Milele Chikasa Anana returned to the ancestors on May 6 after a long illness. The illustrious publisher of UMOJA Magazine, civil rights activist and Madison village matriarch was 86.
We celebrate her crusade for racial equality, her voice of anguish for Black Americans and her dedication to helping others recognize their worth.
Anana, tirelessly worked as the publisher of UMOJA Magazine, a positive-only news magazine for 30 years. It is the oldest Black magazine currently published in Wisconsin. Starting out as a two-page newsletter in 1990, UMOJA has grown into a 52-page monthly publication that takes its place among the unique publications in the nation. It is dedicated to covering positive news in the Black community, profiling individual accomplishments, and exemplifying how the Black community, in conjunction with others, addresses issues to make our communities stronger.
Having established a reputation for beautiful covers, UMOJA has displayed the paintings of high caliber artists with local and national reputations. The UMOJA covers have been on display at the Municipal Building in downtown Madison, at the UW Hospital and at several community organizations.
She has been published in several magazines, including Essence, The Black Scholar, Ebony Jr!, Brava, and Madison Magazine. She has co-authored two books, Starting out Right: Choosing Books about Black People for Children and Kwanzaa: An African American Celebration of Life.
“I’m not here, but my voice is.”
Milele Chikasa Anana
January 31, 1934 – May 6, 2020
Known affectionately as Ms. Milele and Mother Milele, she lived in Madison for over 50 years, having arrived here from Boston, Massachusetts. She had a passion for Madison and for Black people across the diaspora. She believed that one’s cultural and community roots are significant in shaping one’s life.
She was born Bettye I. Latimer in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, to Ada Dorothy Thomas and Alvin Ingram. She graduated from high school in Tulsa, Oklahoma, received her bachelor’s degree from Talladega College and her master’s from Purdue University. She was bestowed with and adopted the Swahili name Milele Chikasa Anana, meaning a rare and sparkling jewel bringing joy and laughter forever, in January 1995. She was the mother of five grown children, Major Clark Latimer, Catherine Latimer McCarthy, James Danielsen Latimer, Treater Edna Latimer Prestine, and Amani Latimer Burris. She was a grandparent to 13, and great-grandparent to three.
Ms. Milele worked in various disciplines. Before her publishing career, she was one of the pioneer women in computer technology as a programmer, trainer and manager for Procter and Gamble in Cincinnati and Green Bay. She started her career with the city of Madison as the Affirmative Action Officer and held a variety of different positions over the years. In 1974, in Madison she became the first African American elected to any Wisconsin School Board.
She has received various awards, notably the State Heritage Martin Luther King Award, Mother Full of Grace Award, the YWCA Women of Distinction Award, Wisconsin Minority Women’s Network Outstanding Woman, the MASA Award for Distinguished Service in Education, the Urban League’s Whitney Young Award, Nehemiah’s BRICK award, Dane Dances award, MOSS Sister to Sister Award, Know Your Madisonian, the HERO award from the Madison Center for the Creative Arts, the Tribute to Black Women Award, the NAACP President’s award, a Black History Hero by Mt. Zion Baptist Church, the Urban League UnSung Hero award, the Indie Business award, the city of Madison Humanitarian award, the Black Women Who Rock Honorary award and the Athena Woman nomination two times.
She has been featured in ANEW and BRAVA magazines, the Wisconsin State Journal, Madison Magazine, Essence, Mature Lifestyles and several TV editorials.
On Jan. 9, 2008, the city of Madison held a tribute to Ms. Milele in a very moving ceremony to honor her lifetime work in the city. An oil painting of Milele done by Linda Mathis Rose was unveiled at the program. It hangs in the Municipal Building as a part of the permanent collection of the City Arts Commission.
A Community Appreciation Dinner was held for Ms. Milele at the Radisson Hotel on Jan. 24, 2009, where several ministers spoke, as well as Mayor Paul Soglin and Gov. Jim Doyle.
She participated in several historic events such as the 1963 March on Washington, the Million Man March, the Million Woman March, the inauguration of President Barack Obama, both times, and the unveiling of the Martin Luther King Memorial.
She was a member of the Madison Black Chamber of Commerce, Mt. Zion Baptist Church and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and has been recognized as a 60-year member of the sorority.