Vol. 6    No. 8
APRIL 21, 2011

The Capital City Hues
(608) 241-2000

Subscription Information:
The Capital City Hues
PO Box 259712
Madison, WI 53725
($45 a year)
Contact Number:
(608) 241-2000
Advertising: Claire G. Mendoza


Jonathan Gramling
Publisher & Editor

Clarita G. Mendoza
Sales Manager

Contributing Writers
Rita Adair, Ike Anyanike, Paul
Barrows, Alfonso Zepeda
Capistran, Theola Carter, Fabu,
Andrew Gramling, Lang
Kenneth Haynes, Eileen Cecille
Hocker, Heidi Pascual, Jessica
Pharm, Laura Salinger, Jessica
Strong, & Martinez White

Heidi @
I had the privilege of attending several sessions of the UW-Madison Afro-American Studies
Department’s 40th anniversary. Beginning with a reception on April 15th, former and present Afro-
Am Studies professors, students and staffers reflected on the impact that the department has had
on their lives, the University of Wisconsin and the world beyond.

It became very evident throughout the symposium that Afro-Am Studies plays a vital role for the
university. It has given students an informed and thoughtful view of the African-American
community, both past and present, through the viewpoint of many academic disciplines including
English, communication arts and fine arts. It has also been an academic oasis for some African-
American students that has allowed them to reflect on their own lives and experiences and put
their lives and our society into perspective.

UW-Madison Afro-American Studies Department has impacted the lives of many UW students
through the years. I know because I am one of them.

During the beginning of the decade of the 70’s that I spent most of my time in higher education
pursuing my undergraduate degree — I was on the nine-year plan, you could say — I became
involved in civil rights issues. The genesis of that was winter and spring breaks spent going
down to Mississippi with Project Self-Help and Awareness working in Head Start centers or
installing running water or helping harvest crops in rural African American homes. At night, I was
enthralled with the stories that I heard from the elders of the civil rights struggles that occurred in
almost every hamlet and city in the South during the 1950s-1960s.

Race was then — and now — such an emotional issue. And I have to admit that I grew up in a
pretty homogenous village in the suburbs of Milwaukee. So I always wondered as I learned more
about race relations what exactly the truth of the matter was. During the 1974-1975 school year, I
took about 4-5 Afro-Am Studies courses, back when the department was only 3-4 years old. I took
courses from Professors Findley Campbell and Gerald Thomas.

They were incredible courses that continued my journey, so to speak, in trying to understand the
world around me from a racial point of view and begin to also see the impact that world had on
me. It ended up being a great foundation for me as through a friendship and coincidence, I ended
going to Alcorn State University — a Historically Black University — in Lorman, Mississippi from

Alcorn had a tremendous impact on my life for I was one of about five Euro-American students on
campus. It was a huge culture shock for me — going from an urban, Northern, Euro-American
community to a rural, Southern, Euro-American campus — and I thought I was going out of my
mind until I went to visit my future sister-in-law at the University of Alabama and met an African
American friend of hers. Akbar and I ended up partying together and traded stories about being a
minority on campus. Through a mirror reflection, I received affirmation on how I was feeling. And
then there were courses at Alcorn that shed more light on my experience from a socio-
psychological point of view. It was an experience and a sensitivity that I never lost over the next
35 years.

As I was talking to Dr. Freida High at the symposium, I related my experience in the department to
her as well as my experience at Alcorn. It became clear to me during the conversation that my
courses at Afro-Am Studies, in many ways, set me off on a chain of experiences in my life that led
to the place that I am now, the publisher & editor of The Capital City Hues. In a very real sense, if
there hadn’t been an Afro-Am Studies Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, it is
quite certain that The Capital City Hues would not exist.

And so, you have to do a kind of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ reflection on how would Madison and the
University of Wisconsin-Madison look if the Afro-Am Studies wasn’t established back in 1971.
Just from understanding the impact it had on the people attending the symposium, I know our
community would look a lot different and we would be worse off. I think race relations in this
community would be much worse because all of us would be walking around and interacting with
a lot more ignorance and a lot less understanding for the work of Afro-Am Studies does ripple out
into the university and the greater Madison community.

Thank you Afro-Am Studies for your enlightenment and positive impact on my life and the
community in which I live.
Reflections/Jonathan Gramling   
               Thanks Afro-Am Studies!