by Jonathan Gramling
|The King Holiday and More
Although he could have a stern look on his face, I was always able to joke around with Demetri. He was a funny person behind that civil rights
warrior persona. Since Demetri had moved out of the area and his memorial in Normal, Illinois was on the same weekend as the King Holiday,
Eugene and I reached out to the family and the result is the program mentioned above.
“The Madison Community Remembers and Celebrates the Life and Legacy of Demetri D. Fisher” will be held on Saturday, February 22nd, 1-3
p.m., at the Urban League’s Southwest Training Center, 1233 McKenna Blvd., across from Elver Park.
There will be music, food, remembrances and thoughts on Demetri’s art and spiritual side. The celebration is open to the public, so if you
knew Demetri, please come out to remember a special person.
If you have any questions, please email me at email@example.com.
As always, the King Holiday weekend was such an enjoyable — if exhausting —weekend. It started out with the Free Community Dinner,
which was attended by the diehards and the lucky. A UW-Madison hockey game was being held at the Kohl Center across the street from
Gordon Dining & Event Center, where the dinner was held.
When my son and I were driving to it around 5 p.m., there was a driving snow storm and all of the street parking was taken and public
parking devoted to the hockey game at $15 per stall. After circling for around 30 minutes, we headed home. I don’t miss many of those and I
hate that I missed this year.
One has to admire folks like the King Coalition led by Dr. Gloria Hawkins and Ed Lee who have been co-chairs for over 20 years. Year in and
year out, they always put on a high-class and meaningful celebration, from Friday night, into Sunday with the Ecumenical Service and into the
actual holiday with the Call to Service for young people and the Madison-Dane County King Holiday Observance.
It was especially awesome to see Ada Deer receive the King Humanitarian Award this year. Ada has been a champion for Native and human
rights for so long. And while she has been recognized nationally, it has been rare for her to be recognized locally even though her work has
touched Madison-Dane County. It is heartwarming to see Ada receive her accolades while she is still healthy and vital.
And I must thank Ada for the mention of The Capital City Hues and quoting from Dan Brown’s essay in The Hues King Holiday edition. It was
quite unaccepted, but always welcomed. Go Ada Go!
And it was great seeing Kenneth Cole receive the Emerging Leader Award. I vaguely remember him from his Posse days at UW-Madison.
Kenneth’s commitment and excellence are a reflection of UW-Madison’s DDEEA division under the leadership of Assistant Vice-Chancellor
I have been involved with or have been reporting on the DDEEA’s programs like Posse, First Wave and PEOPLE for 20 years now. It has
been awesome to see young people come through these programs and start to have an impact on Madison and beyond. Here we have Kenneth
Cole having an impact at Sherman Middle School and other venues.
Former PEOPLE Scholar Savion Castro is now a member of the MMSD school board. And another former PEOPLE Scholar, Maia Pearson,
is running for MMSD school board, Seat Six. I remember seeing the first indications of this leadership development as PEOPLE and other
program participants gave leadership to the Black Student Union and some of the Black Lives Matter protests on Bascom Hill. It is wonderful
to see all of this leadership develop.
And finally, I must give kudos to Dr. Jonathan Overby for making sure that the Wisconsin Tribute & Ceremony has gone on uninterrupted for
40 years and that is why he graces the cover of this issue. I get the intimation from Jonathan during the interviews that I have conducted with
him over the years that the ceremony is always surrounded by many political forces, some friendly and some not. And yet Jonathan has been
able to carry it off with aplomb these many years. It takes a special person to do that.
Jonathan always says, as he is planning the celebration, that it will be his last one. And then when he finishes the event, he signs up for another
year. I pray that Jonathan signs up for another year. It wouldn’t be the same without him.
But if it was the last one, Jonathan you can “retire” knowing that you have left an indelible mark on our state’s history with the quality
celebrations you have put on year after year. It’s a job well-done!
Before I get into this issue’s column, I just want to let people know that Bishop Eugene Johnson. Vincent
Fisher, Shirley Fisher-Brown and Dr. Ruben Anthony Jr. are planning “The Madison Community Remembers
and Celebrates the Life and Legacy of Demetri D. Fisher.”
Demetri died late last year. And although he spent most of his life living in Madison, working in the Dept. of
Administration and the WI Dept. of Transportation on Affirmative Action and other civil rights issues, he had
“retired” and moved to Normal-Bloomington to pursue a master’s degree in art, one of his first loves.
I worked with Demetri slightly when I also worked in the DBE Programs Office at WisDOT under Eugene
Johnson in the 1990s. And I also did several articles on Demetri and civil rights issues over the years at The
Madison Times and later The Capital City Hues.