Credit:

Milele Chikasa Anana, , Umoja

When Milele Chikasa Anana traveled to Washington, D.C., in late August for the dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial on the National Mall, she brought two young writers with her to show them the ropes.

"I purposely wanted to open the door for them and give them a broader perspective," says Chikasa Anana, publisher of Umoja magazine.

Even when Hurricane Irene shut down most of the eastern seaboard, Chikasa Anana was determined to show her companions how to track down sources and take photographs. "We are going to find a story," she told them.

Being a bridge between generations is important to Chikasa Anana, 77, who has been publishing Umoja for 21 years. "I think I have a wealth of knowledge and experience that I really want to pass on to the younger generation and my community. I love my community and I love Madison."

That love of community motivated Chikasa Anana to launch Umoja, which means "unity" in Swahili.

"I thought of Umoja as a way of connecting people," says Chikasa Anana, a civil rights activist who once led Madison's Affirmative Action Office. "I wanted different parts of my community, principally the black community, to be able to learn from one another and applaud each other."

She says she had been frustrated for years by what she saw as a dearth of positive news about black people in local media outlets.

"I was just unhappy about the dominance of negative images about black people and the lack of recognition that we do good things," she says.

Umoja, whose tag line is "Bringing positive news to your doorstep," is unapologetically upbeat, celebrating professional achievements and personal milestones. The September 2011 issue includes the stories and photos from Washington, D.C., that Hedi Rudd and Jessica Strong collected under Chikasa Anana's watchful eye. There's also a 10-page spread of interviews with 11 local African American men, entitled "Men Leaders in the Village: Dependable, Determined, Driven."

"I'm trying to show another side of my people, and in doing so I think I've built a bridge in two ways," says Chikasa Anana. "I'm building a bridge to the black community because we're fragmented and don't all live in the same place. And I'm building a bridge to the white community - to let them know we're not just statistics, we're not just thugs, we're not just athletes."

- Judith Davidoff