Friday, May 15, 2009

Coming May Events: Proud Theater Comes "Full Circle"; Perfect Harmony Chorus Celebrates Civil Rts; Colombia Support Network showcases human rights

Click to Listen to Archived Show

Please join us for the Sunday, May 17, 2009 show, when our special guests will be two youth leaders in Madison's Proud Theater troupe. Youth artistic director Dena Wessel and longtime member/graduating senior Olivia Wine join us to preview their upcoming Memorial Day weekend performances of "Proud Theater: Full Circle." The show title has double meaning in that the group is returning to the venue of its first major performance series, the March Play Circle, on the second floor of the UW-Madison's Memorial Union, 800 Langdon Street. Tickets are $10. Four shows are scheduled: three at 7:30pm on the evenings of of Thursday, Friday and Saturday (May 21-23), and a matinee at 2:30pm on Saturday. For further details, see below, or go to .

At the top of the show, we'll also be previewing two other important events coming to Madison later this month, presented by the Perfect Harmony Men's Chorus, and the Colombia Support Network.

Perfect Harmony Men's Chorus presents their
2009 Spring Concert, "Equal, Not Special," on Saturday, May 30th at 7pm at Mills Concert Hall, in the Humanities Building (corner of Park and University) on the UW-Madison campus. “Equal, Not Special” is a concert retrospective of the civil rights movements of the United States. These include the anti-slavery movement, the movement for women's suffrage, the King era 1960s movements for black civil rights, and the 40 years of LGBT rights efforts since the 1969 Stonewall Rebellion. Follow this link for full details, of this, and associated concerts, later this month. Tickets can be purchased from members, at the door, or by going to this link.

The Madison-based Colombia Support Network, which has chapters and members nationwide, is holding its annual conference in Madison during the last week of May. A highlight of the conference will be a special event, open to the public, “Hope and Fear: Scenes from the conflict in rural Colombia,” a joint presentation by Garry Leech and Steve Cagan. Garry Leech is the author of several books on Colombia, his latest one being the thrilling and fascinating Beyond Bogota. Steve Cagan is a renowned artist and scholar, who as a Fulbright Scholar spent a year taking photographs in the Choco region. Gary Leech will present on Friday, May 29 at 7:30pm at the UW's Pyle Center, 702 Langdon Street, and Steve Cagan on Saturday, May 30 at 7:30pm at Fair Trade Coffeehouse, 418 State Street. Call (608) 257-8753 for more info.

More About Proud Theater

Proud Theater is an award-winning, exciting and innovative youth theater program designed to foster self-expression and self-empowerment for Madison-area youth ages 13 to 19 who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer/questioning (LGBTQ), or who are the sons or daughters of LGBTQ parents, or allies of the LGBTQ community at large.

Founded in 1999 by Sol Kelley-Jones and Callen Harty, Proud Theater’s mission is to change the world in a positive way through the power of theater, theater arts and heart, art and activism. The teens of Proud Theater collaboratively create theatrical pieces and original music through improv, group discussion and guidance from Proud Theater Artistic Director Brian Wild and prominent adult members of the Madison community.
Proud Theater is currently a program of Outreach, Inc – Madison’s LGBTQ resource center. “Proud Theater: Full Circle’ is also sponsored in part by a generous grant from the New Harvest Foundation.

As with 2005’s critically acclaimed ‘Proud Theater: R Evolution’, 2007’s ‘Proud Theater: Plugged in’, and 2008’s ‘Proud Theater: Loud and Clear’, ‘Proud Theater: Full Circle’ tackles many of today’s issues that affect youth and does so with humor, heart and honesty. Sometimes outrageous, sometimes profound, the youth share their voices with the community in a no-holds barred and uncensored way. This year the youth look at personal acceptance, family issues, gender identity and much, much more!

‘Proud Theater: Full Circle runs May 21, 22 and 23, 2009 - 7:30 PM and a special matinee on May 23, 2:30 PM in the Fredric March Play Circle inside the University of Wisconsin Memorial Union, 800 Langdon Street in Madison, Wisconsin. Tickets go on sale May 1 at 11:30AM are 10 dollars each. They can be purchased by phone at (608) 265-2787, by clicking ‘buy tickets’ online at, or at one of the campus arts ticketing locations at 800 Langdon St or at 821 University Ave. Phone orders have a $2.50 per ticket and Online orders have a $3.50 per ticket convenience charge.

Doors for ‘Proud Theater: Full Circle’ will open at 7:00 PM for the evening performances and 2:00 PM for the Matinee performance.
For more info on the20show, contact Proud Theater at, or visit, or at

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Madison Nonprofit Affordable Housing Endangered While State Law Goes Unchanged

Pictured below: Activities now sponsored by the Vera Court Neighborhood Center, an offshoot of one of the affected housing projects, the Northpointe Apartment Complex. The center is home to community-building projects such as this carpentry workshop, and an empowerment project for neighborhood high school girls, with activities that include meal delivery for senior citizens.

Click to Listen to Archived Show

Please join us on Sunday, May 10th for a community conversation about a topic that will potentially negatively affect hundreds of Madison and Dane County families, and their ability to afford basic housing.

Our guests will be Linda Ketchum, Executive Director, Madison Urban Ministry (at podium in photo above at an April 10, 2008 press conference); and pictured below, Steve Verriden and Jason Glozier of the disability rights group, Wisconsin ADAPT; and Michael Basford, Program Director, Housing Initiatives Inc., representatives of an ad hoc group that is planning a "Tent City" rally this Tuesday (5/12/2009) at noon at the King St. entrance of the State Capitol. Further details are contained in the Housing Initiatives press release reprinted below.

Rally to highlight need to restore property-tax exemption for non-profit housing providers

An ad-hoc organization is planning a rally at the Wisconsin State Capitol’s King Street entrance on Tuesday, May 12th at Noon to highlight the need for state government to immediately restore the property-tax exemption for non-profit housing providers.

A recent court case last fall and a subsequent interpretation by the state’s Department of Revenue have changed which properties belonging to providers of affordable housing can continue to be property-tax exempt. As a result, municipalities all over Wisconsin are establishing procedures to assess properties owned and operated by non-profit housing providers and, in some cases, have already issued tax bills for several such property owners.

Unless the State Legislature and the Governor act to change the State Statutes, buildings that house thousands of low-income individuals and families will be subject to property taxation with possible devastating effects. “Right now, our budgets are stretched thin as they are,” said Dean Loumos, Executive Director of Housing Initiatives, Inc. of Madison. Housing Initiatives owns and operates 51 housing units for previously-homeless individuals and families who are affected by severe mental illness. Loumos added, “We have developed these properties under property-tax exemption rules that have been in place for decades. If the state doesn’t change them back to where they have been, we stand to receive a property tax bill of around $70,000. My agency and others like us cannot afford that kind of a hit. We would have to make some tough choices which may include reducing services and housing fewer clients.”

Housing Initiatives, Inc. is one of about 40 agencies operating in Madison alone that could be receiving property tax bills for nearly 1,700 housing units.

The main focus of the rally is to remind Governor Doyle, the State Legislature and municipalities around Wisconsin that during these tough economic conditions, where tent cities are starting to spring up around the nation as more and more people become homeless, they should not balance their budgets on the backs of thousands of low-income individuals and families who will be adversely affected and should instead act quickly to restore the property-tax exempt status.

For more information on Tuesday’s rally and the property-tax exemption issue, please contact Dean Loumos at 332-2095.

Further background:

As you may have read, the Madison Common Council recently tried to buy some time for these properties by granting them a grace period for payment of taxes, but this action was over-ruled by the City Attorney as beyond city government's mandate. (Ironically, the crisis is being inadvertently precipitated by the city attorney's defense of a Common Council decision to deny nonprofit status to a new housing development a couple of years ago.) It is hoped that the new state legislature will respond by changing state law in a way that restores the tax exempt status, but that's still up in the air.

Under any circumstances, affordable housing is not easy to find locally, and that's exacerbated at a time of national economic crisis and increasing underemployment and unemployment. And there are special challenges facing people on fixed incomes, including people with disabilities and the elderly.

Most of these housing units were constructed, and relatively affordable rent structures were set, under the understanding that these properties were tax exempt. So what happens now?. Under the worst case scenarios, some properties could go bankrupt, and rents could rise dramatically. While this crisis has been acknowledged publicly, action is needed by mid-summer.

Please join in our conversation this Sunday, to learn more about how you can make a difference. Please call us at 321-1670 with your questions and comments, or email us at .

Still more background information can be found in this Cap-Times article, this Wisconsin State Journal article, and this recent "citizen journalist" blog entry of Common Council action by Brenda Konkel.

Below: the west side's Wexford Ridge apartment complex, one of nonprofit group Future Madison's projects endangered because of pending nonprofit legal status questions.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Author Lev Raphael on his book "My Germany" describes a journey begun in pain and grief that transforms into healing and forgiveness

On our May 3, 2009 show: Lev Raphael, author of "My Germany," joins us live on the phone from his home in central Michigan.

Click here to Listen to the Show

We'll be spending the full hour with Lev, and invite you to join in on our conversation by calling us at 321-1670. "My Germany" describes Lev's journey in coming to know Germany, a place he initially knew only as the source of profound pain and grief for his family. As described in the book review excerpted below, it is a journey that forces him to confront many painful truths, but ultimately one filled with healing and forgiveness as well.

"As the New York-born son of eastern European Jews who barely survived the Holocaust, Lev Raphael grew up in a world haunted by secrets and ghosts. Having spent years fleeing from his parents’ past, he decided to confront that past and, in the process, to come to grips with Germany, the country he blamed for the horrors visited on his parents and, indirectly, on himself. My Germany is part travelogue and part detective story, as Raphael sets out to trace what happened to his parents and their families during the war. Above all, it is a wholly enthralling, beautifully written story of healing and forgiveness, in which Raphael not only sheds his hatred and fear of Germany but comes to a deeper, richer understanding of his parents and Jewish heritage—and, above all, of himself."
—Lynne Olson, Author of Troublesome Young Men

Lev Raphael was in Madison this past December to deliver a memorable closing address for the visiting exhibit, "Nazi Persecution of Homosexuals,1933-1945" which had been on loan from the National Holocaust Museum, and on display at the UW's Memorial Library for two months. Lev, a Jewish gay man, spoke movingly about the intersection of those two identities. The son of Holocaust survivors, he also shared special insights into the commonalities and differences of the Nazi persecution against Jewish people and homosexuals. The exhibit was part of an extensive series of special presentations and film showings that offered transformative insights into the contemporary meanings behind this experience, against the backdrop of historical insights into the status of gay people in Germany throughout the twentieth century. It was brought to Madison as part of the public education efforts of the Gay Straight Alliance for Safe Schools. Special note: Please support GSA for Safe Schools "Celebration of Leadership" event, coming on Saturday, May 16th. Follow link above for more info.

The book also has a Madison connection, with its publication by the UW Press, one of the many outstanding examples of storytelling and memoirs that they bring to the world. (Look for a future show about featured new and upcoming books, later this summer.)

About Lev Raphael

As the son of Holocaust survivors, Lev Raphael is a pioneer in writing fiction about America's Second Generation, publishing his first short story about children of survivors in 1978. Many of his early stories on this theme were collected in his award-winning book, Dancing on Tisha B'Av, while the best of those and newer ones appear in his second collection Secret Anniversaries of the Heart.

Raphael is the author of 17 other books including two novels about survivors, Winter Eyes and The German Money, and two memoirs, Journeys & Arrivals and Writing a Jewish Life. Raphael's fiction has been widely anthologized in the U.S. and Britain, most recently in the anthology Criminal Kabbalah, which contains Lev's latest story featuring a child of survivors: "Your Papers, Please."

Along with hundreds of reviews in papers from The Washington Post to The Detroit Free Press, Raphael has published dozens of essays, articles, and stories in a wide range of Jewish publications: Midstream, Hadassah, Psychology and Judaism, The Forward, Reform Judaism, Reconstructionist, Agada, Commentary, The Baltimore Jewish Times, The Detroit Jewish News, Inside, The Jewish Exponent, Jewish Currents, Tikkun, Jerusalem Report, and Slate.

Raphael has keynoted three international Holocaust conferences where he received standing ovations, as well as appearing at hundreds of invited lectures and readings in Israel, North America, and Europe at Jewish Book Fairs, Jewish Community Centers, synagogues and universities. Featured in two documentaries, he has been a panelist at London's Jewish Film festival. His stories and essays are on university syllabi around the U.S. and in Canada; his fiction has been analyzed in books, scholarly journals and at scholarly conferences, including MLA.

Born and raised in New York City, he received his MFA in Creative Writing and English at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst where he won the Harvey Swados Fiction Prize, awarded by renowned editor Martha Foley for a Holocaust-themed story later published in Redbook. Winner of the Reed Smith Fiction Prize and International Quarterly's Prize for Innovative Prose (judged by D. M. Thomas), Raphael holds a Ph.D. in American Studies from Michigan State University. Raphael taught at the university level in New York, Massachusetts and Michigan for 13 years and the first course he designed was a multi-disciplinary study of the Holocaust. He left teaching in 1988 to write and review full- time.

Lev has also been an outspoken advocate on behalf of LGBT youth, and has written several books seeking to support them in their journeys of self-discovery.

Please join us for a very special conversation this Sunday at 2pm on Forward Forum (WTDY 1670 am and