MKE Black celebrates and promotes Black business, events, culture, and advancement in the greater Milwaukee area. We are a non-profit dedicated to providing a one stop shop for locals and tourists, with information on dining, shopping, culture, resources, and more through our website and app. We also help Black Businesses by providing funding and resources to thrive. MKE Black is a registered 501(c)(3).
To celebrate, promote, empower, and advance Black businesses, events, and culture in the greater Milwaukee area by providing resources, connections, and awareness in everyday life.
To create a Milwaukee where Black people and Black owned businesses have access to resources, support, and diverse communities enabling them to write their personal success stories.
MKE Black is guided by the following seven principals:
- Umoja (Unity): To strive for and to maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.
- Kujichagulia (Self-Determination): To define and name ourselves, as well as to create and speak for ourselves.
- Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility): To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers’ and sisters’ problems our problems and to solve them together.
- Ujamaa (Cooperative economics): To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.
- Nia (Purpose): To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
- Kuumba (Creativity): To always do as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.
- Imani (Faith): To believe with all our hearts in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.
Who We Are
MKE Black was founded in 2019 by Paul Wellington and Rick Banks, two people who wanted to showcase Milwaukee’s Black community to local residents and tourists.
Cofounder, Executive Director, Board President
Rick Banks is a Milwaukee native who’s worked as an activist and an organizer in Milwaukee since 2010. Rick proudly identifies as pro-labor, pro-student rights, pro-women & LGBT+ equality, and strongly opposes white supremacy and police violence. He defines his personal mission as the political and economic development of Black people in Milwaukee.
Cofounder, Director of Operations & Technology, Board Treasurer
Paul Wellington holds a Master’s in Architecture from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, though he works as a public library supervisor. He is the author of Black Built: History and Architecture in the Black Community, a publication discussing the work of Black architects in the United States. Paul also runs the international blog ArchBrick Daily, showcasing the fan made LEGO architecture.
Director of Strategic Partnerships & Initiatives
Ayrton is a recent transplant to Milwaukee, but has already grown to love and value the many faces of the city. With a Bachelor’s from the south and Master’s from the east, he has found himself instantly welcomed by the warm MKE community and wanting to give back. He works as an Environmental Health and Safety Manager. He is an avid (audiobook) reader, yoga-fan, craft beer junkie, martial arts student and mindfulness practitioner.
Director of Event Planning
Kim Erdman is an Event & Sales Planner in the downtown Milwaukee area and a student majoring in Marketing and Event Management. She is a driven community activist who is committed to showcasing cultural diversity, aiming to achieve positive social change. She enjoys volunteering, hiking, being outdoors and traveling.
Director of Community Outreach
Solana Patterson-Ramos is a political activist born and raised in Milwaukee. She has more than 10 years of experience in community outreach focusing on youth, LGBTQ, and civic engagement in the Black Community.
Business Development Specialist
Asha Sawyers is a Milwaukee native and owner of a local marketing company serving businesses small and large in the Milwaukee area. She is passionate about supporting businesses in the area and committed to helping them thrive. “Milwaukee is a great place and I want to help make my city better in any way I can”.
Data Management Specialist
Mina is a technical product manager with a background in electrical engineering and computer science. She is active in a wide variety of diversity and inclusion initiatives and has participated in everything from STEM-related projects in collaboration with local schools to employee resource groups (ERGs) within her workplace. She spends her time writing, learning new dance styles, drinking copious amounts of tea, and trying not to kill her plants.
Corporate Engagement Specialist
Ben has been involved with corporate sales and corporate training for the last 10 years and is currently the Director of Sales Training and Development at a liquor and wine distributor. He leads the Diversity and Inclusion team with his company and is passionate in helping other corporations understand the benefits of having a strong D&I strategy.
Student Engagement Specialist
A Cleveland native, Mairin moved to Milwaukee in 2013 for college and is now a technical product manager at GE Healthcare. Mairin is a Rewrite the Code mentor, a Big Sister through Milwaukee’s BBBS program, and an LGBTQ Youth Digital Crisis Counselor. She is committed to empowering young people and bringing about positive change to underserved groups. Outside of work and volunteering, she loves biking, trying new wines and restaurants in Milwaukee, meditating, and doing yoga.
Board Member, Business Owner
Amir Zakkir serves as a MKE Black board member and is the owner of Royal Beauty Cuts & Styles.