Drumroll Please……..Hedi Rudd is named the 2019 Nan Cheney March for Justice Award Recipient!
Per Salli Martyniak, FCI’s president, “Hedi is the embodiment of what an unsung hero looks like. She works quietly behind the scenes, integrating art and activism as a means of giving voice to those who might otherwise be voiceless. Like much-beloved community leader Nan Cheney, for whom this award is named, Hedi has tirelessly invested thousands of hours in building community. Now, it’s our privilege to turn the lens on her! FCI will be honoring Hedi on May 9, 5:00 to 7:00pm, at Monona Terrace.
Hedi Rudd is a longtime Madisonian who has been an accomplished community leader and storyteller in multiple realms. Since the 1990s, she has been at the forefront of numerous landmark community organizing and racial justice initiatives. Often working quietly behind the scenes, she has fused art and activism to powerful effect, as a means of giving voice to those who might otherwise be voiceless. A skilled photographer and journalist, she has captured in powerfully creative ways the many colorful threads of the amazing tapestry of the greater Madison community, providing photo and prose pictures of our community that are grounded in our connections with one another, in ways that inspire and inform.
Like much-beloved community leader Nan Cheney, for whom this award is named, Hedi has tirelessly invested thousands of hours in building community here, working collaboratively with a diversity of partners on countless causes and projects on behalf of social justice, building multi-cultural and multi-generational collaborations and connections with enduring value on behalf of the common good.
Hedi has been an active community organizer since being appointed to Mayor Sue Bauman’s Task Force on Race Relations in 1998. In 2001, she joined Bauman’s staff as the coordinator of Study Circles on Race, a program recommended by the task force that built relationships and understandings between Madison’s diverse community members on the path to concerted action together. Resonant with this work, Hedi helped support the creation of the now 20-year old Dane Dances series, held on the rooftop of the Monona Terrace, another recommendation of the task force.
Hedi served two terms on the City of Madison Equal Opportunities Commission and was a staff member of the City of Madison Affirmative Action Department, prior to the creation of the Division of Civil Rights. During this time, she served as Co-Chair, alongside LaMarr Billups, of the civil rights coalition Communities United, and was a founding member of the Nuestro Mundo school. Hedi was also a founding member of the Madison Network of Black Professionals, along with Annette Miller, Henry Sanders, Jr. and others.
As a writer and photojournalist for UMOJA Magazine, Hedi worked with Ms. Milele Chikasa Anana prior to moving to Las Vegas 15 years ago. After living in Las Vegas for six years, where she worked at Nevada Cancer Institute in various executive administrative positions, she answered the call to return to Madison and community organizing and journalism.
Upon her return here, she re-established her work with UMOJA, where she learned for the first time that she had a passion and talent for photography. She greatly credits her esteemed mentor and friend Ms. Milele for helping her realize this dream, which provides a way for her to shine a light on the community that she loves.
Countless other projects and initiatives followed. Hedi worked with Michael Johnson, CEO of the Boys and Girls Club and Jaquesha McFarlane to organize the club’s first Thanksgiving Dinner, which is now an annual event. She graduated from the UW-Madison Odyssey Project, which she is an active alumna. She joined the United Way of Dane County’s Community Engagement Committee, which created the Boardwalk series to increase representation of people of color on boards of directors and is the chair of the Community Shares of Wisconsin’s Membership Committee, which recently added seven new member groups primarily serving people of color in the Madison area. Hedi is also a member of the City of Madison Food Policy Council and a prior member of the Dane County Food Policy Council.
As the Project Coordinator of the South Madison Promise Zone for the Urban League of Greater Madison, Hedi collaborated with local community groups to create several signature South Madison events, including “Eat, Play, Bike,” “International Community Night,” “Family Science Night,” and the Urban League’s “Urban Cabaret,” and what is now its “Unity Picnic.”
Hedi currently serves as the Neighborhood Center Director at Badger Rock, a project of the Center for Resilient Cities. With her colleagues and the community, Hedi helped to create the Badger Rock Community Market and to increase participation at the monthly Badger Rock CommUNITY Dinners. Her favorite part of her job is helping to grow the Badger Rock Community Garden program, alongside resident farmer Sarah Karlson, and creating a nurturing environment for the students of Badger Rock Middle School who share the center space.
In Madison, Hedi sees a community with multiple daunting challenges on a path that bends toward social and racial justice, while evoking a spirit of hope and new possibility as we strive to come together on that path leading forward. Hedi is the proud mother of three adult children (and a loving grandmother), and her progeny are embarking on resonant paths as community-builders. Like Nan Cheney, her commitment to social justice is grounded in her support for and belief in future generations.
Now a much-respected professional freelance photographer, and staff writer for the Capital City Hues and UMOJA Magazine, Hedi is often seen at community events capturing the work of area non-profits and communities of color via her lens and articles. It is her hope that she can continue to strive to raise visibility for all of Madison’s people, and to help lift up the voices of often overlooked community members, so that their stories will help future generations to have pride and a sense of place in our community. Grounded in a rich legacy of accomplishment, that work is just beginning.