LIVING LEGENDS: How Sister Patricia Rogers became a quiet force to be reckoned with in the Amani community – Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Milwaukee, Wisconsin 2021-09-17 07:00:40 –

“When they see their voices matted, they become more daring to be active,” says Sister Patricia Rogers about the inhabitants of Amani. (Photo by Ana Martinez-Ortiz)

This is part of an occasional series of stories celebrating members of Milwaukee’s vibrant senior community.

Sister Patricia Rogers, 72, believes in the power that comes from having high expectations for people.

As a child, she grew up in Arkansas. There, the mother was an active member of the NAACP and was dubbed lovingly as “Fort Smith’s Rosa Parks.” Rogers and her brother often attended protests and had a Pique sign. In high school, Rogers’ involvement increased.

The NAACP called Rogers’ mother and asked her if she could help her family integrate her local high school. Rogers attended a local white high school with seven other black students in his fourth year.

“It wasn’t like the Little Rock Nine case,” Rogers said. “No one was protesting outside of school. The biggest thing was that they didn’t expect anything. All the teachers were surprised if we could do anything. “

Two years later, the two high schools were merged, followed immediately by junior high school. Her experience of integrating schools has taught people to stand up to meet them if she influences later work and she sets high expectations.

Rogers retired in June after serving as Executive Director for 10 years. Dominican CenterA neighborhood organization that acts as an anchor in the Flax district and focuses on housing, safety, economic development and other initiatives.

Under her leadership, the center has been credited with addressing community needs by hosting projects such as neighborhood cleaning, mobile food pantry, and resident-led moody park revitalization. increase.

This week, the Center announced that Milwaukee-born Maricha M. Harris will replace Rogers as Executive Director. Previously, Harris worked for Safe & Sound, managing the day-to-day operations of a $ 2.5 million nonprofit organization.

In a news release discussing her retirement, Rogers said:

“Through honesty and diligence, we learned to trust others and built a lifelong bond. Farewell does not necessarily mean farewell. We share our hearts, so we connect. I’m sure I’ll find a way to keep it. “

“God, you have the wrong number.”

Rogers was teaching at a Catholic school in Chicago when he dreamed.

At the time, the school had several African-American teachers, mostly white staff consisting of white sisters and mostly black students. Rogers recalled that he didn’t expect the students and often appeared in slippers in his house with rollers on his hair.

Rogers said she continued to ask God to send some black sisters to school.

One day, Rogers was at home because he felt sick. While she was sleeping, she had a nightmare that the oven was burning, and a voice told her, “How about you?”

“Instinctively, I knew what the question was, so it happened,” Rogers said. “I got up and went to the phone book. When I looked up the phone book, five other Patricia Rogers were listed and said,” God, you have the wrong number. “

Growing up in Episcopal Church, Rogers never thought of becoming a sister. And she had never seen anything black.

Despite her anxiety, Rogers made a deal with God: if the sisters accepted her, she would be one. But otherwise she was doing her best.

Stay on stage

The Dominican sisters of Shishinawa accepted her, and through them Rogers worked in various cities across the country, including New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina happened.

Rogers offered to stay Holy Family Sisters And to help it rebuild the school, she was instead offered the position of Executive Secretary of the Dominican Center.

“The stage is set,” Rogers said. “My job wasn’t to fall off the stage.”

As Secretary-General, Rogers listened to the residents and led them into the conversation. She said the inhabitants are experts in their community. She learned that residents prefer programs that come from within the community to programs that come to the community.

For example, Moody Park has been annoying for years, Rogers said, and residents heard their voices when the county planned to restore it.

“When we see their voices matted, they become more daring,” Rogers said.

Barbara Smith, a longtime resident of Flax and former president of a resident-led community group Amani United, I remembered the first time I met Rogers at the Alderperson Forum hosted by the Dominican Center. As Smith learned more about Amani United and the Dominican Center, she began to interact more with Rogers.

Rogers looks quiet and unobtrusive, but she’s open and ready to help, Smith said. Smith recalled that when Amani United launched the activation program, community partners turned to Rogers, who turned them to the inhabitants.

“She wants the residents to tell her story because this is not where she lives, but where she is employed,” Smith said.

When Rogers gives someone a job, she equips them with the tools they need, Smith said. It was Rogers’ belief in skills that encouraged Smith to join the community more.

“Sometimes it’s only her voice and her height that give me confidence,” Smith said.

Rogers has retired, but she said the inhabitants knew if she needed her. She just makes a phone call.

“The Amani community and residents really love the true love and interest that the Patricia sisters have for them,” Smith said. “It’s neither false nor fake. She was also interested in the community and the inhabitants.”

As for Rogers, I’m happy to see other organizations putting residents in the driver’s seat.

“People are aware that we have to listen first and then act with people, not for them, to get things done,” Rogers said.

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