Four Milwaukee leaders were honored Wednesday as present-day Black history makers for the work each individual has done to better the city of Milwaukee.
Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson celebrated the four honorees at Bader Philanthropies Wednesday afternoon: the Phelps family of JCP Construction, America’s Black Holocaust Museum president and CEO Robert Davis, Advocate Aurora Health Foundation’s Alicia Smith-McCants and Great Lakes Dryhootch president and CEO Otis Winstead.
Bader Philanthropies president and CEO Dan Bader and former TMJ4 anchor Vivian King were also in attendance at the ceremony. It coincided with the start of Black History Month in February.
As the city’s first elected African American mayor, Johnson wanted to use the start of Black History month to not only recognize the many challenges and great successes that have surrounded the African American community, but also celebrate the change makers in the city today. This is an award celebration he hopes to continue in his future years as mayor as well.
“By being here puts me in a position to elevate and spotlight individuals who are doing great things in our community, in the African American community,” Johnson said.
Clifton, Jalin and James Phelps received the Minority Business Champions award for the family’s work with JCP Construction. Some of the company’s recent projects include Fiserv Forum, the Northwestern Mutual Community Park and the Bader Philanthropies headquarters.
Jalin Phelps is the vice president of operations. Clifton Phelps is the vice president of business development, and James Phelps is the president. The three brothers established JCP Construction in 2008.
Johnson said that he witnesses the work of JCP Construction every day in his commute to Milwaukee City Hall when he passes by Cathedral Square Park and sees the work that the company has done to elevate the city’s gathering place.
“This park served as a town square for Milwaukee for years and years and still does in terms of what happens in the summer with Jazz in the Park. The improvements that were made there was done by this African American-owned construction firm,” Johnson said. “They’re making a lot of headway in their field, and I think it’s wonderful for them and the city and putting a great foot forward for African Americans that may want to get involved in construction in Milwaukee.”
Robert Davis was honored with the Tenacious Business Leader Award for his work opening the America’s Black Holocaust Museum. The museum opened in Milwaukee’s Bronzeville on Feb. 25, 2022, the day of its founder James Cameron’s birthday.
The opening, or rather reopening, of America’s Black Holocaust Museum was a long process, delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic. The museum had first opened in 1984. It closed in September 2008 citing financial concerns. In Feb. 2012, the museum returned as a virtual museum before this new physical rebirth. The museum recently received national recognition by U.S. News & World Report as one of the 13 Best Places to Celebrate Black History Month in 2023.
“We knew it to be a jewel, a treasure in this community, and now it’s a very important part of the Bronzeville district over on the north side of Milwaukee that will continue to be just a wonderful, exciting, attractive growing part of Milwaukee for years to come,” Johnson said.