Two news articles were recently published around the same time last week — one highlighting that Madison is ranked #1 in the top places to live in America and that Wisconsin imprisons Black residents at a higher rate than any other state in the country.
Those articles also caught the eye of David Hart, a Madison-area attorney, pastor, civil rights leader and president of Blacks for Political and Social Action of Dane County, Inc (BPSADC), an organization that is hosting an expert panel tonight that will discuss the effects of the criminal justice system on African Americans. Tonight’s event is part of the two-day BPSADC inaugural State of Black Madison Summit.
“I don’t think it’s any coincidence that these two articles came out at the same time – Madison is the best place to live and Wisconsin is continually looked at as the best place to live and raise your kids. That certainly may be true for some populations but there are some real issues that have to be addressed as it relates to the incarceration, arrest, and detainment of Black people,” Hart tells Madison365.
Multiple issues around the criminal justice system will be addressed by an expert panel that will include Dane County Sheriff Kalvin Barrett, City of Madison Police Chief Shon Barnes, Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne, and Wisconsin DOJ Administrator Tina Virgil. The moderator will be Deirdre Morgan, the deputy secretary for the Wisconsin Department of Corrections.
“We’re really in a watershed moment. We’re really at an interesting point in Madison’s history,” Hart says. “We have so much diversity at the top ranks of leadership in this city, particularly in the law-enforcement community. Our panelists will be answering a battery of questions from the moderator — anything from how to address the armed robberies and car thefts that have been occurring here in Madison to how do we stop mass incarceration or whether the proposed jail is a good thing.
“We really want to come out of here not just with a lot of good conversation and community but really with an action plan for moving forward as a community,” he adds.
Blacks for Political and Social Action of Dane County, Inc (BPSADC) is an organization of community leaders and citizens who have joined together to speak in a concerted and united voice on important issues. Several of the leaders and members in the organization have worked on issues that affect the Black community and all communities at-large, under several administrations, without regard to political affiliation, social status or organizational affiliation.
The two-day Blacks for Political Action’s State of Black Madison Summit kicked off on Tuesday, Oct. 19, with a panel titled, “The Physical and Mental Health of Black Madisonians in Connection with COVID-19.”
“This is an inaugural event for Blacks for Political and Social Action. I’m humbled to just be in relationship with some of the most dedicated public servants and civil rights activists that this region – and really this nation – has known,” Hart says.
BPSADC. Inc. is led by Hart and includes board members like civil rights leader Kirbie Mack; Ray Allen, former MMSD school board member and current Urban League of Greater Madison’s Workforce Development Division Director and Theresa Sanders, mother of Henry Sanders, CEO of Madison365.
“We started working on this summit in the summer and we really didn’t want to respond to anything but we, as Black people, really need to set our own agenda,” Hart says. “So many times in this region and in this community, people outside of our community tend to set the agenda. We are looking at this in a proactive manner and just want to be able to set the agenda and have the conversation and really call people to action; move people to action.”
“You will definitely see this event again,” he adds. “It’s very important.”
The State of Black Madison Summit will host an expert panel on the effects of the criminal justice system on African Americans on Thursday, Oct. 21, 6-8:30 p.m. To join the Zoom event, click here.