by Jonathan Gramling
many years ago and his time in Manzanar, the internment camp he was confined in at the start of World War II. Atsuko met a similar fate in
an internment camp in Arkansas.
Atsuko has always been a king and gentle person, deferring to Paul in a traditional way, I thought. While Paul was the visible head of the
family, I knew that Atsuko was not a silent member of the marriage and I often envisioned them sitting around the kitchen table whom they
would give money to and how much as well as discuss the issues of the day. They truly were a partnership.
After Heidi Pascual moved back to The Philippines in 2010, Paul and Atsuko would invite Heidi and I to dinner when Heidi would come back
to Madison to visit. We would eat dinner somewhere like Fat Jacks and then go back to their house for coffee and maybe some dessert.
Those were always delightful moments.
One thing that was always so beautiful about Atsuko and Paul was their lack of bitterness in how they were treated in World War II. They
were born U.S. citizens in California. Paul’s father owned a grocery store and Paul had just graduated from high school. And then they were
torn from their lives — and in many cases relieved of their worldly possessions — and sent to an internment camp where they were
incarcerated. And the only reason this happened was they were of Japanese ancestry. My parents were of German ancestry and I didn’t hear
about them being interned at a camp. While some would become bitter and filled with anger at the mistreatment, Atsuko and Paul would not
let the experience change who they were, decent and kind people. I have always admired that about them.
I can’t help but smile when I think about Atsuko. I had learned that Atsuko had died when I saw her obituary in the Wisconsin State Journal
and so I visited the memorial page and wrote my condolences to the family. And then a couple of days later, I got a card from Atsuko’s
daughter Missy. Apparently during her final days at Agrace Hospice, Atsuko thought to renew her subscription to The Capital City Hues.
Missy said in her note that Atsuko always enjoyed my column. Bless you Atsuko.
Freddie Clark died the other day from COVID-19 down in Louisiana where he moved back in 2009. I remember that Freddie worked at the
Madison Urban League in the late 1970s and then went on to work for the State of Wisconsin for many years until his retirement.
Freddie was always an easy-going guy with a ready handshake and a smile.
Freddie along with Jerry Smith, Milton Donald, Sylvester Hines and others formed Blacks for Political and Social Action, BPSA for short.
Whenever an issue came up in Madison, from disparities in education to disparities in the criminal justice system, Freddie and BPSA would
hold a press conference and hold people in the system accountable. While I think BPSA was relatively small in number, their voice resonated
in and had an impact on the entire Madison community.
Freddie did a “like” on something I wrote on Facebook last week and I had to smile. I was going to write him a Facebook message, but then
got swept up with the events of the day. I regret not having reached out to Freddie. He was a great guy.
And then I found out a few hours ago that Milele Chikasa Anana — also known as Betty Latimer — had died this morning. It’s too late for
our paper to do anything this issue because we have to be at the press by 2 p.m. Death and life never happens at our convenience.
Most people in the community know that Milele and I didn’t get along and that was almost from the git go when we first met at the Urban
League in the mid-1980s when I was the vice-president under Betty Franklin-Hammonds and Milele was on the board. It was just one of
But even though we didn’t get along, I still had a lot of respect for Milele. She was the first African American woman to be elected to the
MMSD school board in the 1970s, paving the way for the likes of Kwame Salter and Jerry Smith. After Rev. Wright left the EOC, Milele
was one of the interim directors before Anthony Brown was selected as Rev. Wright’s replacement.
Milele was also instrumental in getting ABBA, the African Black Business Association off the ground back in the early 2000s. I am sure that
there were other things.
But of course, what Milele is mostly known for is being the publisher & editor of UMOJA Magazine. When Milele took over UMOJA from
Carolyn Ewing back in the early 1990s, it was basically a folded piece of paper or two with a community calendar. Milele took it and ran
with it, building UMOJA up into a slick color magazine with stories and profiles, bringing the good news to Madison’s African American
community and beyond when there was a dearth of positive stories about African Americans in the local and national press. Hat’s Off to
Milele as she ventures forth into the next phase of her eternal life. I can see her now sitting by listening to Jesus talk and taking notes about
what He said for her next edition. May God’s love shine upon her.
Sad news seems to come in twos and threes. And during these pandemic times, it seems that tragedy has
become a daily aspect of our lives, whether it is close by or half way around the world. Last week, I found
out that Atsuko Kusuda, the widow of the late Paul Kusuda had died. And then in the last 24 hours, I learned
that long-time Madison activist and co-founder of Blacks for Political and Social Action and long-time
UMOJA Magazine publisher and possessor of many “Madison Firsts” Milele Chikasa Anana had passed.
I have known Atsuko for about 20 years. Soon after becoming the editor of The Madison Times in 1999, I
was introduced to the Wisconsin Organization for Asian Americans, also known as WOAA. Atsuko and her
late husband Paul were members of WOAA and I soon found myself attending meetings with my associate
editor Heidi Pascual. I got to know Paul and Atsuko pretty well over the years. I did a profile story on Paul