Percy Brown Jr. believes that if Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were alive today that he would have serious and strong thoughts about the white progressives that overwhelmingly make up a city like Madison. The 2nd Annual MLK Forum For Social Action, which will take place at the Performing Arts Center at Middleton High School on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2 p.m., is titled “A Message to Progressives: Looking Back to Move Forward with 2020 Vision” and will expand upon those thoughts.
“We want to keep building on the message of last year even though this year it’s very targeted towards progressives,” Brown tells Madison365. “We’re connecting current day to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail where he talks about the white moderate and how from the progressive white perspective in the ‘60s they told Dr. King to wait and in time things will get better.”
Percy is currently the director of equity and student achievement for the Middleton Cross Plains Area School District, senior outreach specialist for the Wisconsin Center for Education Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an adjunct instructor for Edgewood College in the school of education. This will be the second year he will be hosting the MLK Forum For Social Action.
“Here we are in 2020 in a community that prides itself on being progressive. We have made some progress in some areas, but too many people think of Wisconsin and racism now being a public health crisis or Wisconsin being the most segregated state in the union or where Wisconsin has the largest black/white gaps in education,” says Brown, whose life work has been shaped by his life’s experiences growing up in a predominantly white, progressive community. “We really have to do something fundamentally different if we truly are who we say we are. That’s going to be the center of the message for the MLK Forum For Social Action.”
The emcee of the 2nd Annual MLK Forum For Social Action will be the Reverend and Honorable Judge Everett Mitchell, a fierce advocate for education and equity. Judge Mitchell was elected to the Dane County Circuit Court as a juvenile court judge and presides over cases involving family reunification, juvenile delinquency, and other civil and criminal proceedings.
This year’s MLK event will feature hip hop and spoken word from father and son, Marlon and Noah Anderson.
“Everett Michell will be emceeing the event and I’m looking forward to that. He will have the opportunity to reflect on Dr. King from a perspective of a judge,” Brown says. “Marlon Anderson will share his story about what happened in the Madison School District and really talking about how the community responded the way that it did when it happened.
“So he’s really going to talk about how the broader community came together black and white to support him. They really rallied around him,” Percy continues. “I think it will be a great charge for the community to figure out how we can build off of things like this when we come together.
“He’s also talented with spoken word [poetry] so he’ll be spitting some hip-hop/spoken word and his son Noah Anderson will be doing the same thing,” he adds.
Noah Anderson will perform two spoken word poems, including “Young Royalty” and “Freedom. There will also be a special step-show performance from the Sigma Zeta chapter of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity, of which both Brown and Mitchell belongs to.
The event will be hosted by Madison365; Critical Consciousness Education Consulting, of which Brown is the CEO of; and Dane County Equity Consortium.
“The Dane County Equity Consortium is actually a coalition of 20 school districts across Dane County and Baraboo School District. We are in year two of engaging in some shared learning, strengthening our collaborative efforts to dismantle inequities in the realm of public education,” Brown says. “We are holding annual student social justice conferences that really use their voice to help drive change that we need to bring about not only in our respective districts but together. That’s been really powerful.”
The inaugural event was held on Jan. 19, 2019 and drew hundreds of people. Percy is looking for a nice turnout at the 2nd Annual MLK Forum For Social Action which will be one of the many things planned during the MLK weekend activities in Madison.
“It will be a soulful event with a strong message but also an opportunity for white folks in the community to have an authentic immersion experience by hearing spoken-word and watching a step-show from college-age black men,” he says. “I’m really trying to change the paradigm in how we see things.
“My hope is that we really have a strong turnout from the community who really want to be a part of something special,” Percy adds. “It will be informative … you will definitely learn something. But you will also be entertained and left with a charge where you will hopefully feel uplifted, inspired, and hopefully ready to act differently.”
The MLK Forum for Social Action will take place Saturday, Jan. 18 at 2 p.m. at the Middleton Performing Arts Center at Middleton High School.