Biography


Here I am, at left, as a very happy, bouncing baby in 1956. The burdens of life are far in the future and I'm rarin' to go! The laughing pose is pretty characteristic because, through thick and thin over six decades, I've managed to maintain a good sense of humor.


I call the 9th grade class photo at right my Ben Franklin shot. What a sourface! The period was actually a very trying one for me, with the death of my father and an extremely difficult transition to public school after eight years in a Catholic grade school. Although I have been a voracious reader and researcher my entire life, I've always hated going to school. I managed to get a Masters degree in History, with honors, but never accommodated well to institutionalized learning. I love the quote attributed to George Bernard Shaw: "The only time my education has been interrupted is when I have gone to school." How true!



In the 1970s, as I meandered my way through college, I got involved in the women's movement in Milwaukee. From 1979 to 1982, I was publisher and editor of AMAZON: Milwaukee's Feminist Press. The photo at left is a gag photo we used on the cover of the Dec. 1979 - Jan. 1980 issue of AMAZON with the tagline: "Feminists 'Move' City Hall." Women's groups were in the midst of an anti-rape campaign, trying to get a specially trained unit in the Milwaukee Police Department as well as some money from the city for prevention efforts. Sharon Allen shot this as we literally tried to "move" Milwaukee's City Hall on Wells St. Today, we'd probably be arrested as terrorists! Yours truly is at lower right in the picture, grinning broadly into the camera instead of focusing on the task at hand.


The photo at right was snapped in 1989 by my friend Doreen Riley during a lecture at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. I was speaking about my Masters thesis, which outlined the history and accomplishments of the Women's Coalition of Milwaukee.






Throughout the 1980s and 90s, I reported extensively for alternative publications, mainly feminist and gay and lesbian newspapers. At left, I'm interviewing Judy Greenspan, who was then head of the ACLU Prison Project, at an ACT UP demonstration in Madison, Wis. in 1991. The issue was better treatment for Wisconsin prison inmates with HIV. In 1992, the National Gay and Lesbian Press Association presented me with its award for Outstanding Coverage of an Ongoing News Event for my months of reporting on the Jeffrey Dahmer serial murder case, which was syndicated to national publications.






Milwaukee's lakefront is a delight in the warmer months, with many festivals and activities held along its large stretches of parkland. Here I am, at left, covering some event via bicycle, probably 1996.


From 1988 to 1995, in conjunction with the Wisconsin Labor History Society and the Coalition of Labor Union Women, I interviewed 28 older women who had been hard-working pioneers in Wisconsin's labor movement, paving the way for respect and equality for women in the workplace. In 1998, we published the stories of ten of these amazing women in the book Like Our Sisters Before Us: Women of Wisconsin Labor. The book won the Saul Miller Award for Editorial Excellence from the International Labor Communications Association.




In 1995, I received Progressive Milwaukee's Community Activist Award for two decades of documenting the local labor, feminist and gay and lesbian movements. In this photo, my mother, Regina, is on the left, longtime friend Cathy Burgoyne is behind my shoulder, and Wisconsin State Rep. Tammy Baldwin – elected United States Senator Tammy Baldwin in 2012 – is at right. Baldwin presented me with the award, calling me a "role model" and saying,

"Through her writing, Jamakaya has documented some very important stories that few other journalists or historians are telling. That is a treasure in any community."
Wow. Thank you!


From 2005 to 2016, I worked as a Grant/Technical Writer for IndependenceFirst, a non-profit agency that provides services and advocacy by and for people with disabilities in the greater Milwaukee area. At left is a snapshot of me with actress and comedian Geri Jewell, who put the audience in stitches at a fundraiser for IndependenceFirst in May of 2012.

I write a biweekly column for Wisconsin Gazette, the state's progressive newspaper, and am tickled to have won an award from the Milwaukee Press Club for that gig. I am working on an anthology of my writing since the 1970s. It includes eye-witness accounts of some of the important events that shaped the feminist and gay and lesbian movements in Wisconsin over four decades.

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