600 People Attend Madison Town Hall Meeting on Race

By Stan Friedman

MADISON, WI (February 17, 2014) — The multiracial crowd of nearly 600 people who turned out in below freezing temperatures to attend the “Justified Anger: State of Emergency” town hall meeting Saturday was evidence that change is possible, said Pastor Alex Gee. The meeting was held at Fountain of Life Covenant Church to address breaking down racial divides in the community.

Gee said he understood if people were skeptical. “Let me tell you what’s different. You. Me. All getting together. We’ve had these talks, we’ve had these gatherings but not like this.”

Gee said he was amazed that so many people attended the meeting, especially on a cold Saturday afternoon. Some had to park a quarter mile away and then walk to the church.

CovChurch.tv webcast the event live, and a recording can be viewed here.

Gee hosted the gathering as a follow-up to a 3,000-word opinion piece titled “Justified Anger” that he wrote for the Capital Times. It ran as a cover story on December 18.

The column sparked broad discussion, and Gee recounted some of the reaction, including at his daughter’s school. “My daughter’s teachers applauded when she walked in the room, and her white classmates said, ‘When is your dad going to organize students?’”

The outpouring of positive response led Gee to create a Facebook site of the same name. He posted on the site this morning that “(the meeting) was one of the most powerful sights that I’ve witnessed in a long time.”

He referenced the Covenant’s Sankofa journey toward racial righteousness, which he participated in two weeks ago. On the trip he toured historic sites of the civil rights movement, including the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Montgomery, Alabama. Gee noted that people of every racial group walked arm-in-arm across the bridge in 1965 to push for voting rights for blacks. At the time, only 1 percent of voters in Alabama were black because whites had prevented their participation in the democratic process.

“When you look back in time, this is going to be one of those Pettus Bridge moments,” Gee said.

He emphasized the importance of giving blacks greater voice in discussion of issues that impact Madison, but added that everyone participates in moving the city forward. He noted that the racial issues also had lessened opportunities for the Latino community.

He announced that he is creating a coalition that would focus on three areas: employment, mass incarceration, and education.

After Gee spoke, several audience members were given opportunity to comment. Attendees then filled out cards identifying how they would participate in advancing the process.

To read a longer story on the event, click here.

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