By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
The Democratic National Convention (DNC), which is going to be hosted in Milwaukee this year, is brought up a lot. It’s not uncommon for the DNC to be mentioned in one way or another regardless of the topic.
Since the announcement, the DNC organizing committee and the Milwaukee 2020 Host Committee have talked a lot about involving the community in the entire process from start to finish. The two groups have strived to give the community regular updates and this past week held three events on the Northside, Southside and downtown.
The events featured Neisha Blanden, vice president of engagement and opportunity for the Milwaukee 2020 Host Committee, Lafayette Crump, deputy chief of staff and vice president of diversity and inclusion for the Milwaukee 2020 Host Committee, Cameron Moody, senior director of operations for the DNC and Danielle Decker, director of intergovernmental affairs and party leader outreach for the DNC 2020 committee. Rev. Walter Lanier of the Progressive Baptist Church moderated Tuesday’s panel.
Mayor Tom Barrett, one of the co-chairs, said the DNC is a way for Milwaukeeans to show off their beloved city. He said that he and Congresswoman Gwen Moore made it clear during their bid that if Milwaukee were to host the DNC it would not be a flyover event. In other words, he wants visitors to leave with a good sense of Milwaukee, who its people are, its businesses and so on.
People come to Milwaukee and leave with no impression of it, the DNC is an opportunity to challenge that mentality and create a lasting impression, he said.
One of the ways that Milwaukeeans can help create that impression is through volunteering. The convention is in need of 15,000 volunteers. Blanden, who is in charge of finding volunteers, said at first the task seemed daunting, but in true Milwaukee fashion there’s been a significant amount of interest.
Last month, the Milwaukee 2020 Host Committee launched the official volunteer portal (milwaukee2020. com/volunteer). Through the portal, those interested in volunteering can create an account to learn about volunteer opportunities. As the DNC draws closer, volunteers will be able to see what’s available and apply for shifts that correspond with their interests.
Volunteer opportunities include hospitality such as greeting people at the airport, helping out on social media, working with IT and so much more.
In addition to volunteers, the host committee is also on the lookout for local vendors. Like the volunteer portal, interested vendors can visit the host committee site at milwaukee2020. com/vendor-sign-up. Once there, vendors can fill out a form to indicate their businesses’ interest in providing services to the DNC, the host committee or the 50,000 expected visitors.
Crump said that this is one way that the committee is ensuring that the economic impact is felt throughout Milwaukee.
“The opportunity to get involved is beginning right now,” Crump said.
Through the portal, vendors will be able to engage in the process. Part of the idea is that visitors will be able to use the portal to search for restaurants, shops and more. For example, the portal will help visitors narrow their search to businesses owned by people of color, female owned establishments and more.
“Registration does not guarantee business, but it increases chances,” Crump noted.
During the Q&A portion, Crump addressed a business owner’s question regarding if business owners should be more proactive as well. Crump said that signing up for the portal is the first step, but that vendors could consider marketing too.
According to Moody, who moved to Milwaukee to work on his seventh DNC, so far, the people of Milwaukee have been wonderful.
“It’s so nice to be in a city that has enthusiasm for us to be here,” he said.
As director of operations, Moody will be in charge of security and transportation
Several audience members expressed concern over traffic and parking. Moody said he plans to work with the host committee to address parking concerns for volunteers with a possibility of a park and ride.
Decker noted that the DNC is an opportunity for Milwaukee and by extension the Heartland to stand against the forces that typically divide. She added that the people of Milwaukee have an opportunity to make this a seamless experience for visitors.
She noted that she is excited for Wisconsin to be seen as an inclusive and vibrant place.
For additional updates and vendor and volunteer information go to milwaukee2020.com.