When I was asked to write a tribute to Milele Chikasa Anana, I got an instant case of anxiety. What would I say? Her presence was so profound, and she havd such a lasting impact on so many people. How could I impart such a summary that would be worthy of her legacy? The trepidation overcame me, and I felt completely stuck in this task.
Then I began to feel her energy pushing forward and advising me once again. I easily heard her voice telling me to “Stop overthinking things”! She often said this to me when I’d taken on too many responsibilities and would have difficulty focusing on my strategy. I even remember one time, she gave me a blank notebook and instructed me to carry this all the time. “I do not need another notebook,” I told her. I already have plenty, even too many. But why this one I thought? My comments were ignored, and she pressed forward with opening the composition book that she provided me and then scribbled down words to live by. It said: “Focus, from your Mentor Milele.” I now reflect on that time and think, I hear you.
Ms. Milele was our Village champion on so many levels. Her life’s mission was to strengthen and esteem Black Madison by using her voice to promote the positive news of our children, families, and businesses. She was a brilliant thinker, a connector of people, and a proactive visionary. This fueled her to create UMOJA Magazine which continues to serve as a living testimony for the world to see that excellence overflows within our race.
As a community builder, Ms. Milele always saw a welcomed challenge when she met a stranger. She never hesitated to stop for an introduction and then skillfully made it her business, to get to know who you were. She was fearless and unapologetic to bring forth the right people and solutions to advance the Black agenda.
Examples of her works and efforts extend to the creation of the Madison Black Chamber of Commerce, where she was a founder and board member emeritus. She also envisioned the nation’s first Black Restaurant Week and paved a pathway into perpetuity for Black students to attend HBCU’s with assistance from the Milele Chikasa Anana Scholarship fund.
It is often said that it is very difficult to walk in the footprints of a giant and that is what it feels like continuing forward. Ms. Milele’s inspirational works will have lasting imprints well into the next generation.
As I lean into the advice of my spirit once again and hear her voice… this would be what she’d say…
1. Always continue to support Black owned businesses, even if the customer service fluctuates.
2. Be kind to each other.
3. True advocacy always starts with a clear agenda.
4. Never forget that Black economics are powerful and that we have strong consumer and tax-paying influence. (Black Dollars Matter!)
5. Support talents and aspirations of Black youth.