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Dr. Eve Hall: Greater Milwaukee Urban League’s Innovative Leader

Dr. Eve M. Hall is President and CEO of the Greater Milwaukee Urban League. The GMUL offers educational and employment programs that provide people of color opportunities to improve their lives and community. If Hall could be defined, it might only take one word: education. Her life has been dedicated to empowering Blacks to value education in the broadest sense. To her, education is an enlightening experience, studying to gain a deeper knowledge and understanding of many subjects applied to daily life. She views education as not limited to just knowledge from books, but also through practical experiences outside of the classroom.

A Milwaukee native, Hall was raised on education. Her family resided in a diverse neighborhood on Park Hill, off 36th Street. Her mother was a champion of education, a reading teacher in the Milwaukee Public Schools and was still tutoring at age 88. At George Washington Carver Elementary School, the Joyce A. Hall Library is named after her. A strong supporter of science education, Hall’s dad was a chemist at Schlitz Brewery and later at Miller Brewing. She went to Juneau High School and was active in cultural activities.

You earned your undergrad degree at Florida A&M University. Why did you go there?

My father and his family members had gone to Florida A&M, an HBCU (Historical Black College or University). My major was educational psychology along with a certification in learning disabilities. After graduation, I stayed in Florida and taught in Tampa. I was also working at the Boys & Girls Club, and I worked nights for the Urban League, running their educational programs. I realized I didn’t like being confined to a school. I was mission driven and my career began revolving around education, government, and nonprofits.

Is that when you returned to Milwaukee?

Yes, I came back to Milwaukee and worked for the Urban League. This was the mid-1990s. I also worked in Governor Tommy Thompson’s office, and at Milwaukee Public Schools, and for UW Whitewater. I had a variety of roles in Milwaukee, and they were all about influencing change—empowering students of all ages through education and employment issues.

You also earned a master’s degree and a doctorate along your career journey.

I earned my master’s at UWM in administrative leadership. For 10 years, I worked for the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, which offers scholarships for students who go to public Black colleges. My job was to identify and help raise money for Milwaukee area students who wanted to attend historically Black colleges. At that level of nonprofit work, you need credentials, and so I earned my doctorate in educational leadership at Cardinal Stritch University.

You are now president and CEO of the Milwaukee Urban League. How did that come about?

For five years, I had been running the African American Chamber of Commerce, and I helped get the Chamber back on its feet. Ralph Hollman was leaving his job as CEO of the Milwaukee Urban League. Some of the board members recruited me as his replacement because I had experience in entrepreneurship in the Black community. I was hired in 2017. As the CEO, I try to promote Black business startups because those business owners tend to hire people of color.

You’ve received several awards for your dedication to public service. From what I’ve read, your focus has been—and I’m paraphrasing—“on economic vibrancy for African Americans and other underserved communities through education, employment, advocacy, economic self-reliance, and development.” Can you elaborate on this concept?

Yes, that describes the mission of the GMUL, and it’s also a personal mission of mine. If you are solid in your education, this will open doors for you in job opportunities. At the end of the day, a good life is about people being able to have stable finances that help them get most of what they need and some of what they want. In other words, we’d all like to have a good quality of life. However, there are sometimes barriers for Black people in areas such as business and housing. The Greater Milwaukee Urban League is a positive agency. It’s about education, empowerment, and advancement. We promote from a value-added perspective and not a deficit model, what people have versus what they lack.

Let me go over a few of your programs, and you can comment. The first one is the GTE (Graduate to Employment) Program for 16 to 21-year-olds who decide not to attend college, right?

We created the GTE program mainly for high school students who may not want to go to a four-year college but want to have a good paying career in the trades or even the military.

Milwaukee Public Schools offers very few courses in the trades—electrician, carpenter, mechanic, plumber, construction. These are all good paying jobs.

In our employment focus, we are looking at five high demand industries—construction and trades, technology, healthcare, hospitality, and manufacturing. Generally, these industries are underrepresented for people of color.

Do have the interested high school students meet with various employers who are looking for recruits?

We just had our first Youth Employment Fair. A lot of businesses were present, and the students got to talk to the business representatives. We also have business recruiters come to the classrooms, or they set up field trips to visit their companies. For students seeking careers in the trades, we sometimes bring them to the Milwaukee Area Technical College.

In the local construction trades, there are some very good Black Milwaukee developers—Kevin Newell, Que El-Amin, Michael Emem—and they are trying to hire people of color.

Those developers fall under our online platform called “The Entrepreneurship Connection” where Black entrepreneurs have access to business resources and year-round networking. Kevin Newell and his company, Royal Capital Group, is a part of this. The Entrepreneurship Connection is for adults and differs from the GTE program, which is for high school students. Every month, we host a different area of business from the five high demand industries—construction and trades, technology, healthcare, hospitality and manufacturing. For instance, last month we featured the banking field, where four different bank representatives came and explained the various loan programs they have to assist entrepreneurs. What it comes down to is that money makes a difference in how you grow your business. MolsonCoors is sponsoring “The Lonely Entrepreneur”’ an online platform that provides support in various areas to help new entrepreneurs.

What is the Greater Milwaukee Urban League’s program, Project Ready Mentor? How does that work?

We are one of seven or eight Urban Leagues around the country involved in Project Ready Mentor. We recruit adult mentors to help students successfully graduate from high school. These mentors might start with students as low as the fifth grade. The goal is to connect the students with college and business people and to show them resources. We teach them by using vision boards to outline their journey. The schools identify certain students to participate. Those students might be pretty smart but unmotivated. Vision boards help them focus.

What is your “Driver’s License Permit Class?” I understand this is for people 18 years and older to earn their permit?

We work with adults who do not have a driver’s license. We provide them with a driver’s permit class, either virtually or in-person. This is a very popular class, because so many Black people need driver’s licenses. In fact, we are now expanding our classes to include 16- and 17-year-olds. They can just call the Milwaukee Urban League, at 414-374-5350, and we can set them up with a driving instructor.

What is the Youth STEAM Summit? I understand the employment fields are Science/Service, Technology, Engineering, Arts/Agriculture and Mathematics.

The Youth STEAM Summit is an annual one-day conference for students to connect to opportunities for jobs in the STEAM network. We want to expose them to hands-on experiences. Last year, we had the STEAM summit at the County Fair. This year, it will be held at the County Zoo.

Does the GMUL work with certain schools?

We work with nine schools—public, choice and charter. Last year, we held an event to recognize school principals at the Black Holocaust Museum next door to our offices. Being a school principal is a tough job. They were so appreciative of being appreciated.

From your Milwaukee Urban League website, there are four main areas of concentration: Education, Employment, Advocacy and Civic Engagement. Why these main areas?

We chose Education and Employment because those two go together. Advocacy includes health equity, home ownership, voter education and outreach. We don’t raise money for these three main areas, but we advocate and promote them, and we partner with their people. As for civic engagement, we are about connecting to business and community leaders. In 2021, we had a town hall on how black influencers and leaders can work together to achieve equity. We called it State of Black America MKE. We also held other town halls, one on entrepreneurship, a second on health. and a third on education.

My personal hope is that white people spend more time interacting with Black people, even admit our prejudices, discuss differences, talk about our flaws. This would lead down the path of getting along while still recognizing our differences.

Glad you brought that up. We have the Black & White Ball every year on the first weekend in November. We bring Blacks and whites together. We all dress formally for the evening, and we let our hair down and have casual conversations and have fun. Like you, I believe Blacks and whites can move the needle and get closer together. My board members are diverse, and we talk about our diversity.

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