Gloria Ladson-Billings is a professor, writer, and professional developer in urban education with interests in critical race theory, culturally relevant pedagogy, and the power of the black religious experience. She currently holds the Kellner Family Chair in Urban Education at the University of Wisconsin. Recently, she has been exploring hip hop and education as culturally relevant pedagogical strategy. In other words, she’s working to transform inner-city education and education of minority students nationwide.
Ladson-Billings was recently elected president of the National Academy of Education. She’s also a Hilldale Award Winner, Distinguished Service Award Winner, Teachers College Columbia, George and Louise Spindler Award Winner and much more. She is also a lifelong Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority member and current president of the Kappa Psi Omega chapter where she dedicates herself to serving the Madison-area community through educational enrichment, health promotion, family strengthening and more.
Nigel Hayes is one of the best — and best-known — college basketball players in the United States, but more important, a real giver in this community and a powerful voice in what The New York Times calls “college basketball’s most political locker room.” The UW forward was named the preseason Player of the Year in the Big Ten conference, but has really made a name for himself outside basketball by speaking out on racial justice issues through social media. He’s also a dedicated volunteer at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Dane County, where he helps mentor and inspire young people, as well as raising money for the club, often without any fanfare or press coverage.
A group of Madison’s black community activists including Kaleem Caire (One City Early Learning), Milele Chikasa (Umoja), Dr. Ruben Anthony (Urban League of Greater Madison), and Greg Jones (Dane County NAACP) has recently come together, naming themselves The Black Leadership Council, to deal with the pressing issues impacting the black community here. This group has been involved in one way or another in all major racial conflicts in Madison this past year. They were at the forefront of trying to keep the peace when the young man Tony Robinson was killed by police officer Matt Kenny. They were involved when 18-year-old Genele Laird was beaten by police; in fact, numerous members helped file two complaints with the US Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin against the Madison Police Department over the excessive force used against Genele.
M Adams’s work often lands her in nationwide strategy sessions on how community leaders should respond to racial injustice. She is the co-executive director of Freedom, Inc., a local nonprofit that works with low-income communities of color. She is also a co-founder and key member of Young, Black and Gifted. Earlier this summer, she was part of the central planning for the platform for a coalition affiliated with the Black Lives Matter movement that released its first policy platform designed to promote concrete, real-world solutions to racial and economic inequality
Adams is also known internationally; she was a U.S. Delegate to the United Nations’ 2014 Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, held in Geneva, Switzerland. Nationally, Adams was part of the first delegation to the White House for the LGBT Leaders of Color Summit.
Wesley Sparkman is director of the new Tamara Grigsby Office for Diversity and Inclusion for Dane County, and he represents the community on the influential Madison Police and Fire Commission. That commission is the one that keeps the Madison Police accountable to the community. The County has committed to taking racial inequity head on, and called on Sparkman to lead the charge. Wes is known for his humility and letting his work speak for him.The Chicago native came to Madison to attend UW in 1991, where he got a bachelor’s and master’s degree. Sparkman is a past member of the Board of SSM Health Care of Wisconsin, the Board of Directors for the Madison Children’s Museum, African American Ethnic Academy, and Access to Independence. He has been recognized by the Department of Workforce Development and the Dane County Private Industry Council.