Vol. 11    No. 1
JANUARY 7, 2016
Reflections/Jonathan Gramling
                                                   King Holiday Thoughts
Lost during the Christmas-New Year’s Holiday season was the passing of Jim Stickles, a non-profit icon over the past 30 plus years. From what
I know, Jim was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer on December 31st and died a few days later on January 3rd. I heard that Jim was ill one day
and then found out the next that he had passed.

I first got to know Jim in the early 1980s when he was the center director for the Atwood Community Center, which is now called the Goodman
Community Center. He also headed up the North/East Side Senior Coalition for a while and most recently worked for Wisconsin Literacy.

My path and Jim’s would cross from time to time. I remember meeting with him in the late 1990s about starting a Boys & Girls Club chapter in
Madison, an idea that others made real with the founding of the Boys & Girls Club at what was then called the South Madison Neighborhood
Center.

Jim volunteered as much as he performed paid work. Someone who spoke at his funeral last Saturday commented that once in a group
exercise, when everyone was asked what their ideal day was, most of the people talked about spending time on a beach in some warm locale.
Jim was the only one to basically say that his ideal day was what he was already doing. He was living his ideal life.

For about the last decade, Jim and I have been involved with the African Association of Madison, serving on its board and/or its Africa Fest
Committee. I also found out at his funeral that he was volunteering at the Latino Academy for Workforce Development. Jim always wore a
beautiful smile and I can’t remember one instance when I saw him frown or get mad for that matter. If he didn’t have a kind word to say about
someone, then he said nothing. Jim was a good man.

I’m not sure when, but at some point Jim married into the Liberian community and leaves behind his wife Lydia and a host of family members on
Lydia’s and his sides of the family. All held him dear.

Jim was revered in the African community as reflected by the strong turnout of African community members at his funeral. The beauty of Jim’s
funeral was the diversity of people who were in attendance, people whom Jim touched with his kindness and love. Jim Stickles lived Dr.
Martin Luther King’s Beloved Community and his presence will be sorely missed.
***
One of the qualities that make Madison a good place to live during the cold month of January is its celebration of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Holiday. A relative handful of volunteers plan the events for the King Holiday, something that I — and I am sure most people — take for granted.
Friday through Monday of the King Holiday weekend are filled with wonderful and meaningful activities, most of which are free or at a very low
cost.

The King Coalition sponsors the Friday King Dinner at Gordon Commons, the Sunday afternoon Ecumenical Service at S.S. Morris AME Church,
the Monday morning Youth Day of Service at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery and the City-County King Holiday Observance at the
Overture Center on Monday night. All of these events are superb, free and open to the public.

Jonathan Overby and Africasong have been hosting the official King Holiday Tribute at the State Capitol on Monday noon. It is the oldest official
state commemoration of the King Holiday in the United States. It is always a magnificent and meaningful tribute. It’s a can’t miss and is also free
and open to the public.

The members of these organizations have been putting on these holiday events for about 30 years, starting in their prime. As the years pass by,
I feel that it is important for 20-50 year olds to start joining the ranks of these volunteer organizations so that over time, they can learn what it
takes to host these events. It is very important to this community that the torch be passed — whenever that time comes — smoothly.

Rounding out the King Holiday events are Women in Focus’ I Have a Dream Ball on Saturday night at Monona Terrace and the Urban League of
Greater Madison’s King Youth Recognition Breakfast at Edgewood High School. While these require a fee for entry, they are top-notch events
that I always enjoy going to. They add a special flair and meaning to the King Holiday weekend.

I’ve also heard that there will be a lecture by Barbara Nichols on Tuesday, January 12th for the UN Committee  and a King Holiday musical
tribute at High Point Church on Sunday night. There is also a health event being held on Saturday as well. I hope people in Madison will take
advantage of these King Holiday events. It will be well worth your while.
***
This King Holiday edition is one of the finest newspapers that I have ever produced. Last Monday, I didn’t know what was going to be in it. By
Friday, many wonderful pieces came together to make this issue truly memorable, at least in my humble opinion. The cornerstone of this issue
is a primer on civil rights for 2016. Seven knowledgeable community voices give their thoughts on education, employment, economic
empowerment, criminal justice, health, sustainability and voting rights. Each of these mini-columns are informative in their own right and
together, they create a harmonious expression of the important issues that we face.

Dr. John Y. Odom reminds us that civil rights is a 12-month, 24/7 endeavor and not a six week celebration.

I picked one of Dr. King’s last sermons, ‘Unfulfilled Dreams,’ in which he reflects on the importance of trying always even if one’s dreams seem
to be so far off. It was truly moving for me.

And Angela Russell’s reflections on her work at CUNA Mutual and Hanah Jon Taylor’s discussion of the Top Ten songs of the civil rights era
also make this a special issue. I hope you enjoy! Please Remember, Celebrate and Act this King Holiday season.