All of the persons featured in Milwaukee 53206 bear attention. Community organizer Dennis Walton uses his talk show on a local gospel radio station to move the church from personal success to social change. Chad Wilson shows us that even young, Black middle class people can hit the streets, teaching those of us on the prosperity trail that even our kids can end up in prison. District Attorney John Chisholm speaks in a manner that proves that all those in law enforcement are not the enemy.
But pay attention to Beverly Walker.
Her husband, Baron, is part of the 62% of Black males in the Milwaukee zip code 53206 to go to state prison. Throughout the video, you will see her devotion to him, their children and grandchildren. You will see the family pray. You will see her working with a group of local congregations to change the unjust sentencing laws that shifted the expectation of Baron’s prison time from about 20 to 60 years, without his having committed any additional offense.You will see her smile as she hears him wish their child a happy birthday from his phone in prison. You will see the tears roll down her cheeks as she receives the news that in spite of his efforts at rehabilitation, he is denied parole.
Pay attention to Beverly Walker.
Ask the same question I asked her when I met her: “Why isn’t your church in this documentary?” Clearly a woman of prayer and faith, I found the omission of her home church in the documentary curious. As national director of Healing Communities USA, I facilitate a network of congregations being trained and equipped to do prison ministry and prisoner reentry through supporting members of their own congregations with loved ones in the criminal justice system. I have travelled the country training congregations, entering into covenant relationships with denominations, doing workshops for state and local officials, lecturing at seminaries, colleges and universities with one purpose in mind: spreading the vision that every congregation has someone with an incarcerated family member, and our efforts to reduce mass incarceration start with supporting them and developing the support network that will facilitate successful reentry. From this interaction, congregations can be motivated to become advocates for criminal justice reform because of their engagement with those impacted by its injustices. Like Beverly Walker and her family.
Q: So Beverly Walker, why isn’t your church in this documentary?
Q: Why? Pay attention church folks:
I felt the need to switch churches.
Q: Really? I’m paying attention.
Well, first of all, my previous church told me I was still an attractive young woman, and I should divorce my husband, find somebody else and move on with my life.
That is one of the reasons I left. So I joined a new church, my current church, and I asked them to visit Baron in prison. But they told me the church’s prison ministry doesn’t go to his prison. I attend church regularly, but there is a disconnect with some of the members, generally, they make me feel awkward since my husband is incarcerated, so I build on my relationship with God and not man, I lack close friendships but that too is fine.
That’s like having a ministry to the sick that only goes to one hospital.
Pay attention to Beverly Walker, and ask yourself, how would you treat her and her family if they were members of your congregation?