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Vol. 9   No. 15
JULY 24, 2014
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UNIQUE HITS
Reflections/Jonathan Gramling  
              
                    Feedback and Speak Out!
Before I get started on this week’s column, let me clarify something about last week’s column called
Maneuvering Room. A few days after I published it, I got a call from an old friend Eugene Johnson. Bishop
Johnson is the head of Madison Pentecostal Assembly and retired as the head of WisDOT’s DBE Programs, a
civil rights section that monitors the fulfillment of mandates set by the federal government in the use of
federal transportation funds.

Eugene is a veteran of the civil rights ward and was once investigated by the FBI. He knows how things can
be construed and used against someone in ways that they didn’t intended. And he took me to task a little bit
on my writing. During the times that we worked together in the DBE Program and at the Urban League in the
early 1980s, Eugene was never shy about taking me to task in a “very loving manner.”

In last issue's column, I tried to typify Madison’s relationship and attitudes toward African Americans and
other people of color. It was a literary device to describe the atmosphere back then, an admitted
generalization to describe the times although individual actions and attitudes ran the gambit back then too as
they do now as well.

When I wrote the generalizations, the typifications, I failed to enclose these typifications in quotation marks.
And so someone could assume that what I was writing were my own thoughts at the time, which couldn’t be
farther from the truth. And while Eugene felt that those who know me would read it the way I had intended it
to be, I should clarify the record for those who don’t know me or may read the column at some point in the
future.

It just goes to show you that even though I consider myself a pretty good writer, I’ve always got one at least
one more lesson to learn. Thanks Eugene for pointing that out to me.

****
In the article "Strategic Feedback" in this issue, Keetra Burnette writes about United Way’s upcoming Agenda
for Change Conversations that will be held at the Urban League of Greater Madison, Centro Hispano, La
Follette High School and Warner Park Community Center. In these conversations, United Way will be seeking
feedback and ideas on what it should be doing as part of its development of its 2015-2018 strategic plan.

This is a pretty big deal. Last year, United Way of Dane County raised about $18 million that it is spending this
year on services that it or area non-profits provide to meet community needs and to come up with solutions
to community problems.

For the past 15 years or so, United Way has been focusing on reducing the achievement gap through the
Schools of Hope project. In almost every charitable or service activity in Dane County, United Way has a
direct or indirect presence or hand in it. $18 million can buy a lot of services and employ a lot of people. And
how it gets spent and how it gets directed can make a whole lot of difference in people’s lives. How these
community resources — funds donated to United Way by companies and people like you and me — are
allocated can have a huge impact on the quality of life that people enjoy in this community, from youth to
seniors.

That’s why it is important that a strong showing of people of color occurs at these Agenda for Change
Conversations. United Way will be using the information it receives from these sessions in shaping their four-
year strategic plan, which is used to establish its funding priorities. If you don’t express what your community
concerns are, then they will never come under consideration. They need to hear it in order to do anything
about it.

In the article, Keetra Burnette stated that she is particularly interested in hearing from consumers of services
that United Way funds or administers. Even if the service is out there, is it culturally relevant? Are there
reasons why some services in Madison fail to serve significant numbers of people of color? Are there
services out there that are no longer relevant or useful?

Are there new or underfunded services out there that could make a huge difference in people’s lives if they
had adequate resources? Are there some services in Madison that feed dependency versus empowering
people to take hold of and control their own lives? Are there services that have “institutional barriers,”
unintended barriers that the service provider or providers are not aware of?

There are a lot of questions to be asked of and answered about services funded by United Way. It will
strengthen overall service delivery in Dane County if people like you show up and speak out.
Sustained Caribbean Beats
Dr. Vinya Ariyaratne
Speaks at the UW Global
Health Institute