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David Bowen and Darrin Madison: mentorship in the movement and the power of politics

Rep. David Bowen is a state representative representing people in parts of Milwaukee and Shorewood, and Darrin Madison is a young community leader who hopes to maybe one day run for office. David is Darrin’s mentor, and they are both passionate about improving the quality of life and opportunities for young people in Milwaukee and have a track record to show how they have already done so.

Sean: What role do, can and should elected officials play in creating positive social change?

David Bowen: I think so many times we get caught up in the hot button issue of the day without really getting the chance to listen to our communities, to listen to young people, and to really hear the things that they are looking to change and for us to focus on. We should be building partnerships so that we can actually work proactively on those things together instead of waiting for those things to happen

Darrin Madison: I think a lot of the times we separate our elected officials from our community, when in reality they represent our community, and there needs to be a sense of symbiosis in that relationship. Our elected officials are our voice in session, and we have to amplify that voice… We need to organize in numbers collectively so we can put the pressure on some of the elected officials who aren’t in our district, who don’t represent our interests.

S: Do you consider yourselves activists?

DM: I do, from the very foundation of my being. From the age of 14 being a part of Urban Underground and learning from David, my peers and Sharlen Moore about activism and systems of oppression and how so many things in society are built against my people, I couldn’t just sit on the sideline. Everyone has to get involved.


S: How do you or how will you contribute to helping solve problems that are still prevalent today?

DM: I have a special interest in the environment and in environmental policies, so the work that I want to do in the future is bridging the gap between urban and rural areas, and using the environment as a platform. I also want to preserve the resources that we have in our state, like the Great Lakes, as an economic interest for our city, for our state, for our people. That’s what I want to dedicate my life to. That’s why I work at the Urban Ecology Center, so I can learn from scientists, so I can learn from different people who work in these careers that relates to this topic, so I can use that knowledge to create the right plan, so that I can get that work done.

DB: I’ve strived and tried as much as possible to focus on the grassroots connection that I have with people in the community and in my district, and as much as possible, making sure that [community] is the primary source of where we get the instructions for what we should be focusing on. The only way that you’re really able to truly solve problems that affect people is by listening to them.

S: What do you think the young people could or should do to get involved in activism?

DM: Take time, take time to acknowledge and remember the strategies that were implemented [in movements] years ago. Remember those struggles from 50 years ago are still here today. Though we’re living a little bit more comfortably, we’re still not as comfortable as we need to be. Be out there. There are so many things going on in [Milwaukee]. There are so many facets to get involved in. A lot of young people think they can’t get involved in politics, but thanks to David, I got involved when I was 14. Get involved early because you have a lot more energy and will than some older people to get the work done.

DB: Use your platform. Everyone has a platform. We all know people, have friends and family, play some role in the community. It’s up to us to use that platform for good. What you talk about and what you share should include what you care about. It’s important that we get informed about what’s going on and share with those who may not be informed. Unite to fight for change you want to see.