Spring election marks historic firsts in minority communities

Published: Apr. 7, 2021 at 10:50 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -The Wisconsin spring election concluded with historic firsts bringing more diversity to elected positions.

Two newly elected officials explained having a seat at the table is essential for change.

Alwin Foster became the first Black man elected to office in Sun Prairie, making history by winning a seat on the school board.

Marilyn Peebles Ruffin is the first Black person elected to the Sun Prairie school board. She did not run for re-election this term.

“Representation matters and that’s a phrase that we’ve been hearing for a long time. However, the voters decided that it was more than a phrase and it had to be an actionable step,” Foster said. “I could dance I’m so excited.”

Making strides in the present to open doors of opportunity in the future.

“In some ways it’s actually disappointing. This is 2021,” Foster said, adding the change is long overdue. “There is still institutional racism. There are still systems that discourage us from taking these positions,” he said.

Foster said having a seat at the table will amplify voices of color to make sure everyone has a say.

“We’ve got to diversify the board, all across the board, until it reflects a mirror of what our community looks like,” he said.

Yanna Williams became the youngest Black woman elected to the Verona school board.

“It’s about really being a voice for those who don’t typically speak up,” she said. “When I got the news that I was elected, I think I was initially in shock. I couldn’t believe it.”

Williams said she plans to focus on ways to combat the school-to-prison pipeline in communities of color.

“I just see how much it impacts our communities. I also know that it could very well be my children, and so I feel a personal sense of responsibility for ending that,” she said.

She explained there are polices and procedures in place that widen the inequality gap in education.

“I feel that it’s our responsibility now to start dismantling some of those things to start having those conversations to put ourselves in the shoes of our students and our community members,” Williams said.

The elected officials agree they may be the first in history, but they won’t be the last.

“We’re coming in to take a stand for our kids and our community to make sure that our voices are heard and people know that we’re here, and we matter just like everybody else,” Foster said.

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