Vol. 3    No. 26
December 25, 2008
  2008 has had a kind of schizoid feel to it, a year that has taken us high and taken us low. It’s easy to pick out the
high. Senator Barack Obama came out of nowhere about a year ago as the underdog, only to become the top
dog on November 4. His election still has a lot of people I know floating on Cloud Nine. There is almost a surreal
quality to it. While an African American who was the brightest and the best has finally ascended to the highest
office of the land — a symbol of America’s promise that would probably not occur in most nations of the world —
there is still the misery that existed on November 3, the day before he was elected. There are still the high
incarceration rates for African American men, the high drop-out rates and achievement gap for African American
students and so on.
  The reality did not change from one day to the other after Barack Obama was elected — although many people’
s interpretations of that reality might have changed. But what has happened is the “Audacity of Hope.” Depression,
cynicism and hopelessness have been replaced with a notion that maybe things can get better. So although the
GM plant in Janesville — and tons of other plants across the country — is closing, throwing hundreds out of work
and negatively affecting the employment of hundreds in other, closely-linked industries, I don’t sense the same
level of despair that I sensed in 1982 when Reagan’s revolution threw a lot of people out of work. There is that
sense of hope. And where there is hope lays the possibility of solutions. That is the biggest high point of 2008, the
hopefulness of people, especially African American people.
  I am sure there are many other high points for 2008 — people getting married and having children and getting
promotions and the like. There are always positive things going on, even during the worst of times.
But 2008 has been the pits for too many people. With some exceptions, 2008 has been horrible for non-profits. I
remember back in the late 1980s when non-profits were urged to invest in endowment funds that invested in
stocks. These were going to lead to the economic stability of the non-profits as they reaped regular dividends and
interest from their portfolios. But since September, they have witnessed their nest eggs decline at a rapid rate. And
surely, their revenues from these sources — especially with the Federal prime rate less than one percent — will
also experience a steep decline. At a time when their services are needed the most — in a time of recession or
depression — will non-profits be strapped financially? And although United Way raised a record amount of funds
in 2008, it will benefit only those agencies that fit into their overall vision and design. Others will be moved ever
so slightly out in the cold to fend for themselves.
  Madison will remain unaffected by the current economic freefall. At first glance, Madison’s unemployment rate
of 3.9 percent looks pretty good, especially when it is compared to the national rate of 6.7 percent. But this is still
one percent above Madison’s traditional rate of 2.9 percent. And even more frightening is the fact that it rose from
3.5 to 3.9 percent in just one month. By my rough calculation, that’s several hundred Madisonians who lost their
jobs in November. And the domino effect of the GM plant closing in Janesville hasn’t even begun to impact us.
There were a lot of Madisonians who worked at that plant. I feel for them because there aren’t exactly a whole lot
of other plants who need their skills with the “Help Wanted” sign out front.
  Many people would probably see the rapid decline in the price of oil and gasoline as a positive for 2008. And in
many ways it is. But the downside is that people might have short memories and forget the high prices we were
paying in July. I hope the search for alternative fuels doesn’t slacken because we can fill up our vehicles kind of
cheaply these days. I drive around the city a lot distributing papers and covering stories. But the socially
responsible part of me almost hopes that state government increases the gas tax to spur conservation and then
plug that money into mass transit and transportation infrastructure development so that when the days of high oil
prices return — low prices are just a blip in the overall trend — we will be better prepared with alternative fuels
and efficient modes of transportation and be nice to our environment to boot.
  The close of 2008 has really brought on some scary times for many of us. There is a lot of trouble and sacrifices
on the horizon. When it is all over, our lives will not be the same. I just hope that the best thing that happened in
2008 — the election of Barack Obama — can combat some of the worst things that happened in 2008.
  While I want to say that 2009 has to be better than 2008, it most certainly can be worse. It is up to all of us to
make it happen for the better. It won’t happen with us just sitting there watching the world go by.
  I wish all of you a wonderful and prosperous 2009. We must have the “Audacity of Hope.” And we must make it
happen.
Reflections/Jonathan Gramling
                  A year of extremes

Stories & Columns

MJCC executive director Steven
Morrison talks of Hanukkah: A
holiday for the children,
by Jonathan Gramling

Rev. Gregory Armstrong of SS
Morrris AME Church: Christmas
past and present (Part 2),
by Jonathan Gramling

The transition moves forward,
by Paul Barrows

Simple Things/Best days: Oakhill
Correctional Institution,
by Lang Kenneth Haynes

Luna Negra at Con Safos: Cultural
exchange,
by Jonathan Gramling

Latin Music Festival in Benefit for
Caribbean Hurricane Victims at the
Majestic Theater Modifying the
impact of storms of destruction,
by Jonathan Gramling

Marshall High School teacher
employs special bilingual
education:
Hope and tough love,
by  Jonathan Gtamling

Poetic Tongues/Reflecting on
Christmas and Kwanzaa,
by Madison Poet Laureate Fabu

Santa Claus and Capitol City Lodge
#2 make Christmas bright/
Festive smiles all around,
by Jonathan Gramling

Soul Santa and Mrs. Claus visit
the Lussier Community Education
Center:
Grooving with the Spirit of
Christmas,
by Jonathan Gramling

China Dispatch: Starting over,
once more, in Hefei
by Andrew Gramling

YWCA’s Time to Talk at the
Catholic Multicultural Center:
Focusing on racial disparities in
criminal justice,
by Jonathan Gramling

Annual Neighborhood House
Auction/
Giving a lot of Christmas Cheer,
by Jonathan Gramling

********

Editorial Staff
Jonathan Gramling
Publisher & Editor

Heidi Manabat
Managing Editor

Clarita G. Mendoza
Sales Manager

Contributing Writers
Paul Barrows
Fabu Carter-Brisco
Andrew Gramling
Lang Kenneth Haynes
Heidi M. Pascual
Laura Salinger
Alfonso Zepeda Capistran
Martinez White

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