So I finally made it back home after traveling through Atlanta, Spartanburg, Chicago, Madison, and Cleveland…and I couldn’t be happier. While I did have a great time in the cities I visited, I have to say that I have newfound respect for ANYONE who can live in cities like Madison, Wisconsin in 30 and 40-degree weather. I will never ever complain that it’s too hot in Los Angeles again!

I was in Madison on speaking engagement at the 16th Annual Building Unity Multicultural Conference at UW-Madison sponsored by the United Council of UW Students. I presented their keynote on diversity and defining who you are. The conference offered students from across the state the opportunity to explore new ideas and develop practical, productive organizing skills while addressing topics spanning the intersections of gender, race, sexual identity, class, ethnicity, nationality, ability, and religion. The end goal was to encourage UW Students to recognize and understand their differences while working together for a common cause.

Okay, so that was Sunday morning and the event was great. I really enjoyed speaking with the group of about one hundred or so students. Kudos to Sheltrese McCoy, Multicultural Issues Director for the United Council of UW Students and her staff for putting on such a great and well attended event.

Fast forward to Monday. On Monday morning, I decided that before I headed to the airport I wanted to check out A Room of One’s Own, Madison’s feminist bookstore.

Now before I go any further, let me just say that Madison isn’t known for having a significant number of Blacks living there. I can probably count on one hand the number of Blacks I happened to come across during my visit.

So anyway, I leave my hotel and head over to State Street where the bookstore is located. As I am waiting to cross the street, two police officers are walking towards me. They pass me. I then casually noticed out of the corner of my eye that they had stopped and were now standing behind me.

So I am still waiting for the signal to change when one of the officers approaches me and says that she’s going to have to see my I.D. because they are looking for a fraud suspect that matches my description.

I told her that I just left my hotel, that I am visiting from California, and it’s not me.

She said that my build and hair color, the red highlights in particular, were a match for a suspect that they were looking for.

I told her that there weren’t enough Black people in Madison for me if as soon as I come out of my hotel I am being accosted by the local police as a fraud suspect.

I eventually pulled out my I.D., while giving her a piece of my mind. While she’s copying my I.D., I call Sheltrese who was waiting for me in the bookstore and tell her what’s happening. In the offset chance that I am hauled off to police headquarters, I needed somebody to know where I was.

Sheltrese comes over there and starts asking questions too. According to Officer Sue Krause (Badge #2630) with the Madison Police Department, word had come down from her supervisor a couple of days ago to be on the look out for a Black woman with red highlights.

Did I mention that I only arrived in Madison on Saturday afternoon? I told Officer Krause that at least three times.

Sheltrese and I started going in on her about the red highlights, since that was really what she was using, besides my being a Black woman, to detain me. I told her that it would’ve been more helpful to know how the suspect’s hair has was styled. In other words, I have locs with red highlights. Did the suspect have locs or straight hair? She didn’t know.

Eventually she let me go, but not before she copied the info on my I.D. and I got her name and badge number.

It took a hot minute for me to cool down after that.

I am not used to being detained in the street by the police. I am not used to being pulled over by the police.

I realized afterwards, that had she been of the mind to take me down to police headquarters for further questioning, she could have. I would have missed my flight to Cleveland in the process. Thank God for small miracles.

This was the first time that I ever experienced something like this and it made me think about all of the brothas that go through this on a daily basis, oftentimes not being able to just walk away and go on about their business like I did.

I hope that what happened to me today is not reflective of the treatment that the few Blacks who call Madison home, have to go through whenever they are walking on the street while Black.

I didn’t appreciate being detained on the street like that in front of passerbyers, white pasderbyers, who without knowing the situation only saw a Black girl being detained by two police officers.

And while I won’t let what happened keep me from visiting Madison again, I have to say that it was definitely an experience that I could have done without. I guess if I wasn’t officially Black, I was baptized today with my first official police detainment.

I keep telling folks—male, female, gay, lesbian, or heterosexual, Black is Black. You don’t get pulled over for driving while gay, but you do for driving and walking while Black.

I never thought I’d be so happy to see the L.A.P.D. At least here, I know what I am dealing with and in a city with so many Blacks, I am less likely to be accused of being a suspect solely based on my skin color and red highlights. Black women and red highlights come a dime a dozen in L.A., you need a little bit more information to work of off before you make a move like that.

 

Photos From My Trip to Madison, Wisconsin 

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