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Opinion: A Letter to Madison

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Boys and Girls Club of Dane County President and CEO Michael Johnson

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Open Letter to Madison Wisconsin,

Are you concerned? Is there a division and a bridge that’s making it hard for solutions to be made in Madison? People are being arrested, statutes are being torn down, businesses are at a critical pathway and black people are hurting more now than ever. Where is our collective leadership and response?

“What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence or lawlessness, but love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice towards those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black”~ Robert F. Kennedy – April 4th, 1968 the night MLK was assassinated. 

What you see happening in Madison are people who are fed up  — who are marginalized, experiencing unaddressed trauma, poverty, and experiencing a lack of economic opportunities in under-resourced communities.

There are so many wonderful leaders in this community and we are missing in so many ways. I believe some of us are afraid to speak our minds because it might put us in uncomfortable positions and conversations. I also witnessed and directly experienced people tearing folks down viciously, being disrespectful while many of us with influence and power sit quietly. Our city needs you and our collective leadership is needed more now than ever!

I am sending this open letter to Madisonians  because I love you and want us to use our collective voices to guide and offer solutions on how we move forward. Here are some thoughts for you to consider:

  1. Repurpose $8.6M or 10% of MPD’s budget to community policing, mental health services and community policing strategies to be managed by black led organizations who are culturally competent, including grass root groups and other communities of color.
  1. Hire 10 Peer Support Coaches and Parent Outreach Officers at every High School and remove police officers from schools;
  1. Create a $30M endowment as a public/private partnerships to help black Madisonian’s start businesses in Dane County and to help purchase homes. Do the research and see why this is important.
  1. Hire 1,000 youth this summer and in the fall for paid internships at $20 an hour for five hours a week to give them practical work experience and diversify C suite positions in Dane County across all sectors.
  1. Stop defunding public schools and lobby for legislation to support targeted programs for underperforming students who traditionally don’t do academically well in Madison.
  1. Create an endowed fund to subsidize state subsidies to ensure pre school is free for all children in Dane County.
  1. Create a Public Safety Officer position that will report to a community policing oversight Board that would manage resources and work with community organizers and MPD on issues that impact local neighborhoods;
  1. Release non violent offenders in Dane County jail on signature bonds and seek other forms of rehabilitation;
  1. Provide mental health therapist for families  at every community center and homeless shelters and use federal pass through dollars to support this effort.
  1. Meet with the youth organizers, MPD and bring philanthropist together to finalize a plan and move Madison Wisconsin forward in an effort to close and fund racial disparities in our community.

We know that vulnerability in our ecosystem occurs at the intersection of people’s identities; so our collective response should show empathy, respect and action. I am just one of many voices and wanted to offer solutions to how we move forward as a city because our generation is witnessing the unraveling of the social fabric of our city right under our collective watch and we owe them a real response with a plan that fund these priorities.

The time has come for all of us to roll up our sleeves, do better and finally resource the systematic challenges facing Madison and Dane County.

– Michael Johnson