All too often, educational privilege and social class separate black students on the UW campus from black people in the rest of the city of Madison. That can sometimes create distrust and resentment. Is anybody working to address this divide?

Sabrina “Heymiss Progress” Madison is with her “Conversation Mixtape: College Edition on Education, Privilege, and Social Class” which will be held this Saturday, Feb. 13 at Winedown in downtown Madison.

Sabrina "Heymiss Progress" Madison (Photo by Marcus Miles)
Sabrina “Heymiss Progress” Madison
(Photo by Marcus Miles)
“That disconnect is very much there. For those of us who work both in the community and at the college, we make it work. We have those relationships already. For those who don’t have relationships with people in higher education, the disconnect is much more pronounced,” Madison tells Madison365. “One of the biggest reasons that I decided to go ahead and do this is because both sides have these huge misconceptions of each other. And I see that breaking out in conversations all the time.”

Madison’s Conversation Mixtape is a discussion group for black men and women to tackle different issues and to help them better understand one another and improve their relationships. The Mixtape brings people together for some old-fashioned face-to-face dialogue and interaction and will boldly tackle any topic — child support issues, infidelity, interracial dating, employment, health, finance, religion, racial disparities and more.

Folks mingle at a previous Conversation Mixtape. (Photo by Marcus Miles)
Folks mingle at a previous Conversation Mixtape.
(Photo by Marcus Miles)

Attendees of the Conversation Mixtape come from a varied socioeconomic background, so there’s been a little bit of this conversation before of what we will see this Saturday. “There was always an assumption that people with PhD.’s would be looking down on people and be very pretentious and very stand-offish when we get together. And when that didn’t happen, folks were shocked,” Madison says.

“Kevin Hicks and Karla Foster of UW-Madison approached me because they thought it was a very important topic – how privilege and social class really do separate black students on campus with black students in the regular community here in Madison,” Madison adds. “There’s that tension that always sits in the background and this can be the perfect opportunity to specifically address the disconnect between the two groups.”

“College Edition on Education, Privilege, and Social Class” will be hosted by Pathways African American Campus & Community Liaison.

“Sometimes, I run into a student on campus and I’m talking about something going on on the south side and they are just shocked; they have no knowledge about it,” Madison says. “And, vice versa, there are people in other parts of Madison who have no idea about some of the brilliant, beautiful things that exist on campus like [Office of Multicultural Arts’] First Wave [program].”

Is this also a conversation of the education, privilege, and social class disconnect between white and black people? “Not really. Although I’m sure that will come up in our conversation,” Madison says. “But we really want to focus on what’s going on in the African American community.”

Madison, a motivational speaker, a poet, and an active community member, says “College Edition on Education, Privilege, and Social Class” is a chance to come together to a safe space and really break things down. “People need to know that at this event their ideas will be valued,” she says. “It’s all about seeing where someone else is coming from. I’ve seen it so many times where people in one group don’t think they have anything in common with the other group. But then they meet and talk and find out that that isn’t true.”

The Conversation Mixtape (Photo by Marcus Miles)
The Conversation Mixtape (Photo by Marcus Miles)

Madison sees her Conversation Mixtape as one local resource to help cut down on the brain drain that goes on in Madison where the city loses many of its talented professionals of color to other bigger cities where they feel more comfortable.

“I’ve met so many black people who have come here for school and as soon as they are done they can’t wait to get the hell out of Madison,” Madison says. “I’ve had this conversation a trillion times. People that I wish would stick around and stay longer.”

The Conversation Mixtape is a reason to stay and to develop friendships and comraderies and access to resources, networking, employment, health, housing and more. “I can’t even tell you how many people – especially black women – who did not know where to go in this city, but because of the mixtape they were able to meet other black women and black men and create these friendships that thrive outside of the conversation,” Madison says. “There are relationships that are built here that are bountiful and lifelong.”

“Conversation Mixtape: College Edition on Education, Privilege, and Social Class” will take place Saturday, Feb. 13, 2-5 p.m. at Windown, 118 State St.
For more information, about Sabrina Madison and The Conversation Mixtape, click here.