Madison leader Milele Chikasa Anana dies at 86

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Paulius Musteikis

MADISON, Wis. — Milele Chikasa Anana passed away Wednesday morning at the age of 86.

The Madison community leader served as editor and publisher of UMOJA Magazine for nearly three decades. UMOJA Magazine was launched in 1990 to celebrate the accomplishments and joys of African-Americans in Madison.

In a statement on her passing, Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway said: “UMOJA focused on positive black news and that is what Ms. Milele was, a positive example and a trailblazer for all of us. She was the first African American to serve on a Wisconsin school board, and the City’s first African American affirmative action officer. She also served as interim director of the Madison Equal Opportunities Commission, worked with the Black Chamber of Commerce to develop a directory of black-owned businesses and to start Black Restaurant Week. She was also an active member of the Madison Alumnae chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. In 2009, she received the City of Madison’s Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Award for her service to our community.

“I join thousands of Madisonians in mourning the passing of Milele Chikasa Anana. To call her a Madison community leader almost seems like an understatement.”

Anana stepped down as editor and publisher of UMOJA in November 2018.

She told Madison Magazine she was planning on asking people to contribute to her scholarship endowment fund through the Goodman Center and the Madison Community Foundation in her time after, while trying to fund a project so that the biographies of prominent black people who achieved ‘firsts in Madison’ wouldn’t be lost.

You can read more of her interview with Madison Magazine from April 2019 here.

In a statement, the Madison Black Chamber said “[Anana] was a leader, mentor, friend and champion of the Black community.”

“We saw firsthand her dedication to helping businesses owned by people of color to earn opportunities and get the recognition they deserved. As a black female business owner, I am grateful for the path she created and the strength and determination she instilled in me. I know other business owners feel the same way. Ms. Milele’s work and legacy will be carried on through all we do at the Black Chamber, including our annual awards dinner and Black Restaurant Week. She made positive impacts on many people in our organization and in Madison, and she will be greatly missed. Our thoughts and prayers go out to her family.”

Madison.com reported that Anana’s death was attributed to choosing to stop dialysis.