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Gilbert Simons - known by his religious and chosen name Gaddi Ben Dan
Gaddi Ben Dan passed away at home on May 11, 2022 and was born in Chicago, Illinois on May 2, 1946. Gaddi was an innovator and a social justice activist that included marching with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr in the 60’s. This activism also included being a staff member of Chicago’s Westside Organization widely known for their spirited demonstrations and community organizing. His first newspaper, published in early 1970s was the "Chicago Chronicles".
In 1983, he moved to Madison and co-founded The Wisconsin Free Press a community-based publication that pioneered the first ever Black owned newspaper to solicit and receive mainstream advertising. His love for publishing and deep understanding of the importance of Black Media, led him to co-found Voices Newspaper, The Ambassador Times Journal, The Madison Times and the co- production of the Heart and Soul radio show and, production of Listen Hear talk radio, which had as the co-hosts high school youth. Further, Club TNT television, a locally produced one-hour show (founded in 1989) was his creation and Senior Executive Producer. Programming was designed to encourage young people to make positive choices and encouraged staying away from risky behaviors. This program continues to broadcast Saturdays on TVW14, sister cable station of Channel3.
Young, up and coming Madison talent were often showcased on the show, which included poets, dancers, rappers, musicians and singers. Additionally, Gaddi produced two outdoor concerts, one in 1985 at Breese Stevens Field (featured Ready for the World) and the other in the 90’s at Warner Park (featured Lisa, Lisa and the Cult Jam).
Gaddi was concerned about adolescent deaths and through the non-profit he co-founded, Today Not Tomorrow, Inc., he started the “Lock It Up” media Campaign, for the purpose of raising awareness to lock up guns to present adolescent suicide, prescription meds and alcohol to prevent overdose and abuse. Building the awareness about lessening gun violence drove him to partner with others to hold the Stop the Violence Parade, held in the Meadowood Neighborhood in 2014.
In 2014, Gaddi was one of the driving forces for the formation and subsequent charter of the NAACP of Dane County 36AB.
The Peacemakers, one of the first efforts locally to bring residents and Police Officers together for dialogue, happened because of his work with Madison’s Police Department about their Trust-based policing philosophy. Strengthening families was another passion of his and his leadership in the men’s program at The Today Not Tomorrow-Family Resource Center brought Dads, Uncles, Grandfathers and other male caretakers together to learn more about parenting and to give each other support.
Most recently Gaddi became active in “We are Many United Against Hate” a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization of common people—urban and rural, spiritual and secular—seeking equal protection for all, united against hate, bigotry and racism.
All of these initiatives were founded on the principles of “Building Comm-Unity” and raising the voices not often heard. He believed in bringing people together across racial, economic and religious lines. Gaddi was a mentor to many and highly enjoyed promoting and supporting youth who had positive ambitions. His infectious smile and welcoming, humorous personality drew people to him. He was honored for his decades of work by being given the 2018 Dane County Dr Martin Luther King Award. Gaddi has a left a lasting legacy in the Chicago and Dane County. He will be missed by his family, friends, and all those he impacted through his works.
Please share your memories of Gaddi by posting on his Tribute Wall.
Cress Funeral Service
5801 Highway 51, PO Box 105, McFarland
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