Best of 12 on Tuesday


    12 on Tuesday is taking a holiday break, so we’re looking back at the first few months of interviews with the leaders and personalities from Greater Madison and its communities of color. Today we’re recalling where these influential people say they find motivation. Here — in no particular order — are our favorite answers to the question:

    What three leaders in Madison under 50 have impressed you the most?

    Percy Brown, Jr: Everett Mitchell, Johnny Winston, Jr., Andre Johnson and a special acknowledgement to my brothers from the east side of Madison, Henry Sanders, Jr. and David Hart.

    Rev. Everett Mitchell: M Adams, Gloria Reyes, Erica Nelson (Race to Equity)

    Rev. David Hart: There are plenty of cats on the grind in Madison, and they have been mentioned in your magazine: Brandi Grayson and her entire squad, Scott Resnick, Kaleem Caire, Zach Brandon.  But, three folks I haven’t seen that I’m impressed by are: Camara Stovall, Dr. John Odom, and Reverend Karla Garcia.  Reverend Garcia was just reappointed as the pastor of S.S. Morris Church.  She is radiant, gifted, and talented all at once.  God is with her.  I expect her to come up big in 2016.

    And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that I am impressed by Andrea Irwin.  She is steady, focused, and she will find justice for her son, Tony Robinson.

    Dr. Ruben Anthony: Jerlando Jackson, Attorney Nia Trammell and Will Green. These are people that are excelling in their careers and are making a great contribution to the Madison Community.

    Gloria Ladson-Billings: Kaleem Caire, Brandi Grayson, Matthew Braunginn. All have deep connections to the community and are determined to make it a better place for ALL residents.

    Jeff Mack: Wow. Don’t have an answer for that, as I don’t really know anyone’s age or know what your definition of “leader” is. To ME, and if we are talking about in Madison currently, I guess I would have to say my older sister, Maaina Mack, as she is raising my nephew to be a great young man. My best friend, Derrus Ward, as he is in IT. In general, we don’t see a significant amount of black people in that arena, so he is a trailblazer to me in that profession to me (and I know nothing of what he speaks out when he talks about his profession…). I think lastly I would say Brandi Grayson. I’ve known her since high school, and I feel what she is doing with the Young Gifted and Black movement is necessary in regards to a “yin and yang” approach to change (think Lee Daniel’s The Butler, where in order to inflict change, you must have an inside and outside approach to creating a more equitable existence for all…).

    Michael Johnson: Anthony Cooper and Mahlon Mitchell are my top picks. They are smart, savvy, well connected and are honest, humbled men. Peter Gray and Janine Stephens are tied for the number three spot.  They both are silent leaders who work smart and hard to help other organizations and causes that important to them.

    Maurice Cheeks: Michael Johnson of the Boys and Girls Club comes to mind right away. Since moving to Madison five years ago, his success as a fund-raiser, an executive, and as a champion for youth in this city are all impressive. I admire the fact that there is no mistaking what his mission is and what makes him tick. 

    State Representative Melissa Sargent is an impressive example to me of someone who has a healthy reverence for the role of a public servant, and through her actions consistently dignifies the title of “politician”. 

    Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings might be on the borderline for the age limit of this question… but her genius, self-confidence, and commitment to speaking the truth are remarkable. It is incredibly impressive to me how many people I’ve met in this city who credit her for significantly expanding their perspective in a way that has altered their life or career. 

    Zach Brandon: So many great leaders under 50 have stepped up in the past few years, including: Aaron Olver, Karen Menendez Coller, Jennifer Cheatham, Renee Moe, Kaleem Caire, Michael Johnson, Bob Sorge, and Rachel Krinsky… just to name a few. Too hard to pick three. More interesting to me are the next generation leaders (under 40). Here are my top three: Maurice Cheeks, Kevin Little, Brandi Grayson.

    Mike Martez Johnson: County Supervisor Heidi Wegleitner for her tenacious truth seeking, the young people of YGB for their powerful, in your face work, and Sofia Snow from UW-Madison Multicultural Arts Initiatives, for her ability to inspire through education.

    Shiva Bidar-Sielaff: There are some incredible leaders in our community. Picking three is doing a disservice to the amount of talent in our community. Here are a few incredible women leaders under 50 in no particular order: Fabiola Hamdan, Annette Miller, Karen Menendez Coller, Jessica Strong, Lauren Rock, Dr. Patricia Téllez-Girón, Jen Cheatham, Mayra Medrano, Veronica Lazo, Brenda González, Julia Arata-Fratta, Brandi Grayson, Rachel Krinsky, Teresa Téllez-Girón, Nia Trammell, Deidre Hargrove, Gloria Reyes, Dawn Crim, Malika Monger-Evanco, Kabzuag Vaj, Renee Moe, Sara Alvarado, and all my fellow women local-elected officials. It took me just minutes to write the names of these amazing women and there are so many more that I would like to name.

    Brandi Grayson: Great question. Most folks I look up to are over 50 such as Milele, Gloria Ladson-Billings and Amelia Royko Maurer. They are women who get things done and refuse to accept “no” as the final answer. They each have coached me and loved me in their own ways, and they have all made it OK for me to be me. They have never attempted to change me or make me conform. They have always encouraged and modeled what a hero looks like.

    Names of leaders under 50…. I would say Kabuag Vaj and M Adams of Freedom Inc. I’ve learned so much from them about Movement Science, Radical Thinking, Feminism, working in systems and the importance of working outside of systems. I’ve learned from them how to hear my own voice and take pride in it. They have modeled for me what inclusion really looks like. They’ve challenged me, taught me, loved me and accepted me. Their dedication to their work, their knowledge and their wisdom surpasses most folks I know. I have to also give Corinda Rainey Moore love for her amazing leadership. She’s not one to be on the front line, but nevertheless she works hard to make sure black women’s voices are heard and listened to. Immediately upon meeting her I knew she was authentic. I knew she didn’t have an ulterior motive. I knew she really cared about the plight of black people and was willing to fight the good fight in the name of justice.