Justified Anger hosts community potluck on race
By Rachel Schulze | Mon, 04/28/2014 - 11:46am
When 80-year-old Helen Findley couldn’t get her car out of the garage, she decided to walk a mile, carrying a heavy casserole dish from her home to James Madison Memorial High School for the Justified Anger Community Potluck discussion about race in Madison.
At the event on April 27, Findley joined a diverse crowd of more than 300, who packed Memorial’s cafeteria.
The Justified Anger movement along with community leaders hosted the event to celebrate the life of Memorial former principal Bruce Dahmen, and build community in his honor around an open discussion about race relations.
Justified Anger launched in December 2013 when Rev. Alex Gee wrote a column for The Capital Times describing discrimination he has experienced as a black man in Madison. In the column, Gee expressed an urgent need to address racial as well as other inequalities in the community.
In February, Gee hosted a town hall meeting about race in Madison that drew about 600 people.
“I feel that since the town hall meeting in February, people have been listening and reading, not really engaged in talking,” Gee said. “I feel that people were ready to begin talking with each other. Bringing food and eating just breaks through all the tension.”
After filling their plates with food, attendees sat at tables with strangers, getting to know each other before turning to a discussion prompt that asked them to share experience with prejudice, discrimination and race. Tables that appeared racially segregated were asked to regroup.
Conversations ranged from parents’ stories about race in Madison schools today to older Madisonians’ recollection of housing discrimination as UW-Madison students half a century ago.
Race, specifically disparities between blacks and whites, in Madison has received heightened attention since October 2013, when the Race to Equity Report shed light on “persistent” disparities between blacks and whites in Dane County in education, incarceration and poverty rates as well as other areas.
“The reaction to that [Race to Equity] report both from a political level and amongst the members of the public that I’ve spoken to about it has been shock and dismay, not realizing how badly Madison was doing and how Madison was fairing,” said former alder Ken Golden, who attended the potluck. He noted that little progress has been made in the last 15 years regarding issues of race in Madison.
The potluck brought community members from different backgrounds literally to sit down at the table with one another, but Gee said it is uncommon to see Madisonians do this on their own.
“We’re a nice city, but we don’t know each other. We’re still so segregated,” Gee said. “This is a huge step; let’s make it even larger next time. Let’s bring more people in. Let’s continue the dialogue. Let’s not stop here.”
- Appalachian Ridge NA
- Glen Oak Hills
- Hill Farms
- Mendota Beach
- Midvale Heights
- Oakwood Village
- Old Middleton Greenway
- Parkwood Hills
- Parkwood Village
- Parkwood West
- Skyview Terrace
- Spring Harbor
- Stonefield Woods-Ridge
- Summit Woods
- University Hill Farms
- Wisconsin Co-op Housing
- Woodland Hills
- Woodlands Hills Condominum
- Wyndemere Condominum