Vol. 6    No. 22
November 3, 2011

The Capital City Hues
(608) 241-2000
gramling@capitalcityhues.com


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The Capital City Hues
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Madison, WI 53725
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EDITORIAL STAFF

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,  & Martinez White
Reflections/Jonathan Gramling
                     Tenia Jenkins & DBE Millions
It was indeed a sad day to learn that Tenia Jenkins Powell had died last week. Tenia had been an icon
of civil rights and a fierce advocate for African American students for over a quarter century.
I first learned of Tenia when I joined the Madison Urban League staff in 1982. She was an
uncompromising advocate. Whether one agreed with her or not, one always knew where Tenia stood on
an issue. I know that there was a succession of school superintendents who felt the sting of Tenia’s
tongue when Tenia disagreed with their policies or actions. She was outspoken at school board
meetings or pretty much any forum where the academic achievement gap of African American students
was discussed. She didn’t suffer fools or apologists lightly. She always became incensed when African
American parents and students received the lion’s share of responsibility for their predicament. She
kept the school district’s and many fellow teachers’ feet to the fire in holding them responsible as well.
I had done several articles on Tenia’s work through the years, whether it was on her Shabazz High
School class trips to Mississippi and African American male-focused classes. As I observed her
classes and her interaction with her students, it was readily apparent that Tenia had a deep belief in her
students and cared for them deeply. And her students reciprocated.

After Tenia retired from the school district, she began teaching a pilot class that focused on African
American males and introduced them to mentors who attended a class with students that focused on
African American history and culture. Most of the students in the class were academically adrift and
were fighting many of the negative influences and perceptions that African American men are exposed
to on a daily basis.
Her class created a maelstrom within the district as its constitutionality was questioned i.e. it was
segregating African American males. A study by the late civil rights lawyer, Percy Julian, Jr. concluded
that it was unconstitutional. Tenia’s class was indefinitely cancelled.

Yet Tenia was undeterred. She enlisted the help of her church, S.S. Morris AME Church and Dane
County United to continue her crusade to create a curriculum for African American students that is
culturally relevant and competent. When Dan Nerad replaced Art Rainwater as superintendent of the
Madison public schools, the district began to incorporate some of Tenia’s ideas in the work of Andreal
Davis who had been honing some of her own ideas through years of work with the African American
Ethnic Academy. It was Tenia’s fierce fight that made it possible for Andreal Davis’ efforts to gain real
traction within Madison’s public schools.

Whenever I ran into Tenia at S.S. Morris AME Church as she volunteered for the church’s Bethlehem
Bazaar Christmas event or at some other community function, Tenia was always cordial and had a
warm smile. I am glad that I was on Tenia’s good side. I know it would not be pleasant to be on her bad
side, especially if I were responsible for some part of academic policy.

Tenia was one of those people who helped give clarity to the world with her clear and outspoken
positions. She helped define a generation of efforts to narrow the academic achievement gap for
African American students. And her spirit will live on through the efforts of Andreal Davis and others.
Tenia, you paid a price for all of us. Thank you!
***
There are major projects starting up in the Dane County area that could possibly result in $1 billion of
spending. Now $1 billion is still a lot of money to me. These projects could create hundreds of living-
wage-plus jobs and provide enough work for DBE firms to last them close to a decade of work.

Starting in 2013, the Wis. Dept. of Transportation will be initiating two major construction projects: The
reconstruction of the Verona Road-Beltline interchange and widening Verona Road with limited access
past Hwy. PD. This project will cost upwards of $195 million. Starting in 2014, a WisDOT project will
start the widening of I-30/I-90 from the Beltline to the Illinois state line. That project could cost $218
million for the Dane County portion alone and upwards to $800 million for the entire project.

Now is the time for people of color especially to consider taking up careers in the Building Trades,
either as skilled trades people or as laborers. It is also time for people within Madison’s communities
of color to strengthen or expand their existing MBEs or WBEs or going into business with other people
of color to establish new DBEs that could compete for contracts and subcontracts on these projects.
People have basically 1-2 years to get the training or to form/expand the businesses before these
projects begin. These projects could go a long ways toward strengthening the NBE community in the
Madison area. But people need to start now.

WisDOT has established the Dane County Stakeholder Committee to give advice to WisDOT on the
project and to help DBEs become meaningfully involved. We will keep people appraised as the project
unfolds. But the time for planning and preparing is now!