An event the weekend before Martin Luther King, Jr. Day will focus on the activist's "Letter from Birmingham Jail."
Percy Brown, Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District director of equity and student achievement, is leading a conversation at the Middleton High School Performing Arts Center, 2100 Bristol St., on Saturday for the second annual "MLK Forum for Social Action." The event begins at 2 p.m. and is expected to last about 90 minutes, “as long as I don’t stay on my soapbox too long," Brown joked.
Sponsored by the Dane County Equity Consortium, Critical Consciousness and Madison365, the event will feature Dane County Judge Everett Mitchell as the emcee, Marlon Anderson as a speaker and performer and Noah Anderson as a performer. Brown's fraternity, Omega Psi Phi, will also perform a step routine.
"I think there will be a powerful message along with an opportunity for folks to be informed, reflective, inspired but also entertained," Brown said.
Marlon Anderson, the West High School security guard who was fired and eventually reinstated following his use of the N word in telling a student not to use the word, will “share his reflection on how the community wrapped around him to support him when that happened," Brown said.
"It wasn’t just folks in the black community," Brown said. "(We'll) think about how we can really embrace his experience and take that to address some of the structural and institutional racism that still exists in the community.”
He will also perform some spoken word and hip-hop, as will his son Noah, a senior at West and the president of the Black Student Union that led the protests following Marlon's firing.
Brown said King's letter was focused on how white Americans who were not "overt" about their racism were becoming a bigger challenge than groups like the Ku Klux Klan.
“He talked about this evolution and this thinking that in terms of white Americans and the issue of racism for him was no longer about battling the Ku Klux Klan or your overt racist, but looking at your progressive or moderate white American and their lack of action or inaction to really push and move toward racial justice," Brown said. “I want to bring that into the space here.”
He said it's especially important to have that conversation in a place like Madison and Dane County, which often shows up on lists as among the best to live while at the same time having data that shows it's among the worst places for black people in the United States.
"We are a community that prides itself on being progressive and forward-thinking, but when you look at some of the data or the statistics for black Wisconsinites, it tells a different story," Brown said. “For Madison, Wisconsin, to be ranked the best city to live in or to raise a family by WalletHub just doesn’t speak to every part of the Madison community, but primarily when we look at the outcomes and the statistics for black folks that live in Madison.”
The free event is open to "anyone who is concerned about the well-being of Madison, the greater Madison community and Dane County," Brown said.