MG&E Community Services Manager
Cedric Johnson
Forging Relationships
Cedric Johnson was born in and spent much of his childhood
in Rockford, Illinois.
had met a couple of people, but I was like, ‘Wow Madison isn’t for me. Maybe I should go to Chicago.’”

It was networking that kept Johnson in Madison. He attended a OPEN, Out Professionals Executive Network, event at the Madison Children’s Museum and
apparently folks were paying attention because two months later, he got a call from the Madison Children’s Museum to see if he wanted to interview for a
development position and ended up competing successfully for their development director job.

Johnson was recruited by Briarpatch to become their development director. It was a move that would heavily impact his life.

“Human services was a whole new world to me,” Johnson recalled. “You walk in and see a whole new area like that and it’s a bunch of acronyms to learn. That’s
what I did. It was a huge eye-opener because now I am talking directly to these communities that are traditionally overlooked and marginalized. I’m hearing directly
from teenage Black boys. I heard from one young man that their group topic was mental health. He said that white people don’t have mental health problems, only
Black people do. I couldn’t say anything. To hear that was my second big light bulb moment. I don’t even want to think about how he got there. It’s that idea of
yourself worth being less than someone else’s because of the color of your skin. He was 16-years-old. I felt out-of-touch. I was always in major donor development.
When I heard him, it just gave me a whole new motivation. It actually started to chip away at my desire to leave Madison because I saw just through my work,
through involvement in community organizations that Madison is a city where if you are dedicated and you care and are tenacious and you speak up, sometimes you
can make things happen.”

Eventually MG&E reached out to Johnson and he is now a community service manager for MG&E.

As Johnson adjusts to his new position, he has realized that he has a lot to learn about Madison’s communities of color and Madison’s challenged neighborhoods.
And so, he is doing what he has always done, developed new relationships.

“One of my things in this job is I am going to challenge people to do that, to step into those spaces and step out of your comfort zone,” Johnson said. “And as I said
to other people before, I can’t really expect other people to do it if I’m not willing to do it. If you’re uncomfortable, that’s fine. You don’t know all of the right things to
say and you don’t have to. Just be present and ask questions. And that’s what I’ve been doing so far in this job.”

It’s a job that Johnson is well suited for because relationships are the name of the game and it is relationships that have gotten Johnson to Madison and beyond.
Part 2 of 2
By Jonathan Gramling

As a gay Black man growing up the North and the South, in small and large cities, Cedric Johnson
has had to learn to engage the world as he developed his place in it. And now as one of three
community service managers at MG&E, taking over for Annette Miller, Johnson will be taking the
lead in forging strong relationships between MG&E and the Madison area’s communities of color.

Johnson’s work at the American Red Cross set the foundation for his future career. He learned to
never ask a “stranger” for money. But he also became tuned in to some of the struggles that
everyday people were experiencing.

He left the Red Cross and moved to Madison and got a job in advertising once again with The Onion
when I had a print edition.

“I was fired eight months after I started,” Johnson said. “It was the best thing that ever happened to
me. When I started there in August, I believe they wanted it to attract all of the same advertisers that
ran ads in the daily paper. That was not the reality. And so when I wasn’t able to deliver those
people, I was ‘excused.’ It was discouraging at the time because eight months into this new city, I