The fatal shooting of an unarmed black male, 19-year-old Tony Robinson, by a white Madison police officer in 2015 stirred up angst and raw emotion in the community. It also inspired Henry Sanders and cofounders A. David Dahmer and Robert Chappell to launch Madison365.com, a website for and about people of color.
“We wanted to create a platform that gives our voices a chance to be heard and reach a community that most people have a hard time reaching in real, genuine ways,” Sanders says.
When Madison365.com launched in August of last year, it attracted 10,000 users. That number has since grown to 350,000, Sanders says, making Madison365 a prime website in the state for reaching people of color.
“The feedback has been unbelievable and the community has truly embraced us,” says Sanders. “It feels good that they see the value of what we are doing and believe in our authentic voice.”
It is that desire to accurately reflect communities of color that also inspired Sanders, Dahmer and Chappell—in partnership with the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County and with funding from sources including the Madison Community Foundation—to create the Madison365 Academy, a one-of-a-kind writing program that allows kids of color to post their stories to a website aimed at people of color and led by a person of color.
Sanders, whose goal is to grow a robust stable of journalists, also serves as one of the academy teachers. Students are reporters-in-training, learning how to investigate, interview, gather news, write, edit, take photos and create digital media—and their stories get published on Madison365.com.
Sanders has been active in the Madison community and beyond. In 2010, he ran for lieutenant governor in Wisconsin, and since 2011 he has worked as a small-business advocate for President Barack Obama’s administration. In Madison, he helped start such groups as the Small Business Advisory Council and the Madison Network of Black Professionals.
But he says the highlight of his career has been the launch of Madison365.com. “Because of the cultural unrest in our city and country, we’ve been able to help so many people so fast, and empower them—and be a disruption to journalism,” Sanders says.
To learn more about the Madison365 Academy and read work of Academy students, visit madison365.com/academy.
About The M List
Madison Magazine’s M List is a who’s who of organizations and individuals who are having an impact on our local culture and economy. In its fourth year, the M List recognizes those making strides as mentors and teachers. Last year’s list of honorees were making impacts in the area of social innovation. The original M List, in 2013, honored the technology sector. The 2014 M List honored “Foodtastic” entrepreneurs and innovators.