12 on Tuesday: Hedi Rudd

    Hedi Rudd

    As Development and Events Manager at the Urban League of Greater Madison, Hedi Rudd creates moments for people of color, events and gatherings and opportunities to serve that wouldn’t exist otherwise. She also captures moments as the photographer for Umoja Magazine and owner of Hedi LaMarr Photography.

    Rank your Top five MCs. So rather than name the same people that everyone has already named, I am going to tell you the 5 artists whose lyrics have shaped me. I know I may not win any cool points but my top five are: Speech from Arrested Development, Erykah Badu, Boogie Down Productions, PM Dawn and Lauryn Hill. These are artists whose music I have played over and over and over again.

    Which motivates you more: doubters or supporters? I have some serious cheerleaders in my life, people who won’t let me forget that I have something to offer, so those folks really motivate me. I don’t know who the doubters are because they don’t talk to me and I’m so busy that I don’t have time to worry about them anyway.

    What does it mean to be Interracial in Madison? Before I answer that I should say that my mother is white, or as I like to say, “Belgian and French Canadian,” and my natural father was a Mexican migrant worker. I did not know him and was adopted by my stepfather who is African American. I say ethnically I am mixed-Latina, but culturally I identify more with the African American community. I don’t, however, have the Rachel Dolezal complex because I know I am not Black and don’t try to pretend that I am. I do love and appreciate the culture. Growing up in Madison, I was a part of many of the interracial families of Madison; The Carters, The Morgans, The Hawks/Blacks/Masons and others who became my surrogate families. As a young person I was always interested in race issues, because race was always an issue, but I found that I was most comfortable when I was with people of color. That may be a result of not growing up with my mom’s family as they “disowned” her for having children outside of her race, but recently I have been reconnecting with them and healing some of those wounds. I find that Madison is a good place to be interracial because there are so many of us. Having said that it can be hard because people want to put you into a box so they can say you are a leader of a particular culture and when you don’t fit into one, then you can be overlooked. It’s something you get use to after a while.

    What three leaders in Madison under 50 have impressed you the most? There are many leaders who are impressive in Madison; it is one of those Madison things – we create great leaders. Who isn’t impressed by all the leaders we have in Madison?

    People who I am particularly interested in watching grow are Ja’Mel Ware who started a group called Intellectual Ratchet. His events are really fun and they cater to a diverse group of people who are ratchet at heart, but very intellectual.

    Brent Gerlach, Community Development Director of 100 State and founder of 100 Arts, is my brother from another mother. He is doing big things, bringing people together and creating community.

    Britney Sinclair of Bre Social is an up-and-coming game changer. I think she has contributed to many people’s success and I see her coming into her own.

    I also have to add a person who I think is “stealth.” Rasheid Atlas is a quiet creative who works at Nehemiah Development and YWCA. I think he is going to surprise people one day.

    What’s the biggest stumbling block in Madison to turning the corner on our racial disparities?  The lack of involvement and action from our business community. People need jobs, good-paying jobs. We need to see businesses make a real effort to change the paradigm. We need more women and people of color in CEO and other executive roles. We also need to see more brick and mortar businesses, especially in the Black community.

    I also think that education is important and one important component is teaching our children of color history that promotes pride, rather than perpetuating the victim mentality. As a graduate of the UW Odyssey Project, I have been able to see up close and personal what a game changer education can be. One day, we are going to see the families of those Odyssey graduates changing the game in Madison, as they and their children go on to college. Odyssey exposes us to literature, art, history and philosophy, which is empowering. It might take time, but I believe that we are going to see some serious outcomes as a result of Odyssey and Odyssey Junior. Both myself and my daughter are graduates and I consider the over 300 graduates to be my family. Like the prisoners in Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, we only saw and heard what others wanted us to, but now that we have been set free from the chains and have been exposed to the light we know that there is much, much more available to us than we were told.

    What are your top three priorities at this point in your life? My family, which includes my partner and his family, my community, and photography.

    You used to be the Study Circles coordinator for the City of Madison starting in 2001. The Study Circles’ goal was to have honest conversations around race and help heal the racial divide. Now leaders in the community are focusing on the Race to Equity Report. What are three things you learned from the Study Circles that can help deal with the racial issues we have now in Madison?Number one: The political dynamic is always in the way. Number Two: There is no easy solution. Number Three: Talk is cheap and we pay a high price by not taking action. Having said that I found the dialogue circles to be important and many of the people who were part of the circles 15 years ago are still close and involved in many current efforts. So while politically it may not have been a success, there were many successes that were a result of Study Circles.

    As the person at the Urban League of Greater Madiso who helps put together events like the Cabaret, what is a must for putting on events for people of color? I find that a must for me is using local talent. We have so many phenomenal artists in Madison that I find no need to look elsewhere. I have always been drawn to the local music scene and I really enjoy finding new artists or raising the profile of those who have been around awhile. I like variety, collaboration and taking risks that pay huge dividends in terms of providing an experience that people will remember and will want to experience again.

    What did the experience of living in Las Vegas make you appreciate about Madison? It made me realize that we have so many support networks that sometimes it makes it difficult for people to achieve independence. Sometimes help can be good, but oftentimes it creates an unhealthy dynamic that result in the pockets of poverty that we see in Madison. Again, if certain populations had education that promoted pride, employment that increased pride and communities that allowed cultural pride to flourish, we might see change.

    How has being a grandmother changed your perspective on life? Being a grandma is everything to me. I get to make up for all the mistakes I made as a mom and spending time with my grandchildren is my favorite time. It makes a bad day good and I forget about all the things that might be stressing me out because in those moments I am grandma and there is nothing a tasty treat and a hug can’t solve.

    Who do you prefer to listen to: Marvin Gaye or Prince? I can’t decide, but I would prefer to listen to either one of them over some of today’s music.

    Which dance were you the best at growing up…the prep, break dancing, the Reebok, or the cabbage patch? I sucked at them all and I later learned that grandmas should not do the Stankey Leg because they might dislocate their knee. True story.