An incident of racially-motivated violence occurred at the Plan B gay bar early last month.
An anonymous contact has told YGB that after a hip hop show on December 1 at Plan B, a man of color was told to leave the bar. He says that he non-violently complied with the request but out of the blue, as he was waiting for his coat, was punched three or four times - not by other customers at the bar, but by the bouncers themselves, the majority of which were white. A man who was passing by later told him that he was thrown on the ground while unconscious and called a “f****** n*****.”
The source has told us that the incident has resulted in a concussion, whiplash, a hyperextended knee, anxiety, and trauma. While he says the promoter of the Plan B event has apologized, he’s been denied access to the security camera footage of the incident. YGB contacted Plan B and received no response.
It is vital that all establishments in Madison serve as a safe space for people of all colors. What can we do to turn our places into safe spaces?
An anonymous source has informed YGB that a Black teenager is being charged with two Class C felonies for engaging in consensual sex last October.
On October 17, the source’s cousin, an 18 year old Black teenage male, was engaging in consensual sex with a mixed race young lady under the impression that she was a legal adult as well. While the two were together in the car, the police pulled up and asked them for their ages. Both said “18” and respectfully complied with the officer’s orders.
According to our source, the officer proceeded to interrogate the young lady’s mother, who lived on that block. She informed the police officer that her daughter was below the age of 18, meaning that the two teenagers had technically committed “statutory rape” despite the exchange being consensual.
Although the teenager didn’t know the young lady was under 18 and the act was entirely consensual, the Waukesha Police Department proceeded to charge him with a Class C felony for “Second Degree Sexual Assault of Child.”
The teenager is currently out on bail but is at risk of being ruled a felon in the coming months, which could severely damage his future. This is in spite of the fact that the young lady’s mother, recognizing the teenager did nothing harmful, has called for the police department to drop the case.
Now, why is this an issue? The law is the law, right? Well, the enforcement of statutory rape laws in Wisconsin is heavily racist. According to a 2014 study, Black offenders made up 25% of those charged with statutory rape in Wisconsin, despite Black people making up only 6% of our state’s population. It’s well known that crimes are committed proportionally across races - which means that the percentage of offenders who are Black should be closer to 6%. However, Black people in Wisconsin are about five times more likely to be incarcerated for statutory rape than their white counterparts. Something's not right here.
To no surprise, when asked if she thought racism was involved, our source responded “completely.”
Wisconsin’s statutory rape laws, which are some of the strictest in the nation, appear to be yet another way for our state to lock more people of color behind bars for doing nothing wrong. This sheds a painful light on the need to reassess our approach to underaged sex in a way that doesn’t jeopardize the futures of our children.
In order to make any progress, we have to Build our collective understanding and Build collective analysis to advocate for better collaborative solutions.
A case in which a Madison non-profit organizer accused Forward Community Investments (FCI) of racial and economic bias raises important questions about how lenders should treat low-income borrowers of color.
On July 16, 2016, Felicia Davis met with two loan specialists from FCI and requested a $250,000 loan in order to purchase a facility to house a daycare center. As someone who lived homeless in Chicago for seven years, Davis told YGB that her dream was to provide a safe place for under-resourced youth in Madison.
“Identifying a location inside the community, providing youth programs and creating community involvement through the participation of the residents is vital to the transformation that is needed in the Brentwood Neighborhood,” Davis wrote in a questionnaire response to FCI.
While Davis lacked a significant funding base, she had a successful track record of providing quality care for children. Within two years, Davis said her non-profit was serving 60 youth on Madison’s north side, providing academic and career support at the Warner Park Community Center, the organization’s temporary base.
From the get-go, Davis believed that she was going to receive a loan from FCI to make her vision of owning a physical space for her own community center a reality. After a site visit on August 3 that FCI described as "wonderful," FCI provided Davis with a Letter of Interest on October 7, stating that FCI may “potentially provide financing to purchase a suitable building for daycare expansion of DSS, contingent on it meeting [certain criteria].”
Although things were looking bright for Davis, they quickly turned sour. In a meeting with FCI staff on April 24, 2017, Davis told YGB that she was asked to provide a guarantee that 50% of her budget was already being provided by other lenders. As a low-income owner of a non-profit, Davis did not have these financial resources.
FCI, which lists racial and economic equity as one of their top priorities, says on their website: “At FCI we believe that racial equity exists when people of color are able to fully participate in the political, cultural, and economic decisions of their community [and] are guaranteed fair treatment and access to the opportunities necessary to satisfy their essential needs, to advance their well-being, achieve their potential, and realize their vision of success.”
To Davis, FCI failed to realize this mission. As a woman of color without sufficient funds, she felt that she didn’t receive “fair treatment” due to her low economic starting point and her skin color as well.
“You sit in my face and you tell me that you don’t wanna help me because I don’t have a million dollars in the bank?” Davis told YGB. “And you claim that you believe in racial equity, social justice?”
In a letter sent on April 2, 2017, Salli Martyniak, the president of FCI, conceded that her organization made mistakes in communicating with Davis.
"What did we do wrong? Lots!", she wrote. "We didn't tell her 10 months ago that this funding plan was not good for either FCI or DSS...we should have told her that we would consider a gap loan if she wasn't able to raise all of the money prior to opening...[additionally], we didn't help her with solid advice about running a daycare center. This would have been a perfect place to ask our credit analyst, Jenn Wendtland, to sit in on a meeting a talk about daycare centers and what a solid budget should incorporate."
However, in an interview with YGB, Martyniak defended the organization’s decision to have strong capital requirements for awarding loans.
According to Martyniak, FCI regularly ensures that a company has sufficient financial reserves - whether in cash on hand or through pledges for loans and grants - before awarding loans. This practice is an attempt to maintain low default rates among FCI’s loans, something that Martyniak says is essential to pleasing its philanthropist donor base.
Due to FCI’s capital requirements for receiving loans, Martyniak said that Davis would be better off seeking other sources of funding like grants, which FCI awards at $3,000 per month to smaller and less financially stable organizations.
“The last thing that we want to ever do is to provide a loan, to provide a debt, to a non-profit that cannot afford to maintain that debt, to pay us back, or to really be a sustainable non-profit,” Martyniak told YGB. “Because, if they’re not successful, it’s not just a matter of the fact that we don’t get paid back - the fact is that we’ve seen non-profits go out of business and we’ve seen what that does to the community and the people that they’re serving.”
This response seems inadequate to Davis, who notes that under-resourced organizations often go out of business because of practices that discriminate against those with less financial backing from donors, investors, and organizations like FCI.
The case of Davis and Martyniak raises important questions about how we should view lending as a society. How do we provide financial opportunities to those most at risk like Felicia, while also allowing organizations like FCI to be fiscally responsible and satisfy their donors? How can we level the playing field for loan access without leading to high default rates for lending agencies?
Perhaps the solution lies in organizations like the Madison Alliance for Black Economic Empowerment (MABEE), which grants tens thousands of dollars in low-barrier grants to low-income entrepreneurs of color every year. It may also lie in affordable governmental assistance to emerging non-profits, financed through tax dollars. Or perhaps the solution is a policy or initiative that no one is discussing.
We at YGB are trying to answer these questions as well, and we are trying to find ways to help out low-income people of color like Felicia Davis.