|Vol. 10 No. 14
JULY 9, 2015
I can’t help but think about the musical Porgy & Bess this time of year. “Summertime and the living is easy.” That’s what I always want my
summertime to be, easy living. But that is an ideal, sometimes a pipe dream as the pace of modern life doesn’t give one much time to exhale
and enjoy the simple things around you.
For many people, summertime begins on the Memorial Day weekend as the warm weather — usually — kicks in and neighborhood pools and
area amusement parks open their doors after a long winter. This period is actually the end of spring and the bugs haven’t quite arisen from
their winter slumber and life can be good hanging outside grilling and enjoying the night air free of pests.
For others, summertime begins with the end of the school year, usually a week or two after Memorial Day. The kids are out of school and some
of them head down South and other environs to spend some time with grandparents and other relatives. And the week after school ends can
be difficult for some parents as there is usually a one-week interval between the end of school and the beginning of the many summer camps
held at neighborhood centers and other youth oriented organizations. Some parents are left juggling their schedules as they make sure the
kids are taken care of and not on the loose to roam and perhaps get into trouble.
For the UW PEOPLE Program — and myself — summer does not begin the week after school lets out. As a matter of fact, PEOPLE’s three-
week summer enrichment workshops begin that following Monday. I have had the honor of teaching a three-week course for PEOPLE for 12 of
the last 13 years. The first morning of class can be difficult as the students bemoan the fact that some of their peers can sleep in late — and
perhaps some of their siblings — while they had to get up early to continue their educational process in a classroom setting for three weeks.
But these aren’t your your normal middle school classes. Professors and graduate students from UW-Madison plus a few community members
like me teach some high-powered classes. Students learn about science, theater, writing, political science and many other career fields in
some very interesting ways.
As a part of my course, we spent a morning with elected officials and employees of the city of Madison. They got to meet Alders Shiva Bidar,
Sheri Carter and Samba Baldeh. Carter was one of the first African American women to serve on the common council and Baldeh, the first
African immigrant. They also got to meet Lucía Nuñez, director of the Department of Civil Rights, Deputy Mayor Enis Ragland who might just be
the longest serving mayoral aide in the history of Madison and Nancy Saiz, a former social worker and now a grants administrator. The tour
ended with the students meeting some police officers and firefighters of color. While this tour didn’t have any bells and whistles, it held my
students attention as they learned about the pioneering work that these civil servants have done. I don’t think they ever learned about civic
engagement like that before, learning from some good people who have dedicated their lives to public service.
The PEOPLE Program ended with a three-week celebration, which is depicted in this issue’s center spread. It is a pleasure to be involved in a
program that is helping our leaders of tomorrow learn what they are interested in and what they are passionate about. Their talents and skills
readily apparent as they strut their stuff before family, peers and supporters.
During this period, summertime is also about Juneteenth Day. I have been the treasurer for Kujichagulia – MCSD, the organization that puts on
Juneteenth, for the past 10-11 years. Since Mona Adams Winston, who co-founded Madison’s Juneteenth Day celebration with Annie
Weatherby-Flowers, retired and moved to Mississippi, I have had to step up my involvement somewhat to help out Annie who carries most of
It was Juneteenth’s 150th anniversary this year and so the Madison committee wanted to do something different. This year’s celebration was
held in Olin-Turville Park. From what I have heard and read on Facebook, people liked the new location. It is very picturesque with a beautiful
view of Lake Monona and the skyline of downtown Madison. We had a steady stream of people come through during the afternoon and despite
a rain shower, most of our food vendors sold out. It was indeed a beautiful festival to enjoy some great soul food, gaze out over the lake and
listen to music being cooked up by Rick Flowers, Hanah Jon Taylor and other musicians who live in Madison, as well as guest artist Marquis
Hunt from Little Rock, Arkansas. Putting on Juneteenth is a pretty intense time and not one where the organizers can pause to enjoy the
Just as the PEOPLE Program ends around the July 4th weekend, there are always other things to attend to. La Fete de Marquette kicks into
high gear July 9-12th. La Fete is Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center’s biggest fundraiser, but hardly its only one. La Fete has evolved into a
fullfledged music festival in Central Park with three music venues, a Ferris wheel and plenty of arts booths to occupy one’s attention for an
The music ranges from local to internationally-acclaimed acts, with many of them hailing from New Orleans and southern Louisiana. Boy, were
these bands cooking. While I had to work the event as Wil-Mar’s accountant, I couldn’t help but dance to the music as I fulfilled my duties.
And the food being served up by folks like Lao Laan Xaan was terrific. For those in attendance, summertime sure is easy. But lest one think
that the rest of the summer is easy, Dane Dances and Africa Fest are coming up. Dane Dances has three new bands performing this year
including Kin Folk whom many of you have enjoyed for years. And Africa Fest moves to Central Park on August 15th and will feature the
internationally renown African group Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba.
Summertime is just heating up. Enjoy!