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Milwaukee filmmaker Theo Rogers documents the pain of a torn city

Theo Rogers (Photo provided courtesy of Theo Rogers)

As he saw a successful run in the live events production industry come to an end due to the global pandemic that continues its assault on citizens worldwide, Theo Rogers pivoted to follow his original passion of filmmaking. Fittingly, he returned to his hometown of Milwaukee and promptly made a documentary about the very issue that forced his hand. As the president and founder of Humble Ambitious Media, Rogers and his capable crew strive to “Educate, empower and ignite conversations of social issues in communities through visual media.”

Rogers took some time out of his busy schedule to discuss the pandemic, the current plight of Milwaukee and his filmmaking plans for the immediate future.

What prompted you to do a documentary about the pandemic in Milwaukee?
I’m from Milwaukee and the city has been suffering from systemic racism for decades now. Most importantly, back in March, I saw reports coming from the city that Black people were [three times] more likely to die of the virus than White people. I wanted to find out why, which inspired me to make the documentary Milwaukee In Pain.

Milwaukee isn’t a city that people think about when they consider how African Americans have been marginalized in America, but USA Today rated it one of the worst places for Black people to live in 2019. Why is it so bad?
Milwaukee is one of the worst places for Black people because of the economic gap due to segregation, effects of “redlining” and job opportunities. The Black household and family is also broken due to the lack of men in Milwaukee’s ZIP code — 53206 — which has been the most incarcerated ZIP code for Black men in the U.S. for years. Also, generations have been on government assistance and have no motivation to work for lower wages than what they are already getting with assistance. Blacks don’t have the same job opportunities as Whites.

What has to be done, in your opinion, to change the narrative for Black folks in Milwaukee?
Black people need to understand that no one is coming to save them. We need to take action now. Take action by educating our people and making our own community. We need to bank in our communities and keep the Black dollar in our community. Also, Blacks need to start buying homes to give wealth to generations after us.

How has COVID-19 disrupted things in Milwaukee?
COVID-19 is a pandemic on top of a pandemic that was already in Milwaukee, but it has shined a light on the systemic issues that need to be addressed.

What’s next for you?
Currently, we at Humble Ambitious Media are filming an amazing story on social injustices that are occurring in Wisconsin. We are so excited to show the world this upcoming documentary and plan to have it released by the end of this year.

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