May 29, 2015
Rev. Gee addresses the crowd at a recent Town Hall meeting
Justified Anger Coalition Will Unveil Ideas and Next Steps this Friday Night
The Justified Anger Coalition will discuss plans to bring Madison from ‘worst to first’ in terms of racial disparities on May 29 from 6-8 p.m. at the Alliant Energy Center.
The event will unveil the coalition’s strategies, known as “Our Madison Plan,” to address racial disparities in the area.
“Black folks need to sit down with the broader community to agree upon measurable goals,” Rev. Gee said. “This is not a black issue; this is a community issue and everyone must step up for this to work.”
Rev. Alexander Gee, Jr. said the plan will lay out strategies for education, economic development, incarceration reform and community wellness as well as leadership development. In addition, there will be live music from KinFolk, refreshments and collaboration opportunities.
“Black folks need to sit down with the broader community to agree upon measurable goals,” said Rev. Gee, pastor of the Fountain of Life Covenant Church and founder and chief executive officer of the nonprofit Nehemiah Center of Urban Leadership, which is hosting the event. “This is not a Black issue — this is a community issue and everyone must step up for this to work.”
The framework for the event began when Rev. Gee wrote a “Justified Anger” essay in December 2013 for The Capital Times newspaper.
The essay sparked unexpected viral attention and a town hall meeting that led to further conversations about racial disparities in Madison. Out of those conversations grew three goals: creating the Justified Anger Coalition to empower the Black community to define its own solutions; establish a plan of action to address long-standing and harmful racial disparities in social and economic outcomes and finally; partnering with other leaders, agencies and employers within and outside the black community to obtain results.
According to a 2013 Race to Equity report, Wisconsin ranked last for Black children to grow up in due to enormous educational barriers and financial achievement obstacles. Rev. Gee responded to the report by writing his “Justified Anger” essay, in which he detailed his own challenges and concerns about institutional racism.
That’s why the Justified Anger Coalition is so important, said Rev. Gee.
“We’ve never had an agenda for change that has been owned by, shaped by and strategized by African-Americans,” Rev. Gee said. “It’s unique. And we have ideas on how to address the issues. We want to work collaboratively and it’s really pretty powerful.”
The long-term goal for the Coalition is to drastically reduce the racial disparities in the community, the reverend continued. He emphasized that it is important for African-Americans to thrive at every level, especially in a community with resources to do so.
“A community that serves everyone means more diversity. It means greater opportunities,” said Rev. Gee. “It means there is opportunity for all and everyone can try and it means people are no longer told that they aren’t smart enough or strong enough.”
Attendees at the “Our Madison Plan” event will have the opportunity to become educated on the issues, but they will also receive information on how to become advocates for the community, said Rev. Gee.
Whether it’s blogging, volunteering, coordinating, advocating or writing policy, the event will bring people together to serve a common goal. This ultimately serves the mission of the coalition as a whole: to provide a safe place to dialogue about matters of race and social justice in Madison and beyond.
When asked exactly what the coalition’s strategies will be, Rev. Gee said that people would just have to show up and see.
“We want to give people the next step to help Madison become better,” he said. “The real call is ‘let’s get in the trenches and let’s all make the community better,’ and we’re calling everyone from the area to help us repair the breaches in the wall.”
Though ‘worst to first’ is difficult to quantify, Rev. Gee believes this phrase encompasses what has already been established.
With Race and Equity reports indicating Madison as the worst city in the country for Black people to live, it’s clear to Rev. Gee that change is essential. Otherwise, Madison will stop attracting big companies — especially those that desire a diverse staff.
Rev. Gee would like to see Madison develop into a community that serves everyone.
“A community that serves everyone means more diversity. It means greater opportunities,” he said. “It means there is opportunity for all and everyone can try and it means people are no longer told that they aren’t smart enough or strong enough.”
According to the coalition’s website, education goals entail leading and advocating for policies, practices and innovations that result in the increased graduation of African-American youth that are ready for careers, college or both.
Economic development goals include leading and advocating for policies, practices and innovations that result in family-sustaining employment, entrepreneurship and business development in the African-American community. Incarceration oriented goals include leading and advocating for policies, practices and innovations that prevent and dramatically reduce the incarceration and recidivism of African-Americans in the criminal justice system.
Family and community wellness goals include identifying, leading and advocating for policies, practices and innovations that promote the health and wellness of African-American adults, children and families while eliminating racial disparities in key health and wellness indicators in Dane County.
Finally, leadership and capacity development goals include increasing, enhancing and sustaining the excellent service delivery of culturally competent programs by and for the African-American community through the personal, professional and organizational capacity development of leaders and their agencies.
Rev. Gee believes Madison is at a critical juncture for these goals to become possible, making this is a great moment for the entire community.
“I hope that we are restored and the broader community will be inspired,” he said.