MADISON (WKOW) — When Tony Evers took the stage after being elected Wisconsin’s next governor, he wasn’t the only one making history. Lieutenant Governor-elect Mandela Barnes did, too, as he became the first African-American elected to that position. Leaders in the black community say it’s sure to have an impact, specifically on black youth.
“We all knew that it was time for a change in Wisconsin,” said Barnes as he took to the podium for the campaign’s victory speech on Wednesday morning.
In January, Barnes will make history as he becomes the first black lieutenant governor of the state to have an office in the State Capitol.
“When I see Mandela, I see me,” said Shelia Stubbs, who will be the first black legislator from Dane County in state government.
“I see a person of color who has had to deal with a lot of barriers and obstacles and overcome them,” she said. “With me seeing Mandela at the State Capitol, I actually cried. I cried because it’s been a long time in the process.”
For Rod Mitchell, the chief operating officer for the Boys & Girls Club of Dane County, Barnes’ election proves meaningful to the black youth.
“Our kids now will look at the TV and look at newspaper clippings and they’ll see someone who looks like them in a very high-ranking position for the state. And now, they believe it’s possible for them,” Mitchell said.
He isn’t shocked it’s taken this long for history to be made, but he added that Barnes’ election will also give African Americans more representation.
“Having someone speaking and making change at a high level who may have your interest at heart as well,” Mitchell said.
It’s an election that was historic on several fronts, but one that could help narrow racial disparities Wisconsin has been battling for decades.
“It’s really a game-changer. Just having a person like that in that position is big,” said Mitchell. “It now becomes a conversation at the dinner table that wasn’t there at first.”