by Jonathan Gramling
by Heidi M. Pascual
Columns & Features
King Award Winners
by Jamala Rogers
One nice thing about being an “elder” — that sounds so much better than old man — in the journalism business. A journalist is supposed to be in the know and has a
duty to be nosy about other people’s lives, within reason and ethical considerations. And after a while, you can see people evolve from their childhood into adulthood.
I first met Anthony Cooper Sr., one of the recipients of the 2019 King Humanitarian Award, back in 1994, shortly after he and his mom moved to Madison and into
Sommerset. Sommerset was a wild place back then. It was situated in the Town of Madison and owned by an absent landlord — Sommerset was Section 8 housing
— who had diverted some of the funds to other more lucrative projects. What resulted was absolute chaos.
Primarily African American teenagers — but there were adults as well — would gather in Sommerset’s large central parking area. And inevitable, there would be a
fight and then the police would be called. There were also drugs and other questionable activities going on daily. It was so bad that Anchor Bank, the holder of
Sommerset’s mortgages, obtained a HUD grant to basically clean up Sommerset.
A consortium of people and organizations was brought together to work with the residents. The consortium was led by Lamont Jones and Cephus Childs and the
Madison Inner-City Council on Substance Abuse, which employed one Sommerset resident, Gloria Pfarr, as its case manager. Joe McClain and Arts R Prevention
were hired to lead some musical activities and education in the complex including a block party. And I was brought on as a type of utility player, doing the program
evaluation and various other duties assigned by Lamont Jones.
As the project evaluator, I conducted a pre and post survey on conditions in Sommerset and whether things had improved by the end of the project. Through that
evaluation, I visited every housing unit in Sommerset at least once. And it was through that experience that I learned about the vast diversity of the people who lived
in subsidized housing. The units ranged from those occupied by crack addicts who had sold every piece of furniture in the unit to supply their habit with trash
carelessly strewn on the floor to the unit with a fenced in garden out front and Halloween decorations in the window occupied by a single parent and her children
who kept the apartment neat as a pin. -- READ MORE
|Vol. 14 No. 2
JANUARY 28, 2019