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We use direct actions to interrupt the status quo and bring awareness to key issues and different forms of state violence affecting the root causes of the plight of black and brown people around the world.,


We stand against the many forms of state violence: police killings, mass incarceration, poverty and others.  We stand for justice for Tony Robinson and ALL Black lives lost at the hands of the state. We stand for community and self determination. We will not stop until we are free.

Lew Blank

YGB raising awareness and building community

Lew Blank

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Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Phone: (608) 618-0942

What follows is an op-ed by Brandi Grayson, responding to Jen Cheatham’s open letter to the community more than a week after the incident at Whitehorse Middle School where an 11 year old black girl was physically attacked by a school administrator.

The superintendent of Madison Metropolitan School District, Jennifer Cheatham. wrote a letter to the Madison Community on 2/28/19, acknowledging the failure of MMSD to protect Black children. She acknowledged that MMSD should be held to a higher standard. She acknowledged that incidents are increasing with time. The problem with her letter is, and was, that she gaslit the hell out of us via wordsmithing.

Before I explain how she did it let me first define gaslighting and wordsmithing. Both are used in abusive relationships. Gaslighting is a term coined to describe a series of manipulative behavior resulting in emotional and mental abuse which causes the targeted individual(s) to begin questioning their feelings and emotions. One way Jennifer Cheatham did this is by downplaying incidents of racism and physical abuse. She often responds to concerns and demands from the Black community as overreactive, over-dramatized, or unnecessary, but never directly uses those words. That’s where wordsmithing comes in. Wordsmithing is defined as a person skillfully using words to convey a certain message or thought indirectly. It’s used by abusers to redirect, reframe, oppose, and downplay.

On 2/13/18, an eleven year old Black girl was brutalized at Whitehorse elementary school by an administrator. The school district didn’t respond to the incident until 9 days later. Jennifer Cheatham did not send out a letter to the community expressing her discontent following the incident, nor did she acknowledge the incident had occurred. An eleven year old Black girl was brutalized in front of her class. The principal for the day, Rob Mueller-Owens, 52, threw her to the ground, pulled her hair out, and then preceded to punch an 11 year old Black girl in the face.

What did the school district do by way of their superintendent? They denied that the brutal incident occurred. Denial is one of the first techniques used by an abuser. They simply deny that it ever occurred. Despite the evidence. Recall, gas-lighting makes the victim (overtime) doubt their own emotions and feelings, and because Jennifer Cheatham denied that the incident occurred by failing to acknowledge it publicly, she — as representative of MMSD — began gas-lighting the public. Because who would believe the incident was as bad as “they” described it when MMSD themselves didn’t report the incident to the public or Child Protective Services. By not reporting it, they indirectly denied its occurrence. By not reporting it, they upheld the idea that Black lives don’t matter. That Black children don’t matter. That Black children are not worthy of compassion, or even recognition, during and after a situation that Jennifer Cheatham later framed as horrific.

On 2/20/19 Madison365 released an article detailing the abuse suffered by an 11 year old at the hands of a MMSD teacher. In the article the author details how the events unfolded. You can read the details here. The day after the article was published by Madison365, Jennifer Cheatham/MMSD publicly acknowledges the incident. 9 days after the incident occurred.

Jennifer Cheatham begins the letter by describing the incident as a serious conflict. “The incident involved a staff person responding to a call for assistance in a classroom, which unfortunately resulted in a serious conflict between the staff person and a student”. This is the same incident we now know was violent, brutal, and downright criminal. Remember, gaslighting is psychological manipulation overtime. And recall, I defined her use of gas-lighting as wordsmithing. She first denied the incident occurred, and then she downplayed the incident, describing the brutalization of a Black baby’s body as a conflict. Recall, one of the strategies of gas-lighting is to downplay a situation that hurts someone, making them doubt their emotions, their perception, and their sanity. In a society rooted in white supremacy racism, this particular microaggression upholds narratives and ideologies that are rooted in the idea that Black bodies are NOT deserving of protection or recognition. This is the very definition of anti-Blackness, and because we’re all socialized to be anti-Black, and Jennifer Cheatham is perceived as being a good white woman by leaders, by design she is able to switch the narrative of the incident from being traumatic, horrific, unthinkable act, to merely a “conflict.”

You see the difference? You see how her use of words downplay and minimize the severity of the incident?

Later in the letter she uses words like healing, affirming, and protection to insinuate that they are valued and practiced by MMSD without saying so. To say they uphold these values directly would have created a Blacklash, because Black families know that this is not true. But to imply MMSD hold such values – or would like to hold such values – creates a sense of partnership and compassion without it having to be true.

This is wordsmithing, which is used by abusers and politicians to implant self-doubt, and to change the narrative of a Black child being a victim to the Black child being the cause of their own abuse. Framing an eleven year old Black as the problem vs a 52 year old white man trained in cultural responsiveness and racial justice. Which upholds and reinforces ideas of white supremacy racism that says Black bodies are undeserving of protection. She enforces and upholds white supremacy racism without having to say it directly. Without having to change or acknowledge the root of the problem, which of course allows the problem to continue. The root being anti-blackness, embedded in all of MMSD polices, practices and responses.

She goes on to say, “Our focus now is on fully supporting the student and family as well as the Whitehorse community as a whole.” The problem is they didn’t support the mom or the little girl. The mom felt talked at and around. They didn’t contact Child Protective Services, and they didn’t file a complaint with the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. They also didn’t contact the police, the mom did. Again, Jennifer Cheatham downplayed the severity of the incident and failed to hold her self and her administrators accountable, framing the Black little girl as the problem, NOT the paid, trained staff. Jennifer Cheatham and her administrators, as well as her boss – the board of MMSD – failed to acknowledge and respond to the harm caused by so many at Whitehorse and MMSD.

Jennifer Cheatham follows up with, “As a school district, we must be the healers and protectors that our students deserve and ensure that our schools and classrooms are places that value, affirm and uplift our students”. First of all, there’s nothing affirming about being brutalized at school by a teacher, in front of your class. There’s nothing uplifting as a parent being called to the school by your daughter, NOT a teacher, and being told by your daughter, not an administrator, that she’s been badly injured by an administrator. MMSD failed this little girl and her family. Jennifer Cheatham covered it up by using words of sympathy and compassion while failing to act in, or extend—sympathy, compassion, and healing to the family. MMSD also failed to adhere to what Jennifer Cheatham refers to as “what the school must be,” but never addressed the realities of what the school district continues to actually be for Black students.

MMSD as a whole not only support policies that ensure microaggressions AKA racism, such as police in schools and metal detectors, MMSD also fails to do anything about the consequences of their decisions and indecisions. Instead they add additional funding to police Black bodies. That is the very definition of insanity: doing the same thing (criminalizing Black bodies) and expecting a different result. Jennifer Cheatham suggest that the values of MMSD are that of healing and being protectors that are affirming and uplifting, but how is that true when Mr. Owens was not arrested, the police were not called, CPS was not called, DPI was not called and the mother was NOT called by the school but by the injured child? When do values translate into action? And when does the action and words of the superintendent and MMSD translate into protecting Black children?

MMSD and Whitehorse elementary school failed all the way around in providing protection for this little girl, but because Jennifer is so talented at gas-lighting she has some of us thinking her words are rooted in reality, when reality is in direct opposition to her words. She goes on to say, “Whenever these systems fail, or when we face an incident that counters our values, we pause, review our processes and procedures to ensure that something like this can never happen again.” It’s crazy to me that she says this. One, because as you will see in the coming months, there are hundreds of incidents reported to schools that are not reported to the public. That hasn’t prompted the school district in any way to review and/or change its policies or processes to ensure that “it never happens again.” Did you hear about the principal at Blackhawk Middle School who purposely triggered a student and then headbutted him? Yeah. I didn’t hear about it either. The school district failed to take any real actions in response to that situation.

In fact, abuse by the hands of administrators and staff is very common throughout MMSD. I’ve taken reports of several Black parent detailing their experience with MMSD and the abuse their children suffered. Including a high school student at East High school who was roughed up by a teacher in another teachers class. MMSD was given ample opportunity to “be” the MMSD Jen so eloquently describes. Each incident was handled the same. The child was suspended. Nothing happen to the teacher. Police report filed. Nothing happens. Complaint filed with DPI. Parent(s) get tired of fighting in an unmovable system alone. And the cycle continues.

Despite the latest incident being public, it was still handled the same way. The child was suspended. Nothing happened to the administrator. No charges have been filed. Instead of Whitehorse doing what their superintendent implied should be done, they did the opposite. They denied the brutalization of an 11 year old Black girl occurred. They denied the mother protection by not contacting the appropriate authorities. They failed to do anything when another parent filed a complaint against Rob Muller Owens at Whitehorse Elementary for pushing her child against a locker months before the 11 year old Black girl was brutalized. Consequently, they (Whitehorse & MMSD) sent a message that racism in the form of anti-Blackness will continue to be tolerated and they (MMSD) will continue to do nothing.

Her second letter was sent out on 2/28/19. Following the MMSD school board meeting on 2/25/18, at which time she and the school board were put on notice by youth organizers and community activists that a rapid response team and a legal team was being formed for the purpose of protecting students and families, and for collecting & documenting stories of abuse and racism.

Per her letter:

  • A new system for staff, students, and families to report incidents of racism or discrimination that will launch this spring
  • A full review of investigation and critical response protocols to ensure they are culturally responsive, grounded in restoration, and more transparent
  • Revision and consistent application of the MMSD equity tool to ensure current and future HR policy and practice, as well as Board policy recommendations, are developed through a racial equity lens.
  • A refresh of the School Improvement Planning process to ensure that race, rigor and relationships are central to school based decision making

A new required professional development series for all staff on racial identity, implicit bias, and racial inequity in the United States, along with a refined support and accountability system to monitor progress

According to Jen, a new system is set to launch in the spring to report incidents, but this system was not discussed with staff, or the school board, or the people that will be most impacted by it, Black students and families. NO one knows what this system is or how it will function, but supposedly it’s set to launch in a few weeks?

I explicitly talked at the school board meeting on 2/25/19 about a community initiative that was set to launch that week. An initiative that would include a system for reporting incidents of racism and abuse centering Black students and families which would expose MMSD’s habit of sweeping racist incidents and abuse under the rug. Forcing them to deal with the outrageous number of cases of physical abuse. Making them visible via videos and blogs.

Her lack of details concerning a “new” system, and the fact that no one’s heard of this “new” system, leads one to ask, where did her idea come from? A Black activist? Me? Who she failed to give credit to? That is white supremacy in action. Her attempt to gas light us and then steal ideas presented by the community without crediting the community is not only disheartening but also telling of MMSD’s inability to build collaborative partnerships with the community. And when we dig deeper into the question of what is this “new” system, we have to ask who will control this system? The perpetrators? The school district is going to control a system that’s supposedly set up to hold them accountable? Doesn’t that sound counter-intuitive?

She goes on to offer, “A full review of investigation and critical response protocols to ensure they are culturally responsive, grounded in restoration, and more transparent.” Wasn’t the person who brutally attacked an 11 year old Black girl, Robert Owens, the director of their restorative justice program and director of inclusion/diversity? We should trust MMSD to review their own process for improvement? More disturbing is her use of words such as review that imply action, without having to take any actions. Again, Jennifer Cheatham is an expert at wordsmithing and upholding white supremacy racism. What does this mean? It means that if MMSD is serious about doing the “work” they have to hire outside, community based organizations to do the work.

It doesn’t make sense and it stands in opposition of the work required if MMSD administrators, the perpetrators, are responsible for investigating and responding to incidence(s) of racism. Not to mention, what is culturally responsive? And who gets to define culturally responsiveness? Nonprofit organizations that reflect the status quo? Or people directly responsible for maintaining police presence within our schools. Will they define cultural responsiveness? The people who think the answer to the challenges Black children face is to put police in schools? The same police that are violating Black bodies in Black communities? Will MMSD board members define culturally responsiveness? Folks who are removed from the realities of Black experiences? So much so, that every decision they make causes more harm to Black children vs eliminating it.

Her next actionable step is a full review and investigation of an equity tool that hasn’t worked and doesn’t work by the same folks who created it? Who thought the equity tool was culturally responsive? It’s so absurd that no further words are needed to explain why it’s absurd.

She goes on to offer a “refresh” of the School Improvement Plan, a plan that’s not culturally responsive. A plan that lacks resources to implement. A plan not supported by all teachers or students. A plan that isn’t working will be refreshed? What is refresh? What does that mean? Again, another example of Jen’s amazing ability to wordsmith us.

“Refresh”? How does something that isn’t working be “refreshed”? When I tell you that Jennifer Cheatham is an expert at wordsmithing, she is an expert. She is brilliant. The problem is, that we, the People, see her and we hear her regurgitation of our words and our desires framed to fit her white constituents desires of inaction and it will not be tolerated.

Her last action step was a “personal development series for all staff on racial identity”, etc. Which sounds great on paper. However, what does personal development in relations to a culture rooted in anti Blackness mean? What’s the purpose of focusing on personal development when it doesn’t address MMSD’s culture and history of anti Blackness? The issue, Jen, is that the culture of the school district is entrenched in white supremacy racism, and NO personal development series will unpack and/or recreate the district’s culture. Any and all training and/or initiatives must deal with and address all levels of racism that are active within Madison’s school district. Which are personal, interpersonal, institutional and cultural racism. For change to be genuine and lasting, it must encompass all four levels/realms. These four realms are inextricably related. They feed into one another. As mentioned by Jen, MMSD must be willing to do whatever it takes to disrupt racism. If they are serious about disrupting racism, then they have to start at all levels. If they’re serious about interrupting their own institutional culture rooted in the criminalization of Black bodies, Jennifer Cheatham, MMSD—then they should listen, engage, and allocate funds to community/grass-root focused initiatives.

Her continual dismissal and failure to reach out to the folks that are in the trenches picking up the pieces of broken families impacted by the school district’s policies and practices is telling of whether or not the school district is serious about disrupting racism. As stated by Jennifer Cheatham,

“If we are serious about our vision — that every school is a thriving school — we have to
disrupt racism in all of its forms. We cannot be silent. We cannot perpetuate it. We must
examine everything.”

What really are they willing to examine if they don’t form real partnerships with the people that are doing the work? How do you disrupt and/or dismantle racism while oppressing Black children? The two are incongruent. How do you celebrate Black history month with Black Lives Matter curriculum while allowing the perpetrators of violence towards Black children (police) to roam the building locking up Black children? Our children see MMSD half efforts, which compounds their feelings of unworthiness and upholds
the notion that they are indeed undeserving of protection and edification.

MMSD decisions and in actions sends the message to the Black community that they (MMSD) can not be trusted. And Jennifer Cheatham’s open letter to the community confirms that we, the Black community, are right.

Throughout her letters she undermines the efforts of the folks that are in the trenches by suggesting indirectly that the work that we’re demanding is already being done. However, as a mother and a community activist, I know this to be false and I am not alone. MMSD coordinators and other Black faces hired to do the work are not supported, nor do they have the resources to do said work. Their positions and efforts sound good on paper (like Jen’s letters). The reality is, without real actions and real results, their positions and efforts were and continue to be a public relations move, and we, the people are demanding real results and efforts. As she pointed out, if MMSD is serious about disrupting racism, MMSD should be diligent in doing so. However, all we’ve gotten from the district is lip service, fancy strategic plans, and planning that lacks a backbone (collaborative community centered support) and funding.

Recall, gas-lighting is manipulation. Gas lighting is abuse. Maybe it wasn’t her intention to be abusive and dismissive, but as she pointed out, intention is not necessary for racism to be carried out. Dear MMSD and Jennifer Cheatham, put your money where your mouth is.

  • End the contract with Madison Police Department
  • Hire parents and community members instead of police to direct our children
  • Allow the community’s initiative access to schools to provide rapid response advocates for our children and their families
  • Engage the community by engaging organizations and individuals that are doing the work
  • Implement a zero tolerance policy for administrators. Send the message that racism in any form will not be tolerated. As well as abuse in any form.
  • Allocate funds to support a reporting system of racist incidents. Overseen by a community lead organization—like the peoples initiative, Building Capacity for Protecting Black children.
  • Provide training that include all realms of racism. Training provided by the community for the community.
  • File a complaint with DPI. Petition to have Mr. Owens license revoked.
  • Support the community in demanding the arrest of Mr. Owens.

We the people demand action over lip service. We the people demand results. WE, the people, will not stand by while you continue to play respectability politics with Black children lives and give us nothing more than lip service.

It was imperative for me to write this long op-ed to help folks understand how racism is upheld by folks who may or may not mean to be racist. As Jennifer Cheatham stated, “It is at times intentional and unintentional. It is everywhere, every day. It is within us and surrounds us. Any school district is a microcosm of the society we live in.” Its an honor to know Jen that you listen to my live videos, but you’re going to have to do more then repeat my words—you’re going to have to do the work demanded by those most impacted by MMSD’s culture of white supremacy racism.



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On February 11, the Young Gifted and Black Coalition and Movement Fund hosted the People's Mayoral Forum, where five of Madison's candidates for mayor - Toriana Pettaway, Maurice Cheeks, Satya-Rhodes Conway, Raj Shukla, and Nick Hart - debated the best ways to achieve racial justice and improve education in Madison.

To watch the full video, click below!


The following are interviews conducted by the Young Gifted and Black Coalition's Sed Smith with candidates for the Mayor of Madison. 

If you want to support YGB's advocacy work, please visit our donate page and join the Movement Fund!


Toriana Pettaway


Why are you running?

Part of the reason I’m running is because I don’t see myself in this city. I don’t see myself in the design, the build, or within these places. Where do i go to see people who look like me. Black and Brown communities should be so much further and i’m just not happy with that. Nothing has changed. We see the same people saying the same thing over several years we are still talking about it. These problems should have been dealt with ten years ago. Where is the progress report? We want see so many disparities amongst people in this city and i’m tired of seeing the same disparities within the government.



Who is Toriana at the core?
First of all, as a person, I’m a woman of God first and foremost. My faith is what grounds me, centers me, and gives me purpose. I’m a mother. I love my children and I love my family. I’m someone who’s passionate about serving others in this community. I hear the residents in a way that they want others to hear them in too. I see people. That’s who I am, I’m the type of person that wants people to know that they are seen. I would like to be the conduit, or the catalyst, to make other people feel like they can thrive and prosper. Everybody wants to have a sense of belonging. I want to operate in a space where I can relate to people and make sure I am my best self to serve other people. I’m compassionate, I’m discerning. People in my work say I give too much and I’m okay with that. That’s what I was created to do and I’m not going to change who I am. I give all of me and it’s to serve other people.


What’s your biggest motivation?
My children are my biggest motivation. My motivation is seeing others who have come before who have made what I can do possible. I have to have hope that if they prevailed and were able to find some means of success through all of the struggles and disappointments and were able to make a way for their family, that I can too. That gives me hope. I have to to continue to do that for my children my family and friends and the community that i’m passionate about. I’m a woman of faith and God has me here for a purpose.



Opinion on new jails? Disproportionality in prison sentences?
I don’t think we should be building more prisons. I think we should be reducing prison complexes. I know the disparities we see in institutions are out of sync. I think how we sentence, how we police, and have people re-enter into society needs to be re-evaluated. Many of the folks don’t belong there and they were unfairly prosecuted and I think non-violent crimes should...I think this needs to constantly be reviewed. The people who brought the unfair penalties should be re-evaluated and prosecuted. We need an overhaul of the criminal justice system. Criminal justice is a business. People profiting off of the backs of Black and Brown people. The inequities in that are another form of slavery and we must name them as that.



How are we going to solve disparities in schools? Student opportunities?

There are several things that need to’s not just up to schools. It should start within the home. My parents equipped me with that knowledge that everyone won’t treat you as family. Parents should educate their children on how to navigate life different for Black and Brown children as well as White children being aware of privileges that they have as well as how to speak up when they see things that are wrong...Everyone teaching their children respect and what equity really is. Awareness also has to happen within the school. We must have culturally competent administrations and teachers. It can’t be transactional, but a transformation. It’s operationalized. The curriculum, the policies, and the procedures have to be lived out in everything done and practiced and rewarded because it’s a lived experience. It needs to be reflected in the hiring of all staff. And reflection of the children amongst the staff is a must as well. It’s a collaborative approach.


I have a vision...There’s a gap of an unmet need in this community for youth 12-26. The mall policy grieved kids, it was one of the last safe zones for kids. You penalize a whole generation of youth for the acts of a few. Reaching out to a few people to get ahead of afforded me the opportunity with kids to talk about how we can adjust the policy. How do you counteract someone trying to implement a policy? We showed the kids a we the people process on a reversing a policy and showed them how to come together and use the same information to counteract this action. When I’m mayor, I plan on organizing a non-profit that will incorporate youth teaching youth, creating their own brand of business for themselves. A Business enterprise designed by kids and not adults. Planning curriculum and reaching kids who aren’t being reached. Anyone who is closest to the issues need to create what they want to do. And you have to have a good facilitator for that. These young folks are lacking belonging and hope. We don’t invest funds into them. We don’t invest resources into them. We don’t invest in spaces for them. They need to see themselves in these spaces. I want to remind them that we are all Madison. If you don’t feel part of the all then you are othered. People want to see themselves and this is the biggest part of inclusion. It’s time and It requires hard choices, getting uncomfortable, talking to someone from a different neighborhood. This is everybody’s city.



How can we create a more accessible city?

What I want to focus on is making sure that the community has more access internally including those who don’t have access to downtown. Why does everyone always have to come downtown? We need to make the government more accessible. I want our leaders in government to be more transparent. I want them to know the community. The leaders in government being able to connect to what local leaders are going through. If you’re a policy maker and can’t relate to the average citizen, then I don’t want you making a decision for me.



Is Madison a truly ‘progressive’ city?

 We’ve had the title of progressive, but I think we’re living in an illusion. We’re progressive when it comes to dominant construct, but when it comes down to things that matter most to tough decisions for everyone. We’re living in an illusion. Many people don’t see themselves in the struggle.



What is Madison's greatest challenge?

Dealing with Racial Discrimination and Disparities. We are living in an illusion if you us othering language...those people from Chicago, I don't want them people in my neighborhood, Hip-hop music mean criminal activity take the liquor licence, or just do not issue one give other reason!


What work have you done to mitigate Madison's racial barriers?

Besides being the City's Equity Coordinator for the last three plus years. I am actively engaged with my community on multiple levels addressing housing instability for Madison most needed. I have worked as a homeless coordinator with my church for seven years with community partner formally Interfaith Hospitality Network now The Road Home. In addition to the Fair Housing of Great Madison sense 2007 Advisor Board and Testing. Beyond these rolls I have made countless connections in the community because the awesomeness gained from being a YWCA third shift Y-Transit Driver.



Why should Madison pick you?

Madison residents should pick me it's next Mayor because I bring experience to the position of Mayor from two prospective. As a professional who have navigated both State and City government as a Human Resources professional leading Administrator of State Agencies and Department Head on how to be good managers, I understand and lead personnel management, labor relations with unions, and capital and operational budgets. I am the only candidate who manages a Racial Equity and Social Justice Initiative with a team of 40 people whom with that has national recognition for leading the nation on deconstructing institutional racism in our policies, practice, structure/operations, budgets and in our community for our low-income, marginalized and people of color. Ser attentments for my solutions for Madison difficult issues we a faced today. I have the experience to address and implement real inclusion from a grassroots engagement that is fiscally responsible.




Maurice Cheeks


Why are you running?

Seeing Barack Obama elected expanded horizons as much as possible. It expanded how I felt I could express my citizenship. Growing up I had a good relationship with my dad. He worked a lot to provide for his family. I remember we woke up to go to his jobsite and we were on a strike. He worked for a union. He said:

‘This is why I’m so hard on you. Part of the fact that I’ve been able to support our family...This is what it looks like fighting for ourselves to get a quarter raise. I want you to be the first Cheeks to write his own ticket. Prove to your brothers this is possible. I want you to figure out how you can help yourself and others.’

I knew I wanted to be of service in college. I knew teachers who were in service, so I went to school to be a teacher. I didn’t become an educator, but I still wanted to be of service. I settled in Madison in 2007 and started tutoring in the schools. I started volunteering. I was elected to city council at 28 years old.

After the 2016 Presidential elections I started thinking about how we can lead locally. This is still our state, still our city. We can’t give up because we elected the wrong president. We still have to fight for civil rights and women's rights. There’s still place to move a needle on that in our community. We should absolutely be able to broaden the table so that more people can fit. My job as mayor will be to uplift the voice of the community. We’ve been lacking that in Madison for 8 years. Everything about our society is different. It’s like student loans...forty years ago college was $800 a semester cheaper. We are not the same America. We are not the same Madison. I think the job of being mayor in Madison is too big to be anyone’s back up plan. We should expect someone to be committed to their job and it’s critical that we have leadership focused on community and city as an act of service.



Who is Mo Cheeks at the core?

I’m a father. I’m a husband...I’m somebody who has been serving on the Madison city council for 6 years. I’m the district 10 alder where i’ve been serving Allied, Nacoma and everything in between…They’re microcosms of the city. In a day job I have a career in the tech industry. I’m someone who is excited to see what we can bring to the city. I’m the oldest of three boys with an involved dad who shared a lot of how he thinks about the world. We grew up in Matteson, Illinois in the middle class. The only people I recall having college degrees were my teachers. I’m a biracial black man who found his identity in the time where I thought it wasn’t possible to elect Barack Obama.



What’s your biggest motivation?
I want to make Madison a city where every community has kids ready to learn and families that feel safe. A community that has access to food and transportation to navigate this community...people that live with dignity. We have people on a limp just trying to pay rent. I want to make this everybody's city...a city with mutual interdependence.



Opinion on new jails? Disproportionality in prison sentences?

This is a big question with intergenerational parts. We have small conversations about what is the precise number of police to add to force to make the city more sage. Talking about safety to acknowledge that conversation is bigger than policing. By the time the police are involved the ‘thing’ has already happened. People have conversations about incarceration and more police. Does that make us a more sage community? We have to think about kids growing up in broken homes without male role models. We’ve been doing this for generations. Our system has been actively disproportionately wrecking Black families.



How are we going to solve disparities in schools? Student opportunities?

As Mayor I’m going to make sure that every child has a college savings account. We have research that they are more likely to graduate. With this they will have an identity formed. I’m going to establish a program so every high school student has access to an internship. After which they will return learning better when they are productive in the summer. They’ll see something for their future. My focus is at the systems level, not how do we put $1000 into a program, but how do we reimagine the foundation of the blocks of society so that it feels different to be a member of the society in Madison. A place where every kid believes someone is believing in them and investing in them. Even if their parents are incarcerated, have mental health issues, etc. our can community still believes in kids regardless of color. Maybe we can shift biases made against people in our community. None of this is simple stuff. We’re still working on it. We’re still listening.



How can we create a more accessible city?

We have to work hard to advocate with peer communities in the surrounding area to create support for regional taxi authority. We need people to be able to access jobs in sun prairie or fitchburg, or even just be able to go to the theatre. Being able to fund needs to be more than just complaining about the state. We need to lean on relationships developed state wide to work with folks to support this. We need to look at Eau Claire and Appleton.



Is Madison a truly ‘progressive’ city?

We need to be frank about this as a community. We need to figure out how to create work that creates upward mobility. We have to be aware of where the city is investing the money. If we’re investing in projects that will support employers, we have to support employers that will be willing to be community partners. Places where the community can move up the ladders and make a life for themselves. I want to diversify the middle class. 100state, for example, is the largest coworking space in Wisconsin. I want to see space that is diverse. We have all types of entrepreneurship in communities of color. As a community we need to make sure we are supporting this work. We need to be a community creating authentic space for communities of color.



What is Madison's greatest challenge?
The central challenge we face is racial and economic inequality. We have the most diverse economy and the most diverse population that our city has ever had. Yet, in Madison, the two primary socioeconomic demographics that have grown in recent years are households making six-figure incomes and households earning less than $30,000 a year. My priority as mayor is ensuring that our growing prosperity is affording to the benefit of all Madisonians. Because to be the most innovative, inclusive, and safe Madison possible -- it is imperative that we ALL do better.

What work have you done to mitigate Madison's racial barriers?
In my first year on the Madison Common Council, I authored and passed the city’s Ban the Box ordinance requiring hiring practices that prevent discrimination based on criminal record. This legislation was written with the involvement of leaders and advocates in the re-entry movement. This reform was particularly crucial in Madison, where arrest rates and conviction rates are disproportionately high for black and brown people, and where discrimination based on someone’s past was a recurring concern as people tried to get ahead. That is why I didn’t stop there but then expanded it to apply to anyone doing business with the city.

Likewise, as an Alder on the Common Council, I sponsored the funding that we allocated to reviewing the Madison Police Department Policy, Procedure, Culture, and Training practices, which resulted in the OIR report. This work is going to be critical to raising the bar for what safe policing, and community relationships with police can hope to be.

Personally, even before being elected to the council, I spent years tutoring young men of color in our schools, and have been an advocate and supporter of job training programs that have a successful track record of empowering people of color to get ahead in our workforce.

I recognize that my election would be historic as the first African American ever elected Mayor of Madison, and I’m committed to returning the classroom and being a mayor that tutors in our schools.


Why should Madison pick you?
I’m running for mayor of Madison to take on our persistent reputation as a tale of two cities.
As an alder who serves in one of the most diverse districts, I’ve spent the past six years representing Madisonians from all walks of life. Additionally, as a high-tech business leader in Madison, I know that our city’s economy can't grow without improved access to a diverse and educated workforce. And as an advocate for our schools, and past tutor in our schools, my commitment to our next generation has been unwavering.

These experiences are essential because Madisonians deserve a mayor who brings a sense of urgency to fight for all of our futures and one who can authentically bring together various constituents to ensure our community lives up to our progressive values.




Satya-Rhodes Conway


Why are you running?

People have been asking me to run since I was on the council. I’m running because I want to make sure Madison is a city where everyone has the opportunity to thrive. We need someone who’s not going to just talk, but someone who’s going to get the job done.



Who is Satya at the core?

I am from second hand clothes. From Wonder Woman and Nancy Drew. I am from the kitchen with mismatched plates and silverware, accumulated from garage sales and Salvation Army stores, chipped and worn with faded beauty. I am from lilacs, both the single old tree spreading it’s offspring across the lawn and the carefully manicured specimens in Highland Park. I'm from scientists and artists. From Jane and Josey. I'm from intellect and opinion. From “act like you own the place” and “don’t put your elbows on the table”. I'm from Christmas and Passover and Solstice, home cooked meals with family, chosen or not. I'm from Espanola, the lowrider capital of the world, but also Rochester and La Jolla, Platteville and Grosse Pointe. Home baked banana bread and holiday morning waffles. From the time Dusty jumped out of a runaway peach truck and broke his arm. From Anne’s choosing art over a “normal” life. Kodachrome slides stacked in boxes, memories of Libya, Europe, Colorado, Japan, Altadena. Images you can only see with forgotten technology.

I was born in New Mexico to parents who were hippies living off of the grid. In middle school, I led all school meetings and those skills have been important in my work in government. I went to Smith College in Massachusetts studying biology. My masters degree was in Ecology. nI eventually applied to an internship at the State Environmental Resource Center.  I worked on policy on state levels. I talked my way out of an internship and into a job. After three years I got the job at COWS and I’ve been at UW ever since. I bought a house and live in Lincoln park neighborhood. I live with my partner and my dog. I was on the city council for ten years.



What’s your biggest motivation?

For me, what it comes down to is that there are things we need to be working on that aren’t working hard or fast enough in the city. If we don’t work on them now, they become harder and more expensive five years down the road. If we had started building more affordable housing ten years ago, we wouldn’t be where we are now. What I see in other cities that I see here is that we’re not willing to accept density. We can’t fall into the trap of opposing across the board. We have to make sure ti’s productive across the board.



Opinion on new jails? Disproportionality in prison sentences?

I say no to privatized prisons. There’s no excuse. And why prison just to begin with? Not that there shouldn’t be consequences for crimes that hurt the community, but I’m way more interested in restorative justice and ways that communities can make amends by giving back to the community. Addiction, mental health issues, or poverty, we need to address the issues instead of locking people up in cages. Change comes slow within the criminal justice system, but it doesn’t mean we don’t try it. I doesn’t maen that we shouldn’t decriminalize poverty. We need to think about all of these things to keep people out of the system.



How are we going to solve disparities in schools? Student opportunities?

There are a lot of things that belong to the school district. We have to think about what the city can do. Kid show up to school having ‘behavior problems’ or fights or whatever/ Why are they don’t that? It’s historical trauma. Are they eating enough? Are their needs being met? Why are they being presented as a problem in local schools? And why are we punishing kids that are having a reaction to their world? I’m talking about access to healthy food in neighborhoods. Making sure kids get to school safely. Focusing on transit. Making sure kids have a safe healthy place to live which mens affordable housing for their families. Kids don’t want to have to move around, we need more stability. It all goes back to affordable housing, food access, affordability and a good transit system. That’s sort of the top of the line.

You would think the question of giving students opportunities would be straight-forward. I would love to see more paid internships, seeing people learning and getting paid across the board. Like Operation Fresh Start, teaching construction, home renovation, ecological restoration, and clean up crews. Any number of things that need to be done in the public realm if there are young people who need job opportunities and need to learn skills. This is crazy, but one of the things that needs to be done is that there are hundreds of single family homes that need to have energy efficiency. Could we not have these kids in need of opportunity train to weatherize and make homes more energy efficient? We need more fresh foods. Why not train folks to farm? Why not have market gardens?



How can we create a more accessible city?

We need rapid transit. We need people to get to their damn jobs. I’m lucky because I live where I live. If I worked at East Towne or one of the hotels, I wouldn’t be able to take the bus. That’s not right. That’s closing off an opportunity and that’s not right. I want to do something about it, this is where the city could be doing something, but it isn’t. I want to see kids in folks own their own business. We need tiny houses for homeless people. There’s a need and it builds potential wealth within the community. I was appointed member of the Madison Food Policy Council. We’ve been working on healthy food access, healthy retails, and a couple of grant funds. Funded Luna’s Grocery’s and River Food Pantry to buy a refrigerated truck. There’s needs in the community…we have to do that in a way that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. That’s why I’m running.



Is Madison a truly ‘progressive’ city?

I think individually people who live in Madison are progressive and would describe themselves as such. I don’t think our city government has been progressive as it should be given who lives here. That’s a part of why I’m running. I see the places we are resting on our laurels. I know we can do better. We don’t do a good enough job in this city listening to the impact of communities and treating them like they have access and something to contribute. We have to take that. We have to take asset based approach to our neighborhoods. We have to look at grassroots solutions that exist and support them, because the city government is pretty white. We have a dynamic bunch of white people coming to poor neighborhoods to fix the problems and it’s not how the problems get better. We have to break that up and think about how we support the community. How we empower communities. That’s going to be uncomfortable for  a lot of white people. It’s going to be hard. We’re going to have to step on toes. It may be hard, but we have to do it. Opportunity gaps any gaps don’t shift until we build capacity and empower the people. What does that look like? I’m not exactly sure and that’s okay because we have to source those solutions form the communities themselves. It’s something that I want to start.




Raj Shukla


Why are you running?

We’re confronted with a few challenges that are converging. In this moment issues of racial social and economic inequity that the world is grappling with, Madison is no exception.

We have a federal government and a good chunk the state government, a little less of it now, that is openly hostile to the values of this community. And hostile to the ways that we want to address some of our problems. Then we have climate change that will affect every facet of our lives for the rest of forever. That is how it is. Everyone is being called to do more: to bring communities together and make progress in the face of difficult challenges including people like me who are political newcomers. I feel that I am not a newcomer to leadership. I Chaired City committee called Sustainable Madison Committee. We have written legislation, built coalitions on council to pass resolutions to commit the city to the most ambitious climate change goals in the state. Other communities have since followed suit...I’m also the executive director of a statewide water policy group. I believe I am one of two candidates in the race with actual executive experience. Myself and Paul Soglin. The skillset is one of being able to articulate a vision for an organization being able to motivate and manage talented employees. It’s a skillset that requires you to make tough decision. We have issues like affordable housing and transit that is broke in the community. We have issues of racial inequality that play to the eye, but also to the spirit when you just talk to people that are living in circumstances that are blatantly unfair and that can’t survive. I want to be a mayor that can replicate some of the success i’ve seen professionally and certainly as a civic leader and I hope as a father. I want to bring people together to solve difficult challenges and set the bar higher than we have.


Who is Raj at the core?

When you ask people who i am and people who know me, they think of me as deeply principled person who is fiercely committed to working with everyone in order to make progress. I’m the son of immigrants who grew up in Waukesha. I’m the father of a child with a disability. Those two parts of who I am have built an ethic in me that you just don’t turn away from people. You do everything you can to build relationships with people even those who you disagree with and make progress to find commonality. I’m principled but pragmatic that prides community above all else.



What’s your biggest motivation?
A challenge. We’re looking at really big challenges that only get harder as time goes by. Our community is growing with different perspectives as we try to mesh. And we are dealing with the spectre of human climate change, which no one else in history has had to manage. We have giant challenges ahead of us. When I look at my daughters, I am motivated by the idea that I need to wake up everyday and do everything I can to make this world everything they deserve. Everything their friends deserve. The world that my parents deserve to. The world that my neighbor deserves...they have every much a right to a city that is clean, a city that is equitable, and a city that is prosperous. People motivate me. Spread love and I know that might sound cheesy, but it’s true. We need a lot more folks especially within political leadership who insist on treating one another with respect, with compassion, with creativity, and ambition. We owe it to each other.



Opinion on new jails? Disproportionality in prison sentences?

There should be no private prisons. None. I don’t think the solutions to our problems are in jailing more people. I think the solutions in our problems are in caring for more people. I’d like to create a truly citywide Madison model for early childhood care. WHen you look at the research as far the most cost effective way to repay the educational debts we owe young people in this community who are born facing bigger obstacles through no choice of their own and no choice of their parents, we need to repay that debt and the way you can do that and shrink some of the gaps in achievement at school and shrink some of the disparities. We have to focus on birth to three when 80-90% of your neurological development happens as a human being. That should be our focus. We need to have a commitment to early childhood care and necessary resources and systems. So that every child gets the resources they need to start off on an even playing field.



How are we going to solve disparities in schools? Student opportunities?

This is a difficult question. Especially when you have a state limiting resource to schools. Special education affects me the most. Most of the kids in special education are kids of color. Kids who need special education, but often don’t get it are also children of color. I do believe that representation in decision making is important. I’m seeing people of color on the school board and it’s eye opening to be having conversation with people of color having represented voices. I don’t think you can separate the disparities in schools form the economic disparities you are seeing outside of school. Challenges are of social welfare and not just education. Schools are a reflection of society instead of a driver. THey are important. Kids aren’t getting the right nutrition when they are outside of school. These are economic issues.

When it comes to student job opportunities, this is one of those areas where environmental goals and social justice intersect. I very much want to see how we can expand energy efficiency and renewable energy on people's homes in our community. There are financing questions involved, but imagine us making a concerted effort to expand, for example, people insulating their homes. You need people who know how to do that and people who can be trained on how to do that. So why can’t the city expand on some work that it’s already doing, but bring young people into a trade like that. Give young people a start on an area that the economy really needs and an area that the environment really needs and a path to employment that that young person really needs. We can give these kids the opportunity to be the hero in a big story: How we’re going to manage climate change and in the process give them a skill that may the foundation of them starting a business. A foundation of a lifetime of employment. That’s one way I’d like to see if we could approach this.



How can we create a more accessible city?

It starts with leadership. You learn this very viscerally when you lead an organization. Even in the most collaborative like the flat management structure I have at river alliance. The leader of every organization sets the tone. Right now we have a mayor whose first response is to deny and just say things are getting better. I don’t believe that’s leadership. That’s the opposite of leadership. Refusing to recognize the pain is not leadership to me. It’s important to people who are leaders in the business community to be unafraid of acknowledging where we need to grow and what progress we need to make.



Is Madison a truly ‘progressive’ city?

I don’t think that we’re meeting the expectations we have for ourselves. I chose to live here. All three of our daughters were born at Meriter hospital. All three of them attend the public schools here in Madison. We love this city and there’s a lot to love about this city, but here’s the reality. Unlike 40 years ago, we are a city with more people, with a diversity in voices that didn't used to exist and we need to embrace them in a way that we haven’t before. If we want to attract and retain world class talent, that’s going to power our economy going forward, we will need to demonstrate that we embrace a full range of ideas from everybody in the community, not just city government. Everyone in the community feels that same love. Too many people are shut out from what makes this community a great place. This isn’t acceptable to me.



What is Madison's greatest challenge?
Madison's greatest challenge is whether we can grow and prosper in a way that is environmentally responsible, and true to our commitments to racial and social equity. I believe we can and have outlined my Green Growth Agenda on my website:

If we can focus on clean, affordable energy, scaling up birth-three supports for families, expanding our transit system and eliminating exclusionary zoning practices, we will be on our way. But we need experienced leadership that can bring people together to make progress. That's what I offer in this race.



What work have you done to mitigate Madison's racial barriers?
My city committee, the Sustainable Madison Committee, has focussed on recruiting women and people of color to our membership since I took over as chair in 2014. We have also instilled racial and social justice into the legislation we have written. Our latest proposal to implement recommendations to get to 100% renewable energy explicitly requires the Racial Equity & Social Justice Initiative Toolkit be used by the city to reach our objectives.

As the executive director at a state-wide water policy organization, I have taken similar steps. We have doubled the number of staff of color since my arrival, and re-doubled efforts to support and celebrate the work and accomplishments of tribal partners.

I have also worked with children of color in the foster care system as a Dane County Court Appointed Special Advocate. The intersection of race and poverty played out in excruciating detail during my service. The experience continues to inform my every action as a civic leader.



Why should Madison pick you?
I am one of only two candidates in this races that runs an organization -- Mayor Soglin being the other. I set a vision, manage a talented team, meet a payroll, and make the tough decisions when budgets and priorities collide.

I also bring a fresh perspective to the stale state of local politics. My reputation as a civic leader and executive rests on the foundation of being a listener who bring people together to make progress.

This city needs new energy to make a Madison that works for all of us. I offer the experience and fresh ideas to lead the city with creativity, ambition and a sense of common purpose.



Nick Hart


What is Madison's greatest challenge?

Madison’s greatest challenge is the people have to be honest with themselves and adhere to the fact that there are racial issues that the city needs to address and soon.


What work have you done to mitigate Madison's racial barriers?

I’m a comedian, every time I take the mic, I’m trying to simultaneously make people laugh while challenging them to rethink their views on society and question why they think the way they do.


Why should Madison pick you?

Why should Madison pick me? I’m charismatic, funny, and black people love me but honestly Madison probably shouldn’t pick me. My whole campaign is based on running for office as civic duty, not as a career. I’m not a politician, I virtually don’t have any money behind me so I’m not tied down to any agenda. I’m learning as I go through this experience.



Movement Fund is a crowdsourced tool to build funding for low barrier grants that support social good work that may fall outside of the usually supported criteria. Grants focus on key areas including Meeting NeedsBuilding AwarenessAdvocacy and Action. Movement Fund rewards community partners that help build a network of dedicated monthly contributors who support more grants. As a result, community partners and volunteers can generate revenues that they can choose to donate back to the fund, or improve their bottom line when they join the movement and share the opportunity to contribute. Learn More about Movement Fund and Join the Movement here


Since its founding in the Fall of 2014, YGB has helped organize too many direct actions to count, countless freedom schools, education sessions, community conversations, debates, and resource workshops, and has helped raise funds to meet the needs of Black and Brown people in WI and across the U.S.. Still, our organization - labeled "radical," "dangerous," and "unfindable" - has remained at the fringes of financially established organizations and without consistent funding. The community has missed out because of it.

While Madison and the surrounding areas continue to benefit from YGB and collaborator social justice work, the entrenched funding structures continue to avoid committed support that values and sustains real grassroots work. Our experience is not unique.

Throughout the state of Wisconsin and across the nation, initiatives must sacrifice impact and core values in order to become palatable to mainstream funders. This is a big deal, and sheds light on why some of the problems we aim to solve persist in the city with the highest non-profits per capita in the state.


YGB has just launched Movement Fund in an effort to combat this problem. The new organization is a crowdsourced tool to build funding for low-barrier grants that support social good work that may fall outside of the usually supported criteria. Grants focus on key areas including Meeting Needs, Building Awareness, Advocacy and Action.

"We believe that, if we can help improve the bottom line of organizations that get involved, we can build consistent funding for those who are too often forgotten AND create more resources for social good work." said Sed Smith, YGB organizer. "It's our way of bringing independence and consistency to a broken funding world."

The fund has already made grants but plans to use this crowdsourced referral marketing structure to generate a new level of social justice funding for our community.


To join the Movement Fund or learn more about its mission, please click here to go to

Dear YGB Community,

The 2018 Midterms are approaching, and Trump just proposed to end birthright citizenship, which would be DEVASTATING for children born to undocumented families. If there’s any time to resist oppression, advocate for justice, and get involved, it’s RIGHT NOW.

Be sure to stay engaged by getting active in the community and participating in the events below!

***BUT FIRST, we want you to fill out this survey to give us some feedback on our staying engaged emails. We will use the results to improve these emails. It should only take five minutes. Please click here!!

***ALSO, we are looking to uplift more stories of racial injustice to report on. If you or someone you know has a direct experience with racism, please reach out to us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Now, here are some November events that we would love to see you at!

Empowering Children/Ourselves to Talk About Skin Color & Racism
Saturday, November 3 at 10:30am - Sequoya Library (4340 Tokay Blvd)

Hosted by Families for Justice Dane County, this workshop will delve into concrete strategies for talking to children about racism. about skin color and racism with children. For more info, click here.

Grand Opening for the Progress Center for Black Women
Saturday, November 3 at 11am - The Progress Center for Black Women (5936 Seminole Centre Court in Fitchburg)

Fitchburg is opening a Progress Center for Black Women, and you can attend the opening on Saturday. For more info and registration, click here.

Wisconsin Black Historical Society's 30th Anniversary Gala
Saturday, November 3 at 5:30pm - Wisconsin Black Historical Society (2620 W Center St in Milwaukee)

This Saturday in Milwaukee, celebrate the Wisconsin Black Historical Society Museum’s three decade legacy of preserving Black history and culture. For more info, click here.

Open Mic Night: A Journey Through First Generations
Saturday, November 3 at 6pm - ZuZu Cafe (1336 Drake St)

This “Melanin Speaking” open mic feature artwork, poetry, and written work from the Lao and Cambodian Student Association. For more info, click here.

Vote on Nov. 6!
Tuesday, November 6 - Your nearest polling place

Voting day is next Tuesday!! Mark it in your calendars, and vote for candidates that support social justice and racial justice! To find your nearest polling place, click here!

Re-Entry Simulation MKE
Tuesday, November 6 at 9am - Project RETURN (2821 N 4th St Ste 202 in Milwaukee)

In order to best understand the experiences of those who return to prison after being previously incarcerated, this event in Milwaukee will have its participants step into the shoes of these individuals. For more info and registration, click here.

Native Americans and Trauma
Tuesday, November 6 at 1pm - Helene Zelazo Center for the Performing Arts (2419 E Kenwood Blvd in Milwaukee)

This panel discussion in Milwaukee will focus on the cultural, historical, biological, political, and psychological trauma that has been inflicted on the Native American community. For more info and registration, click here.

Infamous Mothers
November 8-24 - Strollers Theatre at Bartell Theatre (113 E Mifflin St)

Based on the book by Sagashus Livingston, this play this play depicts the lives of incredibly strong women who “went through the belly of hell and brought something good back.” For more info and tickets, click here.

Tenant Resource Center Fundraiser and Silent Auction
Friday, November 9 at 5pm - Brinklounge Madison (701 E Washington Ave)

To learn more about the Tenant Resource Center and support their cause of providing housing assistance and education to members of our community, please attend this fundraiser. For more info and a donation link, click here.

Courage for Racial Justice and Courage for Collective Liberation
Saturday, November 10 at 9am - Fountain of Life Covenant Church (633 W Badger Rd)

This speech by anti-racist author and activist Chris Crass will discuss racial justice and collective liberation. For more info, click here.

SEANO (Southeast Asian New Opportunities)
Sunday, November 11 at 11am - UW-Madison Multicultural Student Center (716 Langdon St)

This meeting will discuss financial, educational, and social opportunities for southeast Asian students looking to attend UW-Madison or any campus. For more info and tickets, click here.

Madison Area Teachers for Social Justice
Saturday, November 17 at 9:30am - UW-Madison School of Education (1000 Bascom Mall)

This full day event will build community and examine how teachers can discuss social issues and social justice in the classroom. For more info and registration, click here.

Dear YGB Community,


We send out our Staying Engaged emails every month because we know that showing up matters. Attending and participating in events and actions is what builds the movements and people power that creates change.


That’s why it’s so important to support our work, show up and show out to the October events below!



Racial Justice Summit

October 2 and 3 at 8am - Monona Terrace (1 John Nolen Dr)


This event on October 2 and 3 will explore racial justice, healing, and reconciliation through the mediums of spoken word, film, music, and performance art. For more info and registration, click here.



Discussion: Whiteness in Queer Spaces

Wednesday, October 3 at 5:30pm - Gender and Sexuality Campus Center (716 Langdon St)

 This discussion will focus on whiteness in the LGBTQ+ community and how to make the community more inclusive. For more info, click here.



Author Reading of “Unapologetic: A Black, Queer and Feminist Mandate for Radical Movements!”

Thursday, October 4 at 6pm - A Room of One's Own Bookstore (315 W Gorham St)

 This reading of “Unapologetic: A Black, Queer and Feminist Mandate for Radical Movements!”, which discusses Black, LGBTQ, and feminist grassroots activism throughout history, will be led by the author, Charlene A. Carruthers, herself. For more info, click here.



2018 MSA Conference

October 5 to 6 - UW Madison (more info on Facebook event)

 The 2018 Muslim Students Association Conference will offer fun activities and amazing speakers. For more info, click here.



Latino Art Fair 2018!

Saturday, October 6 at 5pm - Overture Center for the Arts (201 State St)

 This display at the Overture Center will exhibit paintings, photography, pottery, jewelry, and music from Latino artists! For more info, click here.



HIP HOP Fundraiser Bail Fund, One City Schools, Progress Center

Saturday, October 6 at 7pm - Art In (1444 E Washington Ave)

 This event will bring local hip hop artists together to raise money for The Progress Center for Black Women, Free The 350 Bail Fund, and One City Schools. For more info, click here.



Groundwork Anti-Racism Workshop

Every Sunday starting October 7 - Trinity United Methodist Church (1123 Vilas Ave)

 Groundwork will provide another series of fantastic anti-racism workshops, every Sunday from October 7 to November 18, which will help participants recognize and combat white privilege. For more info, click here.



Lecture by Dalia Mogahed (on Muslims and Islam)

Sunday, October 7 at 1:30pm - Union South (1308 W Dayton St)

 This lecture by American-Egyptian scholar Dalia Mogahed will attempt to demystify Muslims and Islam. For more info, click here.



21st Century Indian - Author Louis V. Clark III

Tuesday, October 9 at 6:30pm - Verona Public Library (500 Silent St in Verona)

 This talk in Verona will be led by Oneida author and poet Louis V. Clark III, who will go into detail about his story and his culture. For more info, click here.



Mindfulness & Racial Justice: A Path For All of Us

Friday, October 12 at 6pm - Anderson Auditorium at the Predolin Humanities Center (959 Edgewood College Dr)

 In this discussion, Rhonda Magee will discuss how mindfulness and compassion can improve our quest for racial justice. For more info, click here.



The Justice Tour

Saturday, October 13 at 2pm - Centennial Hall (733 N 8th St in Milwaukee)

 This discussion in Milwaukee, led by community experts, will touch on race-based policing and mass incarceration in Wisconsin. For more info, click here.



ResourceFULL Black Businesses October 2018

Thursday, October 25 at 5pm - 2300 S Park St in the Community Room

 The Madison Alliance for Black Economic Empowerment is at it again with another ResourceFULL event, featuring networking, food, music, and giveaways of up to $10,000! For more info, click here.



Words of Worth: Letters to the Border

Monday, October 29 at 7pm - Community Immigration Law Center (944 E Gorham St)

 On October 29, the Community Immigration Law Center will host a session in which participants will write letters of support to non-citizens and asylum seekers currently held in detention centers. The night will also include a discussion of immigrant rights issues. For more info, click here.



Racial Justice Film Festival

Every Saturday in October at 6pm - International Cooperative Housing (140 W Gilman St)

 The Racial Justice Film Fest will be held every Saturday from October 6 to October 27 and will present films countering white colonialist capitalist patriarchy, including Get Out, the 13th, and Moonlight. For more info, click here.



Latinx Heritage Month 2018 Events

Multiple Events - UW Madison Multicultural Student Center (716 Langdon St)

 Latino Heritage Month events continue this October, featuring speakers, dances, and discussions. For more info and details, click here.

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.



What are your thoughts on how we can capitalize our most marginalized? Let us know by sending us an email.This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..">


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.


To learn more about YGB, please click here. To help support our work and leave a donation, please click here.

Dear YGB Community,


Justice is not won by Congressmen, bureaucrats, or businessmen alone. Justice is won when the most underserved people - people of color, women, immigrants, and members of the LGBTQIA+ community - band together and use our community power to create change.


It is vital that you take your part in this community power by staying engaged with Madison area social justice events this September! Please consider participating in one of the September events below!



Laborfest '18

Monday, September 3 at 12pm - Madison Labor Temple (1602 S Park St)


Laborfest ‘18 will collect hygienic products and food gift cards for homeless students in Madison. It will also feature music, food, activities, and a silent auction. For more info, click here.



Indian Summer Festival

September 7-9 - Summerfest (200 N Harbor Dr in Milwaukee)


The Indian Summer Festival in Milwaukee is the “largest celebration of Native culture in the Midwest,” featuring music, drum jams, powwows, and food! For more info and tickets, click here.



Disrupting Biases: An Individual Commitment

Wednesday, September 12 at 11am - The Madison Club (5 E Wilson St)


This workshop explores how biases affect company culture and how we can identify biases and create more inclusive workspaces. For more info, click here.



Social Entrepreneurship Lunch & Learn

Monday, September 17 at 12pm - Synergy Coworking (5201 Old Middleton Rd)


This lively lunchtime discussion will discuss social entrepreneurship and making businesses support their surrounding communities. For more info, click here.



2018 Change-Maker Awards Event

Thursday, September 20 at 5pm - Union South (1308 W Dayton St) at Varsity Hall


This event, hosted by Community Shares of Wisconsin, will honor 27 change-makers across Wisconsin for their work in social and environmental justice. For more info and tickets, click here.



UW-Madison First Nations Cultural Landscape Tour

Friday, September 21 at 2pm - Memorial Union (800 Langdon St)


This walking tour will cover seven Native American landmarks across the UW Madison campus. For more info and to RSVP, click here.



Love, InshAllah: A Night of Storytelling

Friday, September 21 at 7pm - Madison Central Library (201 W Mifflin St)


This night of storytelling will feature young Muslim couples sharing their love stories, reminding everyone of the diversity of the American Muslim Community. For more info, click here.



10th Annual Black Women's Wellness Day

Saturday, September 22 at 9am - Alliant Energy Center (1919 Alliant Energy Center Way)


This 10th annual event, hosted by the Foundation for Black Women's Wellness, will focus on solutions for the personal and community well-being of Black women in the Madison area. The event will feature workshops, demos, and vendors. For more info and tickets, click here.



Real Life Library Volume 5: Justice For All?

Saturday, September 22 at 11:30am - Goodman South Library (2222 S Park St)


This powerful event will feature real experiences with the criminal justice system, the school-to-prison pipeline, and restorative justice. For more info, click here.



2018 Black Women's Empowerment March

Saturday, September 29 at 9am - Milwaukee; exact location TBD


The 2018 Black Women’s Empowerment March in Milwaukee will advocate for Black liberation and the end of oppressive systems. For more info, click here.



Latinx Heritage Month 2018

Multiple events throughout September (click on link below)


Celebrate Latinx Heritage Month at the UW-Madison Multicultural Student Center, featuring a Latinx pride march, a cookout, cultural presentations, and much, much more! For more info, click here.

Dear YGB Community,


It’s not the leaders of a movement alone that make it strong - it’s EVERY member in the community staying engaged and active that wins the fight for justice.


That’s why this August, we need EVERYONE to show up and show out to these social justice-themed August events to keep the movement alive!



Building Unity - Water is Life - Solidarity Tour

Saturday, August 4 at 10:30 a.m. through Sunday, August 5 at 5 p.m. - Madison East Hy-Vee (3801 E Washington) Parking Lot

This weekend, Building Unity will begin a two day tour across the state of Wisconsin to fight in solidarity with Wisconsin Water Protectors. The tour includes stops in Stevens Point, Wausau, Keshena (where participants will join the Menominee Powwow and camp on the tribal land), and Menominee, Michigan (where participants will march in the Menominee Waterfront Festival Parade against the Back 40 Mine). For more info, click here.



Puerto Rican Family Festival

Sunday, August 5 at 11 a.m. - Humboldt Park Beer Garden (3000 S Howell Ave in Milwaukee)

 This Sunday, celebrate Puerto Rican culture, music, food, and dance in Milwaukee! For more info, click here.



Lanterns for Peace 2018

Tuesday, August 7 at 6 p.m. - Tenney Park Locks (1500 Sherman Ave.)

 To mark the 72nd anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima, this lantern-lit event will advocate for a peaceful, war-free world. For more info, click here.



Consent Culture Conference

August 9-10 at 8 a.m. - GSAFE (122 E Olin Ave., Ste 290)

 Hosted by GSAFE, this two day conference will engage conversation about consent and health equity. For more info, click here.



2018 LGBTQ Progress Awards

Thursday, August 9 at 5:30 p.m. - 1451 Renaissance Place (1451 N Prospect Ave in Milwaukee)

 This event will honor activists for LGBTQ rights in the Madison area, including socializing, cocktails, and dinner. For more info and tickets, click here.



Freedom Inc.'s 17th Annual BBQ, 5k & Sports tournament

Saturday, August 11 at 10 a.m. - Penn Park (2101 Fisher St)

 Next Saturday, Freedom Inc. will host their 17th annual BBQ at Penn Park, featuring a 5k, sports tournament, and dance battle. For more info, click here.



Black Men's Health - Town Hall Forum

Thursday, August 16 at 5:30 p.m. - St. Mary’s Hospital Conference Center (700 S. Park St.)

 This forum will offer a productive conversation on the health of Black men, discussed over a meal. For more info and registration, click here.



HER Summit - #Fight4HER Activist Training Conference

Saturday, August 18 at 9 a.m.

 This conference on August 18th will teach campaign and organizing skills and discuss issues like global health and reproductive justice. For more info, the exact location, and registration, click here.



QPoC Pride Brunch

Saturday, August 18 at 11 a.m. - Robinia Courtyard (829 E Washington Ave.)

 This free brunch for LGBTQ people of color will include entertainment and hors d'oervres, hosted by the QPOC Pride planning committee and Our Lives Magazine. For more info, click here.



OutReach Pride Parade 2018

Sunday, August 19 at 1 p.m. - State Street

 The OutReach Pride Parade will be a massive event that will march up State Street and circle  Capitol Square. For more info, click here. To join the LGBTQ+ Latinx community at the march, click here.



Women's Equality Day

Thursday, August 23 at 5 p.m. - Robinia Courtyard (829 E Washington Ave.)

 To celebrate Women's Equality Day, join the Wisconsin Women's Network to listen to community leaders and discuss the future of feminism. For more info, click here.



Mexican Fiesta 2018

August 24-26 - 200 N Harbor Dr. in Milwaukee

From August 24 to 26 in Milwaukee, enjoy fun, food, culture, Mariachi, scholarship awards, and community at Mexican Fiesta 2018. For more info and tickets, click here.

The use of GPS monitoring for people on parole is ineffective, expensive, and oftentimes sends people to jail for doing nothing wrong.


In May 2017 alone, there were 52 arrests for wearers of ankle bracelets. Of these, 13 were a direct result of a malfunction in the GPS bracelet - with no violations of parole whatsoever. In other words, a quarter of those arrested did absolutely nothing wrong.


But in spite of cases like these, the Wisconsin state government has stood idly by as the use of GPS monitoring has roughly doubled in Wisconsin since 2013. This has led to a massive waste of Wisconsin tax dollars and lots of unnecessary jail time for people who did nothing wrong.


While it’s surely valuable for incarcerated people to be able to go to work and see their family while on parole, a much better way to do that would be simply to incarcerate less people by legalizing marijuana and implementing community control over the police. At the very least, we should place people on parole without any GPS tracking. There are plenty of ways to combat mass incarceration without replacing it with bad technologies like ankle bracelets.


Instead, unlike many states like Wisconsin’s neighbor, Minnesota, which don’t have a GPS monitoring system, Wisconsin dishes out $9.7 million every year to the flawed system.


These arrests of innocent people are in part a result of the poor GPS reception of the ankle bracelets, an issue that is especially pronounced in rural areas. Due to these technological errors, many innocent people are locked up for violating their parole because the GPS signaled they went to a prohibited place, even if they didn’t actually go there. These arrests further damage their family and social life, as well as their opportunity for employment.


And it could get even worse. A bill was proposed in Wisconsin in February that would punish bracelet wearers with a felony if they intentionally failed to charge their ankle bracelets, which targets people with low incomes and long work hours and expands our epidemic of mass incarceration. This draconian move could tarnish the lives and career opportunities for many people who wear the bracelets.


We don’t need to spend $9.7 million a year on this failed system. Instead, we should spend our funds to provide services, economic and mental health resources to our communities of color in order to give people power, not chains.




In order to make any progress, we have to Build our collective understanding and Build collective analysis to advocate for better collaborative solutions.


You can help by Joining our Coalition of Supporters, or by donating here.


If you have any personal stories of racial violence to share, please reach out to us at YGB by sending us a Facebook message or emailing us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Press Conference VIEW ALL 

Expecting a Non-Indictment

Anticipating a continuation of historic and recent national trends, the Young, Gifted & Black Coalition (YGB). expects Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne to announce his decision not to indict Madison police officer Matt Kenny for breaking into an apartment and shooting unarmed 19 year old Tony Robinson multiple times in response to a distress call for help.

The Young, Gifted & Black Coalition (YGB). are holding a community form and press conference to announce their plans for the expected non-indictment and future actions. The press conference will be held on Friday, April 3, 2015 at the South Madison Partnership Space, located in the Villager Mall, at 2312 S. Park St., Madison, WI, beginning at 5:00pm. The Press Conference will be live streamed here.


Press Conference VIEW ALL 

Family of Tony Robinson Speaks on Independent Investigation

On Friday April 3, 2015, the Madison Police Department released hundreds of documents related to the police killing of Tony Robinson, Jr. None of these documents referred to the moment when Madison Police Officer Matt Kenny encountered and killed Tony Robinson, Jr. As a result, the family of Tony Robinson, Jr. is quickly losing faith in the supposedly independent process that produced the report that District Attorney Ismael Ozanne is currently reviewing.

“We worry that the MPD and other officials are setting up a kangaroo court,” said Jerome Flowers, Tony Robinson’s friend. “Tony’s character is what’s being put on trial.”

The family of Tony Robinson, Jr. will hold a press conference to share their concerns with the investigation and pending release of the DA’s decision. The family will also lay out their requests for the District Attorney and the Madison Police Department. Supporters will meet in front of 1125 Williamson Street, the house where Tony was killed at 11 am on Monday April 6th. Supporters will then march to the County Courthouse at 215 S. Hamilton Street to hold the press conference in front of the building. For more information visit:


Police Brutality VIEW ALL 

 Violent and Unlawful Arrests 

Between 6:30 and 7:30 pm on Tuesday April 14th, Madison Police officers at the intersection of East Washington and 4th Street arrested more than ten peaceful protestors. Roughly 35 people, mostly youth remained in the intersection after a day-long protest, for which residents shut down East Washington for several hours to demand justice for Tony Robinson and as a part of a national action against police violence and mass incarceration. As the young people continued to sit in the intersection, 30-40 officers approached the group from the west, spanning both sides of East Washington. The officers approached the youth telling them they had 5 minutes to leave before they would be arrested. While the youth deliberated as to whether they would take arrests, the police ambushed the group. Officers arrested three people initially, Jivonte Lee Davis, Mary Jo Walters and another protestor.

They subsequently approached Leslie Amsterdam (Peterson), a member of the media, who was recording the arrests. They told her to move, and when she revealed herself as a member of the media, they destroyed her camera and forcibly arrested her. The remaining youth then decided that since they could not be in the street without being arrested, they would march legally in the crosswalks across East Washington during the light changes. After roughly an hour, they were caught in the median during a light change. Two adults, Adeyemi Balogun and Brandi Grayson attempted to protect the youth from the police.

“They grabbed Brandi and dragged her, so I grabbed her,” reported Balogun. “Then they jumped on me. They came up behind me and grabbed my neck. Then another cop grabbed me and they had me wrapped up. They just kept saying ‘stop resisting, stop resisting!’ But I wasn’t doing anything.” Grayson was violently thrown to the ground and then drug along the ground before she was arrested. Balogun along with approximately six more people, including youth, were arrested at that time. Marnie Schroeder, another arrested person described the scene: “He [CJ Terrell] wasn’t talking, wasn’t doing anything and they slammed him to the ground. They had their knee on his neck and his face in the dirt. I tried to put my hand under his face to protect it, but then they arrested me.” Community members are outraged but unsurprised by this gross display of state power by MPD. “This is a clear example of the state violence we have been talking about for months,” said Grayson. “They brutalized me, and they arrested our babies who were mourning and protesting against the police violence that led to the murder of their friend, Tony Robinson.”



YGB needs your voice in order to get an investigation by the United Nations as we elevate the conversation of of racial disparities in Madison and fight for justice for Tony Robinson, the unarmed black teen murdered at the hands of officer Matt Kenny of the Madison Police Department  



YGB demands that Matt Kenny, the murderer of Tony Robinson, be fired. Far to often are killer cops left unpunished, and we want Kenny off the streets.



The Young Gifted and Black Coalition is a circle of young leaders determined to end state violence and raise the voice of communities of color. We are young Black Women, Queer Folks, Straight Folks and Feminist Men who are fighting for Black Liberation. Our focus is on the low income black communities that our core members call home. 




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