Rosa Parks sat so Martin Luther King could walk.
Martin Luther King walked so Obama could run.
Obama ran so we could fly.
And Milele Chikasa Anana wrote
so we could soar!
The added line to the Jay Z’s mantra woke me from my sleep. It was placed on my heart as I struggled to find words worthy enough to honor the enormous impact Milele Chikasa Anana has embedded in my life, like countless others. Word of her passing on May 6 shadowed the community like a solar eclipse blotting out the sun on a bright day. The weight of sorrow was heavy.
In life, she chose when to make her mighty presence known. She chose how she wanted to be addressed by her African name. And she ultimately chose when her work was done here on earth. At 86, Ms. Milele, our beloved longtime publisher of UMOJA Magazine, removed herself from dialysis. She said her goodbyes, prayed with family and friends, and peacefully returned to the waiting arms of the ancestors.
Despite it all, the loss choked me. It brought me to my knees writhing on my bedroom floor. I wanted more guidance and mentoring. I needed more pep talks. And selfishly, I wanted to kiss her on the forehead, and see her smile, one more time.
Thank you for the barriers you trampled and doors you flew wide open. Thank you for being unapologetically Black. And thank you dearly for handing the UMOJA mantle to me. There will never be another like you. Ms. Milele was Black Madison’s Smithsonian Institution as coined by Ray Allen, former publisher and owner Madison Times, for her tireless efforts in publishing positive stories about African Americans in the pages of UMOJA for nearly three decades.
Much appreciation goes to those who reached out offering condolences, while sharing love memories of Mother Milele.
In this issue we share a snippet of her life, along with a few loving thoughts from those whose lives she touched. We are working on a special, commemorative issue solely dedicated to Ms. Milele, including a one-of-a-kind cover painted by artist Jerry Jordan. Anyone interested in providing personal tributes should send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We humbly thank all who have supported UMOJA these past 30 years. In honor of Ms. Milele we are asking for your renewed commitment to keeping this treasured publication alive for decades to come. You can do so by subscribing, renewing your subscription, gifting a subscription, sponsoring pages of UMOJA or simply donating. Those can be mailed to P.O. Box 259538, Madison, WI 53725-9538 or online at umojamagazine.com.
This issue also honors the graduating Class of 2020. This class has proved that disruption brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic provides opportunities for excellence in learning, personal growth, and tenacity. We salute you.
UMOJA promises to continue Milele Chikasa Anana’s legacy of telling our stories in our authentic voice.