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Academy Sponsors Spring2017Wanda Smith doesn’t need the support of the local government to provide her community with more opportunities.

That’s her assessment, at least, even though she tried to be part of that government, running unsuccessfully for Fitchburg’s common council last year. Still, she’s trying to do a lot without government support.

Recently, she has been trying to build a community center in Fitchburg and also spearheaded a new park for the community. During this process she has come to the conclusion that “this new government is going to have to (be provided with) a lot of education because they are stuck in that white supremacy mentality to think that it’s all about what they want and not about what others need.” She has made it very clear that Fitchburg’s Peace Network — which she has run for nine years — and her team are the only support that she needs in order to achieve her goals.   

When asked about the key for a better community, Smith responds simply, “education.” To her, this means more than school.

The community center she envisions will, she says, have more than token diversity. She says a very diverse staff will allow more connections to the children that attend. By giving these children people they can relate to at this community center, she believes it will provide them with a place they can feel safe.

Smith also wants to help educate both the government and her fellow citizens as to the role poverty plays in the community’s struggles — especially as the root cause of crime.

“How can we set up a budget with the government that will end poverty,” she asks, “because poverty, crime and violence are all connected.”

Wanda also plans on giving voice to others in the community.

“So many people are angry because they don’t have, and they can’t get because so many doors are closed and they can’t get opportunities,” she says. “Having equity in the community is crucial because right now not everyone’s needs are the same.”

Much of Smith’s time and energy over the last nine years has gone into Peace Network. The Peace Network has done community service and organized protests in the community. Recently, she organized a protest outside the Interstate Blood and Plasma center, which recently took over the former Walgreen’s building . Signs read “Don’t bleed our community, feed our community” which was referring to the lack of grocery stores and healthy food in the Allied Drive neighborhood.

She has a very large team of supporters that helped her in her campaign for Fitchburg council, the production of parks and the community center. The people on her team are an example of the diversity she wants to see in the community today.

Smith says, with a team like hers, “you can connect to everyone in the community.”

This profile was produced by a student journalist in the Madison365 Academy. To learn more and to support our educational programs, visit madison365.org/academy.

Written by Bailey Reis

Bailey Reis

Bailey Reis is a senior at Madison La Follette High School.

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