According to Punxsutawney Phil’s recent outing, springtime arrives early this year. That means we are in February, and this is Black History Month. America, as well as Milwaukee, has a very complicated history with race relations dating back centuries. Remembering that “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” we here at Community Roofing are proud to have been founded by someone who has been a champion of civil rights for longer than most of us have been alive. His name is James Godsil.

Since his student days in 1966 and later as a teacher in the Chicago Freedom School for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.‘s Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Jim has done his best to advance racial healing in St. Louis, Chicago, and Milwaukee since 1969, even serving as a parade marshall during the open housing marches.

He raised his children in a multicultural bubble In Riverwest, known for its immigrant background, diversity, music, and civil rights movements. He was Board President of the East Side Housing Action Committee, advancing the neighborhood’s gradual integration.
In the 1990s, he helped integrate Kern Park. And in 2005, he helped the NAACP support Ms. Cleo Pruitt’s Rebirth of Freedom project, which fulfilled her vision of erecting a monument to black veterans who had been overlooked for over a century.

Jim is the former President of the Board of the Sweet Water Foundation, giving 10 years of service to its mission. Sweet Water Foundation utilizes a blend of agriculture, art, carpentry, design, and education to transform vacant spaces and abandoned buildings into economically and ecologically productive and sustainable community assets that produce engaged youth, skilled workers, art, locally-grown food, and affordable housing.

Jim founded Community Roofing & Restoration in 1975 and began servicing the entire city and surrounding area, with his first major task of replacing a barber shop roof at 6th and Historic Mitchell Street. There is no neighborhood he does not know intimately, having worked more than 4 decades on top of houses and businesses in the Milwaukee metropolitan area.

Community Roofing and Restoration has become a guild where we have helped support and grow skilled tradesmen in the local area through hands-on training, including a recent graduate named Khary, who earned a contract for the City Hall roof. We were able to connect him with FJA Christiansen Roofing here in Milwaukee for job placement after graduation.

Jim is also the author of a book of poetry entitled, My Milwaukee. If ever a man loved his city and its inhabitants, I believe that man is Jim Godsil, and that city is Milwaukee. With Jim, you are not defined by your particular religion, your race, your political affiliation, your income, or any of those limiting boxes we like to put others inside. He connects with us as humans first and foremost.

Community Roofing, which he founded in 1975, will be celebrating 50 years in business next year. It’s the same year our Jim turns 80.

We at Community proudly celebrate Black History Month. Not because the calendar says so. We celebrate it because there is black history in our city, and we celebrate it to guarantee a future where hope and progress guide us forward.

It’s not enough to simply know your history just so you can be on the right side of it. It’s not enough to just celebrate meaningful holidays like Juneteenth. We can do so much more by connecting with our neighbors in a much deeper sense and remembering the true meaning of community. It’s a place where we lift each other up in mind, body, and spirit, in order to stand tall and keep injustice out. We’re proud that Jim has embodied the same ideals throughout his lifetime.

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