Vol. 9    No. 5
MARCH 6, 2014

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EDITORIAL STAFF

Jonathan Gramling
Publisher & Editor

Contributing Writers
Rita Adair, Ike Anyanike, Paul
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Capistran, Theola Carter, Fabu,
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Pascual,  & Martinez White

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Reflections/Jonathan Gramling
                                       Kaleem
I’m not sure where I am going to go with this, but I just knew that I had to write something. Over time, my
life has intersected with Kaleem Caire’s, from when he was a young man and I was the chair of the
South Madison Community Development Corporation in the mid-1980s to my time as Urban League vice-
president and his wife Lisa worked with me in the early 1990s to now when it seems that Kaleem is
everywhere as the president/CEO of the Urban League of Greater Madison.

Kaleem has always been an earnest and passionate advocate and puts 110 percent of himself into what
he does. No one can take that away from him.

During the height of the Madison Prep battle, he and I had a brief, but poignant discussion. Although I
didn’t agree with every aspect of his vision for Madison Prep, I did understand what he was doing. We
shared the opinion that almost all of the political battles in Madison and probably in the state of
Wisconsin to some degree, involve opposing sides of Euro-Americans on some political issue, be it Act
10 or same-sex marriage. And African Americans are often times used as pawns in the battle between
these two sides. Remember how the great industrialists brought African Americans into the factories of
the North so that they could beat back unionism? And sometimes the face of poverty has a Black face put
on it as funds are raised for one community initiative or another.

The point I’m trying to make is that as Black people, African Americans don’t really have any power to
decide how the issue will get decided. The only thing that African Americans can sometimes do is work
the divide to get something of value for the African American community, resources that the African
American community can use towards its own development.

In  a simplistic way, I feel that is what Kaleem was doing, working the divide to get a school that was
uniquely geared toward the issues that African American students face, particularly young Black men.
And Kaleem nearly got it. And he paid a price as an issue lightning rod to get us there, to get all of us to
address the academic achievement gap once again.

From what I understand, the driving force behind Kaleem’s resignation from the Urban League effective
March 31 was concerns about his health. I had heard his wife Lisa express that numerous times. I was a
vice-president for the Urban League for 12 years and I know what kind of pressure cooker it can be.
Everyone has expectations and as a rather powerless organization, the CEO must be everything to
everybody. The Urban League CEO is deemed an African American leader by the majority community,
which is not to say that the CEO isn’t an African American leader. But it seems that the majority
community in Madison needs its select few African American leaders it can interact with and makes
them very visible leaders. And eventually, those selected leaders are allowed to fall and life moves on
for everyone else. Having a few select African American leaders is an efficient, easy way for majority
folks to say they are engaged in solving the African American problem.

But eventually we all must realize that it will take a broad based engagement, not engagement with a
select few. The problem is too big for a select few to solve.

And this isn’t to say that Kaleem isn’t an African American leader. Kaleem was the keynote speaker for a
Black History month celebration in Sun Prairie in the beginning of February. Kaleen gave his view of
Black History and its implications for the present and for the African American parents and children in the
audience. And when his speech was done, he was well-received by those in attendance. Kaleem was a
Black leader to them.

I must say that Kaleen is a pretty cool cat. I ran into him twice in the past five days and he gave not a
trace that anything was up although I am sure that the decision to leave the Urban League was already
made. On Saturday at the AKA Men Who Cook, Kaleem was serving up his dish at the table right next to
mine. He freely engaged the people who came by with no sign that something momentous had occurred
in his life.

I wish Kaleem all the best in the world as he explores other opportunities and completes his MBA. I hope
that Kaleem, Lisa and their children stay in Madison for that have given and continue to give a lot to this
community. I personally thank him for the contributions he has already made.