I was on a short vacation with elders from Orange Mound Community Center to South Dakota and read the
sorrowful news of Mrs. Addrena Squires’ death at 91. I hadn’t seen “Supergram” for a number of years, but
I can never forget her and her impact in our community. She worked hard for many causes and volunteered
on many committees.
My favorite “Supergram” story is when I served on a Faith-in-Action committee with her in my 30’s. I walked
into the room feeling worn out from the demands of single parent life. Supergram breezed in with a hat to
one side, a split in her skirt and the top of her lace stockings showing when she sat down. I thought, “I am
a young woman and I am not moving through life with that kind of “pizzazz. I need to get myself together!” It
was an honor to remember her at her memorial service and to see her daughters Mona and Pamela who
have carried on their mother’s tradition of love and service.
I also read about the resignation of Madison Police Chief Mike Koval’s immediate retirement and all the
speculation for his decision. I met Chief Koval at various community events and he didn’t know me
personally, nor should he have. He always spoke and was courteous. When he became police chief, I
remember thinking that it could be good that the chief had worked his way up through the police ranks.
Everyone can agree that he cared about police officers and his department. He spent the majority of his five
years in office advocating for them, and trying to get the public to understand the difficulties of their work. I
believe he succeeded at both. I was very disappointed that he didn’t seem to equally understand the
difficulties of being a person of color in Madison and the difficulties that stemmed from all of the racial
inequities, including those at the hands of the police.
The handling of the Tony Robinson case is one example, including the chief’s protection and excuses for
Office Matthew Kenny in subsequent years, of something to never forget. Koval seemed determined to
make the public believe Kenny was justified in breaking police protocol and killing Robinson. Koval kept
him on as a police trainer, attempted to place him in the South Madison Police District office and
continuously tried to return Kenny as a patrol officer back into the community. I was waiting for the next time
I met the chief alone in the community so I could share my disappointment in his lack of understanding the
African American community. Now Mike Koval is a private citizen who is on a “forever” vacation with his
wife, and he should be left in peace. The good that he accomplished is appreciated. The things that went
wrong are now relegated to the past. Madison looks forward to recruiting a new police chief who will better
balance the needs of police officers with the needs of the community.
On Tuesday, October 15, I had the rare opportunity to write a resolution commemorating the 400 years of
20 unknown and unnamed Africans arriving in Virginia. It is not often that a writer gets to speak words in
love and honor of her ancestors. I appreciate Alderperson Barbara Harrington-McKinney inviting me to
compose the resolution and Alderperson Sherri Carter organizing the effort with others on the mayor’s
staff. I wept when I thought of those 20 people who survived to create a legacy of courage in Wisconsin and
throughout the U.S. Our ancestors would be pleased with the life of Addrena Squires as she now joins
them. Perhaps they wept too over the death of a young Tony Robinson and so many other young people.
Even now, our ancestors might be shaking their heads in dismay as our community grapples with the
firing of West Security Guard Marlon Anderson and the use of the ”n” word. I am grateful for a short
vacation with African American elders from Memphis and the chance to be quiet, happy and reflective while
away from Madison.