The Rev. Alex Gee was ready for the naysayers. It's the support and offers to help that had him feeling overwhelmed.
Gee penned a first-person essay that ran as last week's Capital Times cover story on how the Madison area needs to do better by its African-American community, with personal stories of how he said he has been a victim of racial profiling.
Since that story appeared in print and in a heavily-shared item on the web, Gee said he has been flooded with Facebook friend requests.
"By and large what I'm seeing are white teachers, attorneys, business leaders, concerned residents, moms," he said. "And they're just saying, 'I don't want to think that this is happening in my community. I'm sorry that these things have happened to you. What can I do to help?'"
The natural follow-up question: What can those who reached out to Gee, those concerned with the issues facing the African-American community, do next?
The answer, Gee said, is not in running right to the solution phase. Identifying issues does not immediately solve them, he said.
Gee wants to connect with community leaders to start setting goals, but he also said the things that need solutions in the African-American community — high incarceration and school dropout rates and racial profiling among them — need reasoned, thoughtful discussions.
"I think part of the next step is taking the next few days to think through it," Gee said. "Read the article again. Comment. Respond."
Gee created a Facebook page, using the story's headline "Justified Anger," to help keep the discussion and recommendations going.
In his sermon next Sunday morning at Fountain of Life Church, Gee is planning to tie the Christmas season to efforts to empower the disenfranchised.
And he's hoping the dialogue will help him get his foot in the door with area leaders. He got a call from County Executive Joe Parisi on Wednesday, the same day the article appeared, with an offer to talk on how to work together.
"I'm committed to the process," Gee said. "And it's not my process. I speak on behalf of a lot of disenfranchised people. And I'm speaking to a lot of people who want to be part of the solution. It's a long line of discussions.
"I want to get folks who are in political power and folks who are disenfranchised in the same room. Foundations and funding organizations, I want to get them together with minority community leaders and say, 'Let me let you hear from this group (on) what they see as a pressing need.'"
In the cover story, Gee wrote about his emotions after being told he didn't come off as "some angry black man." He is angry, he wrote, and fed up that Madison hasn't addressed critical issues facing the African-American community.
The reaction to the essay, he said, has been illuminating.
"I'm feeling the passion behind the topic," Gee said. "And I feel that people's response is saying, OK, we might have been negligent in responding but we won't do that now. I feel like there's this readiness for the next step, for the discussions, for the call to action."