Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service

Is Summerfest Welcoming to Minorities?

Interviews with city residents give it mixed reviews.

By , Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service - Jul 5th, 2019 11:52 am
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Summerfest.

Summerfest.

The singer Lizzo recently called out Summerfest for what she alleges is racist behavior.  Does she have a point, or do you think she was out of line in her remarks?

NNS asked community members about their experiences at Summerfest near the federal courthouse on Tuesday, July 2, and this is what they said:

Roberta Simmons

Roberta Simmons

Roberta Simmons lives in Greendale, which she said is racially mixed — blacks, whites and Hispanics. “I don’t go to Summerfest because I don’t want to be in the middle in case it is something that goes wrong — any racial thing. I don’t want to get mad. I don’t want to go to jail just in case something happens.

“I just stay on my side of town. I’m safer where I’m at.”

Simmons said she’s lived in the Milwaukee area for about five years and people have told her not to go to Summerfest. “I tell my kids to stay away from it.”

Nate Gilliam.

Nate Gilliam.

Nate Gilliam said he hasn‘t been to Summerfest this year. “It’s not really a comfortable environment for a lot of black folks at Summerfest.”

The crowd is not welcoming, he said, unless he’s going to hear an artist that draws a significant black audience.

“In general, there’s a lot of people drunk and kind of belligerent,” he said about his own experience and the experiences of other black people that he’s heard about.

Almarie Acosta.

Almarie Acosta.

Almarie Acosta attended the Lizzo concert on Thursday. “I didn’t see anything, but I do sympathize. I didn’t experience any type of racism that day, but I support Lizzo.” If her staff was subjected to racist hostility, “we should do something about it.”

Stephanie Soto.

Stephanie Soto.

Stephanie Soto, who is Mexican American, was born and raised in Milwaukee. She had not heard about the Lizzo controversy.

“It’s been a little bit since I’ve been to Summerfest but it’s one of the biggest celebrations that Milwaukee has and the whole city gets excited about it.”

It saddens her to hear of this alleged incident, she said, and she’s sorry that it will affect people’s views about Milwaukee.

Soto hasn’t heard about racist encounters from family or friends, she said. “Not inside Summerfest. Outside of Summerfest — yes.”

“I would go to Summerfest if I wanted to see a particular artist,” she said. “I went last year to see Diana Ross.”

This story was originally published by Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, where you can find other stories reporting on eighteen city neighborhoods in Milwaukee.

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