited to just the city proper, which could obviously have a big influence on the data. They also don’t account for income, which is clearly a large factor in the issue.

    Sacramento stands out as the shining example in the article, but what can be done to emulate the California capitol? It seems like that is where we should be looking for solutions to a complex issue. Unfortunately it’s not exactly apples to apples. “Furthermore, most of the exceptions are cities like Sacramento that have large Hispanic or Asian populations. Cities with substantial black populations tend to be highly segregated.”

    Thankfully there are obvious problems in Milwaukee that can be addressed. The astounding black male incarceration rate, the lack of a regional transportation system, a struggling schools system. Cate mentioned at least one of those.

    Kudos to Cate on raising the issue. She could have passed on the question altogether, or offered a humorous reply, instead she mentioned a real problem.

  7. Lex says:

    Donald – Don’t like America, you should leave ‘Merica! Valid point, Donald! I hate biased opinions not based on facts too! Oh wait…… Stupid facts.

    Still – ‘Merica!!!

    Joe – you should find this helpful….. Nonetheless, next time I see Cate, I will yell at her for single-handedly keeping the black man down in Milwaukee. I had a creeping suspicion her moderate success in life was reinforcing segregation in Milwaukee – thanks to your white pages sleuthing skills, you’ve proved it!

  8. Joe says:

    Lex, thanks for the link. Which one am I? I didn’t see one that fit someone who uses evidence to point out a disconnect between someone’s words and actions. Don’t fall victim to your own link by imaging things into my post.

  9. Marie says:

    Thanks, Cate, for answering an interviewer’s question honestly. Our highly segregated city perhaps reflects complacency about the status quo. The new Greater Together coalition is committed to building awareness about segregation and its impact. Community & religious groups keep plugging away (for many, many decades) at root causes and detrimental effects of segregation.

    We’re not going to solve deep-rooted problems overnight, but we can at least bring up the issues and discuss them with open minds and hearts.

    I’ve noticed greater integration in Milwaukee within some cultural venues, such as Ex Fabula events, Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee Film, and Milwaukee Rep (to mention just a few). And lakefront and other parks in summer. But that seems like just the beginnings of vibrant inclusiveness.

  10. TF says:

    @Marie: I, too, commend Cate for her frank and forthright response to the segregation issue. I agree that the lakefront and parkspace are outstanding opportunities to further integration. If you go to Millennium Park in Chicago on a Saturday night, you see folks of all races — tourists, locals, condo residents, people who took the bus down to the Loop — hanging out and enjoying the city at night, at ease with one another. It would be nice if more of our parks, like Lake and South Shore and Washington, had that kind of dynamic.

  11. Marie says:

    TF: MKE has committed to trying to “enliven” its public spaces through the Lakefront Gateway Project (a new park near Discovery World) and through a “Heart of the Community” grant for the West Wisconsin Ave. area (from the Project for Public Spaces, which helped Chicago set the public-space standards that eventually led to creating Millennium Park..).

    Both MKE projects offer promise for what you describe, if done well and with inclusive community engagement. And kudos to Urban Ecology Center for moving the needle in all their outposts.

  12. Cate Phillips says:

    To those of you that posted positive things, I appreciate it. Thanks! And, I did find the Nate Silver’s article interesting… I’ll be intrigued to see what the metro stuff looks like in comparison with the city data. TF & Marie – you are both right about our areas and some of the groups trying to help!

    To the others….

    I am privileged because I am white. I know this. I can’t do anything about it, I was born white.

    62nd & Center is not quite Tosa yet. Those that live in the city know that sometimes it just takes one block in Milwaukee to make a difference. Lissy’s Place is NOT in Tosa and the agency that oversees Lissy’s Pace (which is the location on 62nd & Center) is not serving all white people even if they are close to Tosa. The last time I saw the official numbers, our employees at “my charity” are 80% African American and so are the people we serve.

    I do live in Bay View and I don’t blame the neighborhoods or it’s people. My statement wasn’t about blame, it was a fantasy. However, I’ll tell you all sorts of crap about my life. I don’t mind. I’m pretty much an open book. So, before moving to Bay View last year, I used to live near Washington Park and our family hung out there all the time. We like city parks, just about all of the major ones. As for the hobby, we spend right around $700 for our entire family to spend every Saturday between October and May at Ray’s mountain biking (because the yearly passes are cut in half for each member of the family so they keep going down) and our kids take classes through Milwaukee Rec if they want to try out something else. We bring packed lunches and food nearly everywhere we go because going out to eat a lot is expensive unless it’s the Indian/Pakistani place on 76th and Good Hope. I can walk out of there feeding my whole family for under $40 so I can talk myself into that type of an expense about once a week, if you must know. I wouldn’t call it a hidden gem like I was asked about for the article but it’s good enough for us.

    I simply stated that I find it depressing to look around some of the places I frequent and not find a lot of diversity. I also realize I could go frequent other places to find that and I sometimes remember to do just that. I was in the Colectivo on Humboldt (Riverwest) the other day and was very happy with the mix of folks I saw in there, it’s just a little far from where I live and work and since we only have one car for the seven of us, it’s hard to get ALL over the city, all the time.

    Maybe I just got lucky when I was traveling years ago to always be in the right coffee
    shops/restaurants/etc. in Atlanta, New Orleans, Chicago. Something just felt better and more welcoming in those cities.

    Frankly, I am most surprised that my critics didn’t mention belonging to Professional Dimensions as part of my downfall. That is the thing that I’d question about me if I were looking to pick a fight. I belong and pay around $350/year because they actively talk about racism which I find important and it’s good to network and be inspired by other professionals when you own a small business. I do take the bus to the meetings at the Wisconsin Club often and admittedly, I have always assumed that I am the only member that does but I try not to be constantly comparing myself to other people or making assumptions / having judgmental thoughts about others.

    My church is awesome and I simply won’t stand for anyone talking poorly about it. It’s as diverse as it can be considering the rich white neighborhood it is in. And the social justice efforts that come out of Plymouth are extraordinary. Get your facts straight or even better, come to church there for a couple months and see what I mean.

    Here’s the deal people… the question asked me what I would change if I could. I don’t know why any of you that have posted negative comments would say you would rather keep Milwaukee or any city segregated, even if we are the first, third or the 10th most segregated. The truth is (and history has shown us that) segregation is bad. I realize you may think that other things should be changed first but would you really think that Milwaukee should stay segregated? If you would say that, please go for it the next time someone asks you what you would change. You can say “well, I won’t be changing how segregated we are. That’s a keeper.” And, if you do, trust me, I won’t belittle you or think I know who you are based on some things I could find on the internet. I’d simply disagree with you and feel slightly more depressed about our lack of unity. Okay, never mind… I just re-read this paragraph and if you actually said that I might have to belittle you because that’s just absurd.

  13. TF says:

    As a fellow Bay View resident, I want to echo Cate’s comments. People don’t live in places like Bay View or the East Side or Riverwest because they’re closet racists. They’re attracted to a sense of community and creative amenities offered by these neighborhoods, and many — like Cate — want to ensure that all people in Milwaukee have access to those amenities, too. Milwaukee is our home, and we love the good things about it, but that doesn’t mean we can’t work to improve things — we don’t have to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

    And it’s an absurd ad hominem to disparage Cate’s views on the grounds of her community, church, or business activities. What, do we expect people who advocate for the homeless to live under bridges and get their nourishment from the St. Ben’s soup kitchen? Of course not. So grant the same courtesy to those who want to enjoy the good things of Milwaukee while working to spread that wealth around.

  14. Marie says:

    You rock, Cate! Keep keeping it 100 percent real. Larry Wilmore would be proud…

  15. Cate Phillips says:

    Thanks, Marie & TF… you both sound pretty great as well. Appreciate all you do for our community (even if it’s simply staying informed and talking about all the great things going on – but I bet you do even more!) and for understanding my perspective.

  16. AG says:

    Cate, it’s brave of you to face off against the anonymous members of the internet to set the record straight. I think we all know that it’s difficult to paint a proper picture in so few words, so it’s easy for people to criticize them.

    Whether we agree or disagree on any point though, doesn’t matter… but I’m fascinated by the idea that an atheist attends and is on the board of, a local church. If you reject god or any higher power, why would you desire to be apart of a group dedicated to that which you reject?

  17. PMD says:

    I know non-believers who are affiliated with more progressive-minded churches. They believe the church does good in the community and have friends or co-workers who belong.

  18. AG says:

    I understand they do good for the community, but so do a lot of non-religious based organizations. It just seems odd. I’d never discourage any atheist or agnostic from attending my church, quite the opposite. I’m just trying to get myself in the mind of someone who doesn’t share the beliefs of a church wanting to be a part of it.

  19. PMD says:

    Maybe it’ll open some minds. I know many religious folks who look down upon atheists and agnostics.

  20. Sam says:

    Kudos to Cate for bringing up some real issues and defending them. It’s really frustrating how a lot of people in metro Milwaukee don’t understand or care how big of a negative impact segregation has on this place. Not only is it morally reprehensible that we allow it to be this bad, but it’s also destroying our economy, making milwaukeeans less civil and understanding towards each other, and making it nearly impossible to get anything done on a regional level. While it’s just an anecdote, this is regularly mentioned by folks I grew up around here as the reason they left and won’t move back.

  21. Cate Phillips says:

    Frankly, I find my own faith (or the occasional lack thereof) fascinating as well, AG and PMD.

    I believe in God, just not all the time. Sometimes I think there is just nothing but us on this earth and religion with a faith in a higher power helps us get through life, easing the fear of the unknown. Sometimes I think God is everything and it’s all interconnected and beautiful. I believe that praying and meditating are awesome ways to free your mind, make your intentions known and attract some good juju. I also think believing in something doesn’t mean a darn thing if you don’t occasionally question it. Things that matter come hard, not easy.

    I know that I feel good when I go to Church. I’m just at the beginning of this journey and everyone’s spiritual journey is their own. Also, it’s a good fit for me that at my Church, no one would be bothered if I was questioning my faith… all are welcome as long as they aren’t hateful or at least that’s my perception.

    Thanks for the kudos, Sam.

  22. Marie says:

    This has generated one of the most in-depth, broad-based and fascinating threads I’ve seen on UM (and elsewhere). Even going into often-taboo topics like race and religion. Kudos to all for keeping it real, intelligent and generally civil.

  23. Nicholas says:

    Segregation in MKE is a combination of two things;

    A. Self-segregation, keeping to your own ethnic/racial neighborhoods, something that is not all that unusual.
    B. That subtle feeling that you get when you are not welcome someplace.

    I have lived here for almost 10 years, I own a home in Bay View, and enjoy the city very much. I am also a person of color.

    Most times in the city, I feel welcome where ever I go, however there are places, stores, parks, bars, going out for a jog, where I ( and I suspect many other people of color) feel distinctly uncomfortable.

    Whether it be looks (or out-right stares), crossing the street to the other sidewalk, or just a general attitude that you are not welcome, I believe the subtle, hard-to-explain bias (if not racism) is a large factor as to why race relations in the are are so poor, and why you have such drastic segregation in not just residential areas, but also the very public spaces we occupy.

  24. Cate Phillips says:

    Marie – agree 100%

    Nicholas – thank you for sharing this. It’s not just bias and segregation… it is outright racism, as you say. And it’s so unfortunate. I think if those of us that care start and keep talking about it, that should help.

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