Mayor-elect Satya Rhodes-Conway did her campaign work solidly by contacting folks and organizations in Madison. Leaders in the African-American community told me she visited them personally.
On a brochure from an independent group supporting her that was delivered to my home, though, there was a white dog wearing glasses with the blurb, “It’s time for a fresh perspective in Madison” and on the back the promise: Satya Rhodes-Conway “will fight for the things that really matter.” The other photographs were of her with a woman and with a man. All were European-American, i.e., white folks. Rhodes-Conway's electronic campaign literature showed only whites too. I wondered why there was not even one photo of a person of color and if these photographs reflected the voters she thought important.
Rhodes-Conway has the next four years to show all Madisonians what is in her heart and her political vision. We give her the same opportunity to fight for things that really matter as we have given previous Madison mayors. One issue is that what really matters depends on race and class.
South Madison has the honor of being Madison's most racially inclusive neighborhood. It is a wonderful walking community where all are welcomed and celebrated. Yet South Madison often finds itself at the tail end of services, including now being at risk of becoming both a “food desert” and a “cultural arts desert.”
South Madison has an undeserved negative reputation — and I hope not because it is the most diverse neighborhood in Madison. Crime statistics from a 2017 report prove that South Madison is safer than other sections of the city.
Many Madisonians early on argued for the first Madison Public Market to be located in South Madison. This well-traveled space, a corridor to UW-Madison, is a perfect venue for year-round, fresh food and interesting businesses. A market would also showcase the neighborhood's safety and beauty.
After years of studies and controversy over the public market's location, the City Council approved approximately $13 million in the 2019 capital budget for a market — but it will all go to a public market on Madison's east side, where there are already several grocery stores and farmers' markets.
There has been talk about South Madison being the second site for a public market if this first one proves successful, but the “ifs” and delays of this first public market are daunting.
Added to the public market injustice is that Pick 'n Save on Park Street will be closing. SSM Health plans to purchase the land for a health facility and there is talk that the city might put a grocery store on city-owned land nearby, but no time soon. Thankfully there are small groceries up and down Park Street for specific ethnic foods, but South Madison, with a large percentage of seniors and families, needs a local grocery store with a variety of products. The Park Street Pick 'n Save has fewer varied and fresh products than the store's other locations, but at least it is conveniently located.
Once again, South Madison finds itself uncared for and unloved. When you look at disparities in every area of life, for African-Americans in particular and people of color generally, access to healthy, nutritious foods ranks high. We are forced to trade a health facility for a food facility, which doesn’t make good sense when people have to eat to live. South Madison Ald. Sheri Carter is working on these issues, and I hope she gets help from the new mayor. Food really matters and we want a fresh perspective on South Madison.
Fabu, Madison’s former poet laureate, is a consultant in African-American culture and arts. She writes a monthly column for The Capital Times.
This column has been corrected to note that a brochure supporting Satya Rhodes-Conway was produced by an independent group, not by the candidate's campaign.
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