by Jonathan Gramling
Many times, we may think that we have busted down the door of opportunity for ourselves, failing to see the person on the other side who opened the door for us at
the moment we were ready to enter through that next passageway in our lives. Now it was important that we put our shoulder down to bust through that door
because it wouldn’t happen if we don’t. It’s just important to remember that there are other forces and people in play that helped make that door of opportunity open
at the moment that you needed it to open.
It’s also important to be humble in life because who we become is sometimes as much to do with quirks of fate as it does with our own efforts to achieve. As we
try, try and try again, we put ourselves in the position to take advantage of those quirks in life. But it is always important to remember that “By the grace of God, go
I.” There isn’t all that much different between the rich person and the poor person in the context of the vastness of the universe. Each of us spends a finite time on
this earth regardless of our status in life and are loved by the Creator equally. We are not better than other people. We merely hold a position within the scheme of
things and the functioning of everyday life that becomes meaningless when we pass on to the next phase of our existence.
These are just some of the things that I try to live by and that have helped me publish The Capital City Hues since March 2006 on a biweekly basis. This is the 350th
issue of The Hues. It wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t adhered to the principles and values that I listed above.
I remember one of my financial partners once saying that he was surprised that the paper has lasted as long as it has. I appreciated and welcomed his candor. It
was nothing personal. At various points, I shared his skepticism, especially in the beginning as the bottom fell out of print advertising and the Great Recession
began devastating businesses large and small. Even when destructive things were happening far and wide, we stayed focused on what we were doing and
believed in it.
There have been times when we could have “gone for the gold” and I’m not talking about the Olympics. There were times when we were urged to give up print and
go to social media. But, in my opinion, that would have gone against what our purpose was, to help the Madison area become more cosmopolitan. It gives me
pleasure to run around every two weeks — especially during pleasant summer weather — to deliver the latest Hues to over 100 outlets in the greater Madison area.
In many places, we are the only publication or graphic that features people of color. In many ways, we are a marquee that changes every two weeks that flashes,
‘Yes you belong’ as people go about doing their grocery shopping or going to the library. Children can “see” themselves in the places of community life in the
Madison area. It’s a side benefit that keeps on giving.
We kept true to our values and the reasons we established The Capital City Hues, to assist the Madison area, in our own humble way, to become a cosmopolitan
metropolis where everyone could work, live and play unencumbered by racism and the attitudes of others. That was the “profit” that we produced. When we saw
people moving on in life and achieving great things, that was our payoff.
And I say we, in terms of The Hues, because I have 10 partners and The Hues — and I — would not be here today if it weren’t for their sense of social
entrepreneurism. The Hues has been a business where we made money in order to produce a quality newspaper. We weren’t producing a newspaper to squeeze as
much money as we could out of advertisers and others. It was important that we followed solid business and financial practices — we’ve managed to have a
modest profit — because if you are going to be a strong newspaper or business, then you have to stay in the black in order to have some control over your destiny.
In order to publish a credible newspaper that dealt with racial issues, it was important that we controlled our destiny and not over rely on the kindness of strangers,
which can sometimes force you to compromise your values and what the newspaper is all about.
Even within the context of the 11 partners — including me — we couldn’t have published 350 copies of the paper without the support of the community. Sometimes
when I am out delivering newspapers, I run into people who say ‘Thank you because it impacted my life.’ In some cases, they began to do something with their lives
because they were inspired by someone’s example whom they read about in the paper. That has been the payoff for me. The Capital City Hues exists because the
community needed it to exist.
It has been important for us to understand and appreciate the role that we play within our communities of color and the broader community. It’s not about us. It’s
about the community and it has always been important for us to keep the spotlight on the community and not ourselves. And as long as we played within this role,
we were being what we needed to be and the community has embraced it. It is a role that I pray we always stay true to and cherish.
Given traditional business standards, I don’t know if you could call The Hues a successful business. We haven’t grown much or created a lot of jobs. We haven’t
expanded to every community in the state and the country. We still print as many newspapers as we did 12 years ago, nothing more and nothing less.
And yet, our presence has touched the lives of many individuals and they, in turn, have touched the lives of others. And so we have impacted many communities.
That impact can’t be visualized as a company per se, but the impact is there nonetheless. There is nothing more gratifying than living up to your purpose in life.
I have rambled on a bit, but I hope that you, dear reader, can glean something out of this that will aid you as you traverse this world.
And I hope it inspires our students to live up to and beyond their potential and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t and don’t let them turn you around. The Capital
City Hues is here, 350 issues later, to tell you that you can. Go for it!
I think there is a verse from the Bible that admonishes people to not listen to the news of distant wars or earthquakes, but stay
focused in what you need to do in life. I have always believed in that.
Believe in what your goal is, stay focused on what you need to do and do it as well as you can to the best of your ability and let
everything else take care of itself.
To the extent humanly possible in this sometimes wicked world, stay true to yourself and what you believe in for at the end of the
day —and at the end of your life — these are things that will help you recognize who you are and allow you to be at peace with
yourself. No amount of money or exalted position can give you this sense of who you are, which doesn’t mean you shouldn’t
strive for excellence and all that it offers. Just don’t trade your soul to the devil in exchange for worldly gain.
Always remember that you didn’t get to where you are in this world on your own. Only the self-centered and people totally
focused on their own lives fail to see the helping hands that have been there to boost them up at each phase of their lives. Even
the “self-made man” has been reliant on the efforts of others to get where they are.