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Jonathan Gramling
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Vol. 10   No. 7
APRIL 2, 2015
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UNIQUE HITS
Reflections/Jonathan Gramling
                          Voting and Non-Violence
A New Day of Leadership
Dr. Ruben Anthony Jr. Is the New CEO
of the Urban League
The Bear Clan Singers & Dancers at West High
UW Center for the
Humanities’ Confessions
in Wisconsin
As I write this column in the early hours of April 3, I am reminded that tomorrow, Saturday, is the 47th
anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the balcony outside his room at the Lorraine
Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee. I remember how difficult and ironic those days were. They were difficult
because one of the greatest American leaders of the 20th century had been murdered, a murder that took the
wind out of the sails of the civil rights movement. It was an American tragedy that caused pain everywhere.

The response to Dr. King’s death was also ironic. In almost every speech that he gave, Dr. King preached
non-violence. The marches and actions that he participated in were successful because they were non-
violent, be they the Montgomery Bus Boycott or the Selma March. Non-violence was the only way to get the
“enemy” of civil rights to recognize the humanity of the one protesting to see the righteousness of their
cause. It was non-violence that dismantled the legal apparatus of Jim Crow in the Southern states.

And so it was quite ironic that the response of some to Dr. King’s death was rioting and looting. The inner-
cities of many of America’s urban areas went up in smoke that day along with the momentum of the civil
rights movement.

Whenever there has been violence based on race, it is always African Americans and the African American
community that suffer most. Not only does violence stop the African American community from moving
forward, but in many instances, it pushes the community backwards. Now there might be some person who
feels empowered by violence. But any sense of empowerment that person feels comes at the expense of the
African American community as a whole. In the end, violence is a selfish act that harms people on so many
levels.

It has been reported that the Wis. Department of Justice will be submitting its report on the officer-involved
shooting of Tony Robinson to the Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne. Although there might be leaks
to the press by people involved with the process, it is my understanding that the report will not be made
public.

It is also my understanding that there will be no decision today or in the near future on what to do with the
DOJ report. DOJ investigated the shooting to establish the who, what, when, where and how. It will be up to
the DA’s Office to analyze that report, compare it to the laws of Dane County and Wisconsin and make a
judgment on whether or not there is probable cause to believe that a crime was committed when the
shooting occurred. I do not believe that there will be a rush to judgment on the part of DA Ozanne. Before DA
Ozanne makes his judgment, everything else is mere speculation.

So it is important for everyone to stay cool and non-violent and not rush to judgment themselves. As a
community — police and citizens alike — we must believe in non-violence. We must also believe that
Madison cannot go on with a “business as usual” frame of mind. Tony Robinson’s death is a symptom of
much larger community problems. These are problems that all of us must be involved in creating the
solutions for.

One problem that existed in Ferguson, Missouri was that too many of the members of the African American
community did not vote and participate in community decision-making. The result was no elected African
Americans in a municipality that was majority African American and very few African Americans
represented in the city bureaucracy and police force.

And quite frankly, this problem exists in Madison too. Historically African Americans and other people of
color have voted in low numbers. Low vote totals in South Madison would indicate to a cold-hearted
politician that he or she does not have to pay attention to that area and the needs of its residents. African
Americans and other people of color have to represent.

This is the year that we commemorate the Selma March and passage of the Voting Rights Act. People died
for the right to vote and there is a reason why. They wanted control of their destinies and the policies made
on their behalf.

On Tuesday April 7, honor history and make your opinion matter. VOTE! Vote as if your life depended on it
because it most certainly does.