Roy Evans, Esq., was born in Milwaukee in 1947. He has lived on Grant Boulevard for almost forty years where he and his wife of fifty years raised their three children. He has been practicing law in Milwaukee since 1979, and his expertise gives him a profound understanding of how Milwaukee consistently ranks high as a segregated city and one with disproportionate opportunities.
Mr. Evans explains to me how laws are social policy, that they are often interpreted along social norms because they follow precedents, and therefore they are not made to combat “embedded racism” or deeply entrenched practices. Embedded racism is not outright discriminatory acts, beliefs, or practices, but a form of racism that is revealed in larger patterns such as incarceration rates. Mr. Evans describes the role of words, not just in legal definitions, but in everyday conversations—this racism is coded into our language, particularly how we talk about people and places. He explains that as Americans, we talk about being a free and equal society, but as a country and society, we have not made reparations for systematically blocking many people of color from the established means of building wealth for over four centuries. Yet, he argues, there can be no reparations without reconciliation, through conversations in and across racial groups. He suggests that such engagements take place in places like coffee houses and libraries, across neighborhood boundaries. Mr. Evans played a crucial part in saving the Finney Library building from demolition in 2003. He was part of a team that proposed converting this building into a coffee house and meeting space, citing that this part of Milwaukee does not have a space to bring people together aside from churches, and that it is important to have spaces that primarily serve as meeting houses.
Mr. Evans is highly educated, has been honored with many awards. He is part of local and national organizations, and is prosperous, and still he continues to remain accessible and deeply involved with his community. He shows this through small acts of neighborliness. The words of his grandmother guide him today. She told him to greet each person in front of their home, and to say hello to anyone who walks by his home— that these are moments when we recognize each others’ humanity. He makes himself accessible and available to people who need his counsel, knowledge, or advice, and although this gets overwhelming at times, he feels that it is his duty, not only to his community, but to his family, ancestors, teachers, and professors who encouraged and pushed him, and to young men and women who look up to him as a role model.
Roy Evans grew up in Bronzeville, a beautiful and vibrant African American neighborhood with many thriving businesses. Evans describes it as a place that represented the golden era of Black culture in Milwaukee. Bronzeville was obliterated when the city decided to put the freeway through the middle of it. Black society in Milwaukee has not had the same kind of cultural center since.
Evans went through Milwaukee Public Schools, and graduated from North Division High School, where he met his wife. He remembers that he only had one black professor while he attended colleges in Wisconsin and got his Juris Doctor of Law from University of Wisconsin-Madison. This taught him the power and necessity of role models and the importance of people of color holding significant roles in these centers of knowledge. He goes to the South often, just as he visited grandparents when he was a child, learning about dignity, respect, and hospitality as forms of neighborliness. However, he now knows that recognizing each others’ humanity is a part of acknowledging human bonds in neighborhoods.
Where’s the Change in Sherman Park?
An Op Ed by Roy Evans