King Award Winners
by Jonathan Gramling
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 sole
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.
And, of course, one of those units was occupied by Anthony and his mom, who both became official participants in the HUD project. Anthony
was the only teenage participant. Anthony was a real likeable kid. I remember that he and his mom became members of Fountain of Life
Church right around that time.
The project was successful. The chaos quieted down and many of the residents got some momentum going in their lives. And then, as things
turned out, the true end game of the HUD project came to be. Anchor Bank was able to sell Sommerset to another housing group that
renovated the premises, kept some of the residents and evicted others and named it Parker Place.
I pretty much loss track of Anthony after that. We would bump into one another every once in a while. I remember at a Fall Gospel Fest held
out at Madison College South one year, it has snowed hard. The Madison College parking lot had these ravines and due to the snow and
perhaps my carelessness, I ended up getting stuck in one of those ravines. It was cold and snowy.
And then a guardian angel appeared in the form of Anthony Cooper who helped me get rescued, if I recall correctly, by AAA. He did rescue me
and I was appreciative.
It’s funny, but I never knew that Anthony had gone to prison until rather recently. I would run into him at Fountain of Life Church and
Nehemiah where he worked, but it never came up. There was no reason for it to come up and Anthony was still the same person I had gotten
to know back in the Sommerset days.
I guess I didn’t realize it until I did some free consulting for FIC, the group funded by the city to help stem violence in the city. Anthony was
one of the co-leaders of the group and then I put two and two together. Anthony was one of the leaders of this group because he had been
And now Anthony is a recipient of the King Humanitarian Award for his work on stemming violence for being successful in his own long
journey. I can’t think of a more deserving person. In the words of the Civil Rights Movement, Anthony has overcome.
And what probably moves this column into the “It’s a Small World” category, I also know Shayla Glass, the other King Humanitarian Award
Shayla was in the UW-Madison PEOPLE Program, where I taught in its summer middle school component for 14-15 years. Shayla was a
PEOPLE Scholar who graduated two years ago and I had the pleasure of interviewing her for a story. Our paths also crossed briefly at the
Lussier Community Education Center where I am their accountant — I am a utility player — and Shayla worked in their youth programs
before landing a job with the Verona Area School District.
Shayla is a wonderful community activist who will do great things — and has had an impact over a relatively short period of time.
When one sees people like Anthony and Shayla taking on leadership positions, one can’t help but feel optimistic for the future. Right on
Anthony and Shayla!
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
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