Just a block away from his home on the north side of Milwaukee, alum Jeremy Triblett (Public Allies Milwaukee ‘10) realized he was being trailed by a police car.
“I got into my driveway, stepped onto my grass, and they got out of the car, and it felt like a thousand of them—middle of the night, they flashed a light in my eyes, didn’t ask me a question, and they were just like, ‘Is this him?’ And the other one was like, ‘Nah, that’s not him.’ And they got in the car and just drove away.”
While he was thankful nothing worse happened that night, Jeremy recognized the microaggression for what it was: “It’s hard to argue that they were explicitly racists. It’s hard to argue that they wanted to strip me of my humanity intentionally. But despite their intentions or motives, they caused me harm. This was a slight and a cut that reminded me, as an African American male living on 35th and Hampton, that certain institutions treat me differently than they would ever treat someone who was white.”
As a professional facilitator on youth empowerment, leadership development, and racial justice, Jeremy shares his always-expanding understanding of white supremacy culture with others. After last year’s murder of Ahmaud Arbery, he began a seven-month training on racial justice for Serve Wisconsin, an organization that administers the state’s various AmeriCorps programs.
Jeremy created a training, as well as a processing guide; his fundamental goal as a facilitator is to offer not only space for reflection, but tools for action. You can’t just do racial justice in a classroom, he explains. “This is the doorway to racial justice, it is not in and of itself racial justice work.”
Facilitation has been a passion of Jeremy’s since high school. As a junior, he joined Urban Underground, a local nonprofit dedicated to “advancing a new generation of leaders committed to building safe and sustainable communities.” Once 18, he transitioned to being a staff member with the organization, in conjunction with the Public Allies apprenticeship program.
Over the course of one summer, Urban Underground co-founder and Executive Director Sharlen Moore took Jeremy along to over 20 facilitation opportunities. He credits this mentorship as the launching point of his career.
Over the last decade, Jeremy has honed in on the science behind facilitation. He now offers coaching on technique and collaborates with organizations to build out curriculum content that is accessible and engaging.
When it comes to having conversations around racial justice, Jeremy says that a large part of the work is helping white folks engage in the conversation authentically; it’s a part of the process to acknowledge the impact your ancestors or folks who look like you have caused in the world. He works to honor that discomfort, explaining, “I don’t want you to be uncomfortable because you’re white—I want the discomfort to come from learning. I’m not trying to judge you, I’m trying to build a safe space where we can actually show up, learn, and find a way to dismantle your privilege.”
Jeremy has continued to facilitate anti-oppression, youth engagement, and leadership trainings for Public Allies Milwaukee every year since graduating and even taught its most recent class about presentation skills leading up to their Presentations of Impact. He feels that the beauty of Public Allies is “the power of being in diverse spaces, and choosing to remain in community.”
What’s next for Jeremy? Right now, he is excited about the continued national conversation around diversity, equity, and inclusion. “I think for folks of color and marginalized identities, we should prioritize building spaces and places that are safe and equitable… and white folks should really do the work of using their privilege to dismantle it.”
In the spirit of continuous learning, Jeremy also maintains an inward focus, learning how to focus more and taking time to build on and improve on what he has. “In my 20s,” he explains, “I was all about looking for new stuff to learn. In my 30s, I’m thinking I made a pretty good foundation for myself. And what I don’t want to do is keep looking for all of these new things without really investing in all of those seeds that were planted.” He likens his process these days to stacking bricks—or, for Public Allies alums, using toothpicks and straws to build a tower—forever asking: “How strong can we make it? How tall can it be? How beautiful can we design it?”