(L-r) Guadalupe Montes Tecalero, WCCF Executive Director Ken Taylor, Francine White, and Ari Davis

In 2013, the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families (WCCF) released its “Race To Equity” report which helped trigger a long overdue conversation on race and racial disparities in Madison. Since then, some strides have been made, but WCCF Executive Director Ken Taylor is well aware of just how much more has yet to be done.

“I’m excited about the way things are progressing but I’m also daunted by the distance we have to travel,” Taylor tells Madison365. “The fact that as a research and advocacy organization we created a report that is still being referenced and acknowledged as an important catalyst two years later is wonderful.”

As important as that report was, Taylor says, that was the easy work. “Now we’re engaged in the long, hard work of changing the way the system actually operates,” he says. “That’s a lot harder than writing a good research report.”

Some of that hard work was on display at WCCF’s annual “Step Forward for Kids,” fundraiser held Sept. 24 at the sculpture garden on top of the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art.

At the event, WCCF presented Giraffe Awards to individuals and organizations who have courageously advocated for policies that improve the well-being of children, families, and communities. In essence, they have “stuck their necks out for children and families.”

The Giraffe Awards were presented to the following:
◆ The Madison West Native American Student Association played a crucial role in the development of a newly adopted Madison Metropolitan School Distract policy that bans students from wearing clothing with Native American athletic team names, logos, or mascots that depict negative stereotypes.
◆ The Community Partnership for Children (CPC), a community change initiative coordinated by the Brown County United Way, has made remarkable strides in working to ensure that all children in their community are safe, healthy, and ready for kindergarten.
◆ Everett Mitchell has long worked to make Madison a better community for everyone—especially Madison’s African-American community. As the director of community relations for UW-Madison, pastor at Christ the Solid Rock Baptist Church, and a former Dane County assistant district attorney, Mitchell has worked tirelessly to make our community a more just and compassionate place.

Everett Mitchell accepts his Giraffe Award from WCCF.
Everett Mitchell accepts his Giraffe Award from WCCF.

“Everett does stick his neck out a lot for many different folks. He’s done incredible work on racial equity and LGBTQ issues,” Taylor says.

The event was also a chance for WCCF to present its Race to Equity scholarships, now in their second year. Three Madison high school students — Guadalupe Montes Tecalero, Francine White, and Ari Davis — were awarded scholarships after writing inspiring essays about what racial inequity means to them. Davis attends West High School while Tecalero and White attend Memorial High School.

Applications were evaluated on the student’s ability to express the importance of racial equity in the community and world, and how it has personally affected their lives.

“These are really three just outstanding and fabulous young people. To me, that was the most powerful part of this event is to have the kids talking to the grown-ups about what is most important to them and what their experiences are,” Taylor says. “We’re happy to provide a little bit of educational support to these students but we end up getting a lot more from their input than they end up getting from us.”

The scholarships are just a small part of what WWCCF has been doing to actively make the Madison community a better place.

“Racial disparities are an issue that as a community we seem serious about tackling. From past experience in Madison, we have seen these type of things ebb and flow and then fall from public view,” Taylor says. “We need to acknowledge that the County, the City, nonprofits, foundations, and media are all seriously grappling with racial disparity issues and trying to figure out how they can move the needle. We all need to hold each other collectively accountable for actively doing that … not just talking about the importance of doing that. That’s hard work.”