The Justified Anger Leadership Institute (JALI) is a program offered by the Nehemiah Center for Urban Leadership Development and is designed to prepare and connect emerging African American leaders. 

Each year, a cohort of 15 participants embark on a five-month course that includes intensives, networking opportunities, mentoring, guided readings, and a social innovation project all with the goal of transforming the face of leadership in Madison. 

One member of this year’s cohort, Joseph Rausch, is a trauma nurse at UW Hospital who joined the course to supplement his professional projects at work and in the community. As the program comes to an end, he reflects on the impact it has had on him. 

“Graduating from JALI is a milestone on my continuous journey of professional and personal development,” said Rausch. “If a much younger version of myself could see the kind of person they grew up to be, I think it would make them proud. JALI has been a part of that process.” 

Rausch mentioned his personal struggle growing up in a nearly all white community and said that as a result he had a hard time being proud of his race. His experience being part of the JALI cohort helped him continue his journey with self- confidence and self-actualization. 

“Joining a community of like-minded people who look like me has been a pleasant bonus,” said Rausch. “I think the strongest aspect of the course is the cohort model. By allowing students to have a shared experience, a long-lasting connection is established that is unique to each cohort.”

Another cohort member, Jamal M. Mosley – who currently works as a Housing Resource Specialist at Moving Out, Inc. – said he also really enjoyed the cohort model presented as part of JALI. 

“It allowed me to create new connections with like-minded individuals from a variety of social and professional backgrounds, such as nurses and administrators at UW Health, writers, educators at local schools, and even Dr. Alex Gee,” said Mosley. “These connections would not have been established without the aid of the JALI Leadership Institute.” 

The leadership program isn’t only about networking and mentoring, however. Another major component that the cohort was surprised and generally delighted by was the inclusion of Black history education led by renowned professor, Dr. Christy Clark-Pujara, associate professor in the Department of African American Studies at UW-Madison. 

“What has been genuinely appreciated and empowering are the African American history sessions,” said Mosley. “The sessions provide some very interesting background about the early history of African Americans in Wisconsin and their communities.” 

Fellow cohort member Julian T. Edwards says he, too, was pleasantly surprised by the Black history portions. 

“None of this information was taught to us growing up. Many of the historical assumptions and glorified politicians have been debunked. Black people truly forced change through advocacy.”  

Edwards works as an American Family Procurement Team Manager and is also the first Nehemiah Community Fellow from American Family. He got connected to the program through Dr. Alex Gee, who is the president, founder and visionary behind the Nehemiah Center for Urban Leadership Development. 

Nehemiah has been around since the mid-1990s and has focused on empowering children, youth and families that are economically disadvantaged and socially at-risk through culturally relevant educational and social service support programs. The Justified Anger Leadership Institute is just one of many programs under the Nehemiah umbrella that aim to improve life for all in Madison.  

When the 2022 JALI cohort graduated on June 22, they’re charged with taking up this mantle, as well. 

“Our world and especially our community need leaders that are able to lead with a diverse mindset centered around inclusion,” said Edwards. “Thinking back in my career so far I have not come across many people of color in positions of influence, so graduating from this program will put me in a position to lead in a fashion that will improve the landscape and make it better or easier for others that follow in my footsteps.” 

Rausch already has ideas about how he will use what he learned in JALI to have a positive impact in Madison.  

“I am currently working on a research project focused on the recruitment and retention of Black nurses at UW Hospital,” said Rausch. “I plan to use my new leadership skills in the community through my work as a co-founder of Madison Black Nurses, a new community-based organization whose mission is to nurture and cultivate Black nurses who will collectively collaborate with one another to impact the Madison Dane county Area.”  

Edwards said that the program is a great tool for helping leaders be more resilient and continue their missions long-term. 

“Take care of yourself so that you can take care of others,” said Edwards. “I feel like historically, leaders are taught to sacrifice for the team at the detriment of themselves. We have talked through the exact opposite [in JALI]. You need to take care of your health and education so that you can do more for those around you and last over time.”