Central Park to be Renamed
Milton McPike Park on April 4th
Remembering Milton McPike
elevators, and somehow I got free lunch!!!! I was simply in awe and amazed that this type of school actually existed. Within a few days, I quickly learned to navigate
the school grounds and very soon I was detached from my assigned guides.
Every morning I would arrive at around 7:30 and as soon as I entered the area where my assigned locker was, I could see and hear the voice of Milton McPike
herding and shepherding students to class. A little later there was another Black man by the name of Richard Scott, who together with Mr. McPike, walked the
hallways always smiling and sending all of us kids to our classroom.
Back then, I was quiet and shy, with a natural Central American Afro and dressed more like a scarecrow. I did not fit the norm and I was soon labeled “awkward” by
other kids. Some of them, including a guy by the name of Gilbert G., wanted to always “kick my ass,” for no reason at all. However, his small body frame and bony
facial features reassured me that I could take him down with little effort. He had a cocky attitude, but little did he know of my early beginnings in which I had to fight
for my life in many ways.
One day, during first lunch period, I got my corn dog and chocolate milk with a side of fries and sat to eat such disgusting things. Other kids, who actually had
warmed up to me, sat at my table. I remember well a biracial kid who was really good at drawing and making music. His name was August. He talked to me about
Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin, White Snake, and other bands such as the Steve Miller Band. My favorite, of course, was Pink Floyd and I couldn’t wait to buy the Dark
Side of the Moon.
We entered into a conversation while quickly devouring our food when suddenly, a nasty cheeseburger, ketchup, mayonnaise and other things made a hard contact
with my face. “Food fight!” someone shouted. I had no idea what was happening, but all types of food items were flying in every direction. I took cover under the
table still with half of the cheeseburger attached to my left frontal cheek. Mr. McPike, and others who were assigned to watch over lunch hour that morning, quickly
put down the melee. I was indignant for such barbarity. I could not understand why kids would throw away good food in such a manner when back home or other
places real hunger existed. Mr. McPike threatened to find the culprits who started the food fight.
As I left the area, still cleaning my face with a napkin, Gilbert G. approached me with such condescending demeanor and with a crazy man’s laugh. He proceeded to
make fun of me and continued to taunt me. I said for him to stop, he didn’t. Instead he launched at me with the speed of a biting cobra. My ingrained fear, PTSD and
real war reflexes were quickly activated somehow avoiding the punch from Gilbert and set me off into an unexplained motion retaliating against my opponent with
such fiery force that Gilbert was left on the ground moving in pain like a recently Bygone-sprayed cockroach. By then a swarm of kids had surrounded us and
shouted “fight, fight, fight” and other obscenities.
I was then led into the “Office.” My host family was contacted and I was strongly reprimanded. But Mr. McPike took pity on me and allowed me to return to school.
What became certain after that incident is that I commanded the respect and those who were also bullied were now on my team. Gilbert eventually became my best
friend, go figure, and I got to meet his wonderful Mexican family. The next few years became for me the academic focus. Because of my age, they had placed me at a
junior level. But faculty soon discovered that I had no clue about much of anything, so they bumped me down to freshman level with a series of ESL classes, basic
algebra, other math skills, and some basic sciences.
I experienced lots of frustrations with academics, but one thing was certain: I did not want to be labeled as the ‘dumb’ kid. Nor did I accept the notion that I would be
relegated to basics only. Against all odds, I exerted effort into my education like no one else, and by the end of my senior year I had surpassed many kids and I was
placed in the Talented and Gifted group.
There were many caring people at East, but without a doubt, it was Mr. McPike who opened the doors of education for me. It was him who welcomed me into East
and the Purgolders, it was him that on a daily basis would find time to connect with me and thousands of other kids. He would always tap me on my shoulder and
would say, “How are you doing kid?” I would smile and reassured him that I was doing well.
I joined the soccer team and was soon playing JV. Soccer, my favorite sport, came naturally to my little-but fast-awkward looking legs. I remember scoring a couple
of goals during a tournament against Janesville and enjoyed a tremendous shared euphoria with the others on the team. I recall a kid by the name of Nacho, a
skilled soccer player himself, congratulating me for scoring given that varsity had lost their game that day.
But for me, academics came first. I would study with such dedication and passion that I soon was memorizing and reciting various Shakespeare soliloquies,
sonnets, and other less understood lines. My accent didn’t help much, but it made an impression with some flirty girls. I never participated in the Prom or Winter
Formal, for I did not really understand what this was all about. I did break a couple of girl’s hearts because I did not ask them to those activities, or because I
refused to join when they asked me. As a result, there was a rumor that got started that I was a cute Latin gay guy. I didn’t care about this for I was always happy to
hang out with my buddies August and Surya. The three of us often entered into long scatological conversations about the world, neutrinos, black holes, Pink Floyd,
and somehow these conversations would end with us writing poetry of some kind.
Somehow, while at East, I ended up joining a club or something of that nature called Project Bootstrap. I have no idea how I was led into this group, but they
focused on after-school learning activities. Most of the kids were African American, but there were a couple Latinos and a couple Hmong kids.
The woman who managed the program was named, if my memory still serves me well, Joanne Griffin, a strong and compassionate woman that I learned to be afraid
of. Her job was to keep us ‘troubled’ kids engaged in school. Every morning Joann would call my house and as I answered the phone, she would say in a
thunderous voice, “Henry, Henry, what do you think you doing? Are you still in bed? Get up now! Get moving! I will see you soon at school.”
Apparently it was part of the Bootstrap protocol to call us early in the mornings to get us moving. Her voice instilled fear in me, but it was effective in getting me out
of bed. Joann was a very caring woman. She really wanted us kids to succeed. No matter how much I tried to avoid her, she knew where to find me. I credit her for
helping me develop self-discipline and for giving me the opportunity to participate in all kinds of after-school activities. Joann, wherever you are, thank you for
waking me up and making me go to school.
By my senior year, I had joined another club or group called the Hit Squad. This was a youth group managed through the Madison Aids Support Network. We were
trained and our task was to go out there into our communities or wherever teens hang out to pass out condoms and tell them to “be safe!” In essence, I, still some
kind of a virgin, was a sex educator! Go figure! Again, I did not know how I ended up participating in the Hit Squad, but they paid us for our work, and that made me
happy as I was saving my pennies for my first ride.
By Henry Amaya
I was pleased to learn, through a social media post, that the Madison community will honor Mr.
Milton McPike through a dedication at Madison Central Park. I hereby render this little story to also
honor Mr. McPike.
If my memory serves me correct, I arrived in Madison sometime in 1988 as a refugee. Like many
others, I was running away from the horrific bombings, raining bullets, and death squads instilling
terror in a tiny Central American country. Confused and with little hope, I was glad to learn that a
family, “The Lyman’s,” had agreed to take me in and ‘sponsor’ me so that I could go to school.
The thought of going to school was secondary and very distant to me. I had not been in school since
the 5th grade. At that time in Madison, there was a great social movement against U.S. intervention
in Central America. It was through this socially conscious vine, that the Lyman's home welcomed
Things were happening fast and everything was new to me. Furthermore, my limited English
capabilities really hindered any major understanding of the proceedings that took place. What I
know is that from one day to another, I arrived at the Lyman’s home: a humble family of mostly
women, and a shaggy dog named Sonia. This dog often growled at me with such a menacing look
and teeth of steel every time I tried to steal her rubber toy. In time, Sonia became my best friend and
Top: Milt McPike
Above: Henry Amaya
she loved taking walks with me through the old and rusty railroad tracks and along the Yahara River. I loved this area for it
gave me peace and solace from the world I had just left.
“We will take to you to school on Monday” went the conversation at the Lyman’s home. I nodded, uncertain as to what that
meant or how that was going to happen. The following Monday Kate and daughter Emily took me to East High. I was shivering
in fear to see such a magnificent educational citadel. We went to the administrative office, where I first met Mr. McPike and a
nurse by the name of Carol. There was another man in there who during the conversation questioned my immigration status. It
was then that Mr. Milton McPike said with a strong and secure demeanor, “The boy is here now. He is ours and we need to
help him to school.”
As he uttered these words, he did so with such a caring feeling and compassionate look. Carol the nurse looked perplexed,
but she did ask about my vaccination records, which I had none. Henceforth, it was ordered for me to go to the Madison
Community Health Clinic, I believe on Williamson Street, to go get a physical and also get any vaccines I needed. Little did I
know that I was going to be poked in different areas and in various invasive ways. I think I was even vaccinated against
rabies — just in case. My skinny arms and legs felt sore for weeks.
It was then in this manner and almost by luck and chance that my educational life began to take shape. I arrived at the
entrance adjacent to the school cafeteria accompanied by my guide Emily. A full class schedule had been printed for me and
now the challenge was for me to find the classrooms in such an enormous school. In my life, I had never seen or experienced
a school of this size with magnificent amenities: science labs, theatre, basketball courts, swimming pool, soccer fields,
would say and all of us would giggle in amazement. By this time I was
already eighteen years of age and quickly approaching nineteen.
One day, my co-sex educator convinced me to go inside the porno store to
pass out condoms. At that time this store was located on the first block of
State Street and very close to the Capitol. I resisted the invitation for a
while, but soon my curiosity and fear of going into the unknown let me
accept the challenge. The lady attendant checked our ID’s and let us in
without much fanfare. I was surprised to see that there were both men and
women inside the store. Having grown up Catholic, I could not believe my
eyes at the great assortment of sexually oriented paraphernalia. There were
many items that I never imagined existed. I remember a feeling of guilt
enveloping my body, and for a moment my fingers started to do the Sign of
the Cross on my forehead until one of the women in there said, “So what’s
up?” I stayed motionless and in fear. “If you want to see a movie clip with
me get some tokens,” she commanded.
My fear grew in intensity and manifested throughout my body that my hands
started to sweat. My buddy had disappeared in one of the corners. All I
remember is that I handed the woman a bunch of condoms and said with a
strong accent, “Be safe!” She laughed and left me alone. Then a white
middle-aged man entered the store. He mumbled some things to the
attendant, and she handed him a series of sex gadgets and movies. This
man, I learned later, became my sociology professor. He taught, among
other things, human sexuality.
I soon left the Hit Squad job and went to wash dishes and cook at Himal
Chuli restaurant, a place that fed me and saw me grow while I struggled to
keep up at UW- Madison.
Fast forward many years later to today, I can safely say without a doubt, that
it was because of the courage and the caring heart of Milton McPike that I
am where I am. The once labeled ‘troubled’ kid — among other titles — is
now serving as the interim director for Multicultural Services at Bellevue
College in the State of Washington. Now I manage academic and non-
academic programs that offer support and leadership development to a
diverse group of college students. Now I am their cheerleader, I am the one
herding, and engaging students on a daily basis. I am that kid that many did
not believe in, now with two master’s degrees, and an Executive
Leadership Management certificate from Cornel University. It wasn’t easy,
but the fact that I had caring people in my life cheerleading me not only gave
me hope, but it also transformed me into the man I am today. Gracias Mr.
McPike, Joanne Griffin, Mr. Calderon, The Lyman’s, Gilbert, Surya and many
others. May the forces of nature bless you wherever you are.
The training at MASN was fun for they showed us, men and women, the proper way to ask for sex and the proper way to put a condom on. They demonstrated this
action on a large plastic cucumber. However, when the condom would not slip all the way down the cucumber because of its enormous size, the facilitator would
abruptly pull off the top half of the plastic cucumber and reveal an enormous plastic penis that was encased inside! “If you don’t do it right, this is what you get!” she