When Iorfa (Charles) Myadze first announced that he was throwing his hat into the ring to campaign to be the alder to represent District 18 on Madison’s north side, he sent out an announcement that he was running because many of his northside neighbors were worried about the rise of crime and safety concerns.
“When I talk to my neighbors, they also see big changes taking place in our community and rising violent crime and they are worried,” Myadze (pronounced me-odd-zee) wrote in his announcement. “I’m scared for my kids. Parents like me are worried. We’re scared by the threat to both their physical safety and their civil rights. There is no place in 2021 for racism or anything less than full equality for all Americans, and there is no place for the increasing gun violence right in our own backyard.”
Myadze, a life-long Democrat and son of a Nigerian immigrant, has been vocal supporter of the Madison Police Department but admits that there is still much to improve. He tells a story of his 18-year-old son being followed all the way home from Madison College “for no reason” by a police officer in a patrol car. It ended up being a case of mistaken identity, but it freaked his son out a bit and left Myadze angry.
“I was so mad that I went to the precinct the next day and the police deeply apologized. He said, ‘The guy had no reason to do that. It wasn’t even the same car,'” Myadze remembers. “I reached out to [District 18 alder] Rebecca Kemble and did not get a good response. That rubbed me the wrong way.
“I’m not a fan of what she has been doing. Being on the Common Council and saying things about defunding our police, I didn’t like that. To be in a position of being alder in a district that is going through so much havoc and they need the police, to actually think that African Americans don’t need the police and they don’t want to feel safe and we don’t call police … is absurd. It’s just crazy.”
Myadze says that he takes a very different view with police than the incumbent northside alder. He wants to add police resources, he is for police body cameras and wanted to keep the police school resource officers in Madison high schools. He says that it is essential that we build trust between the community and the police.
“I like programs like Amigos en Azul. They are a force to be reckoned with. I’ve counted 60 officers and they reach everywhere, even the suburbs,” Myadze says, speaking of the grassroots MPD initiative started in 2003 where Latino police officers volunteer their time and work to dissolve cultural barriers, build partnerships and open lines of communication between the Latino community and MPD. “What is empowering about that group is that they instill a trust in the Latino community. I’ve always thought that this would be so powerful for the African American community and they came up with this group called Black Officers Coalition a few years ago and they are into bridging the gap between African Americans and the MPD.”
Myadze adds that we “are in the perfect place right now to start the healing process” between the community and the police.
“[Alder] Rebecca Kemble leaves no room for healing and she has shown that she doesn’t want to work with the police,” he says.
What about police bias, abuse, profiling, etc.? How do we deal with that?
“It’s not like I don’t know about those issues. That’s why I started out this conversation talking about my son [and his police racial profiling incident],” Myadze says. “I don’t support some of the things that the MPD has done, but I know a lot of good officers, a lot of great Black officers.
“One of the things that I’ve worked on with the Public Safety Review Committee and also with the NAACP is the use of deadly force issues. We have to make sure that our officers are held accountable for their actions,” he adds.
Myadze serves as the vice-chair of the City of Madison Public Safety Review Committee and is a member of the Police Body-worn Camera Committee. He has been a Dane County NAACP criminal justice committee member and is also a community coordinator where it is his job to reach out to the community on the NAACP’s behalf.
“It gives me a different perspective on a lot of the problems that Madison faces in a lot of areas and we get to work with a lot of great organizations,” he says.
Myadze also feels like he has a different perspective than a lot of politicians in Madison as a proud union steelworker (local 904) – he has been a product tester at Goodyear/Continental in Sun Prairie for 23 years – and as the son of an immigrant.
“My dad is from Nigeria and he came here with one penny in his pocket and he got married to my mom in Michigan,” Myadze says.
Myadze has three children — Kendra, Armon and Mike — who were all raised on Madison’s north side and went to the Madison schools – Mendota Elementary, Blackhawk Middle School, and East High.
“My daughter is currently at UW-Eau Claire studying to be a social worker and finishing up her bachelor’s degree in May. My son graduated from East High School and got accepted to UW with a full ride,” he says. “My youngest one is only 15 and is still at the house. He is a great wrestler.”
Education is one of the important issues in the City of Madison that Myadze listed he wanted to focus on as well as transportation and gentrification, the latter two particularly important to his north side.
“As I have been campaigning, people tell me to go to the places where they think people vote. I go everywhere in my district because I believe everybody’s voices need to be heard at the table,” he says. “I think what we need are more affordable healthy food options on this side of town. Another issue is the land over here at [the former] Oscar Mayer [plant]. A lot of the constituents don’t want that being a bus barn, not only because of the contamination of the field there but also the roundabouts and all of the traffic that it will create.
“People are concerned about the parks and the old equipment in them. They want new equipment. They are concerned that only Warner Park has lights at dark. Constituents want lights at the park,” he adds. “They want speed bumps and stop signs for safety over by Troy Drive. They feel like their needs are not being met and that they’ve reached out to their alder and are not getting a response.”
Myadze will be facing off against Kemble and local Latina leader Veronica Figueroa in the primary on Tuesday, Feb. 16. He believes he is the best candidate.
“I am a hard-working, everyday person – a union worker. I’ve been at my job for 23 years and I know all about hard work and the lived experiences of poverty and struggle,” Myadze says. “I really care about my community and care about people and I feel like I can get things done.”