Stephen Braunginn – Continues as Necessary - Voice for Peace & Justice


INTRODUCTION On June 8 our jazz community in Madison will honor “The End of the Era” for Stephen Braunginn as he retires from co-hosting Strictly Jazz Sounds.  Now at the age of 67 Stephen and his wife Jenny Braunginn are making their home in Columbus, Ohio where Stephen and his siblings had lived in their youth.  Stephen introduced many to jazz artists who motivated us with their protest, confrontation, and resistance themes during Steve’s 20 years of WORT-FM radio hosting. 


But we also thank Steve for his direct commitment to peace and justice, which began in his grade school days and will continue all his life.  Steve is necessary to peace and justice. His words, his leadership and his spirit has been necessary and is still necessary to bend the world toward peace and justice.


The father of Stephen Braunginn and Paul Higginbotham was Rev. Canon Kenneth Higginbotham, Sr.  The family was active in civil rights and they included 9 year old Steve to the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963.  Steve was 11 years old when his father, a well-known Episcopal priest, boarded a bus in Columbus, Ohio bound for Selma, Alabama, to join Dr. Martin Luther King in the historic 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery.


Formed by the civil rights movement Steve, in 1972, went to U. W. Madison, majoring in Special Education.  He worked for Madison Metropolitan Schools teaching students with disabilities and interacting with their families. This, while achieving his Masters in Journalism and Mass Communications in 1990. In the mid 1980’s we heard him evenings on WORT news. During this turbulent time his words were necessary.  


Steve was Co-Principal Campaign Coordinator for Jesse Jackson for President-1988 and Whip-Democratic National Convention.  He co-chaired the 2nd Congressional District Rainbow Coalition. By 1990 he started his many years of op-ed writing for The Capital Times. He also served for three terms on the Dane County Board of Supervisors.

Jenny Braunginn started work as a School Social Worker in 1982 in South West WI districts. The two of them moved to Richland County forming a housing collective. It was there that they joined the Quaker Kickapoo Valley Friends Meeting and studied Gandhi and King under Professor Vince Kavaloski. They admired the project to Chula Mississippi youth exchange called Project Self Help and Awareness. For a while they lived at Rock Ridge Community which joined WNPJ as an early organizational member of WNPJ.




“I can definitely say that WNPJ was a pinnacle time in my life. WNPJ was one of the major components where I could channel the knowledge and skills and the drive that I had at that time,” said Braunginn in 2016.  “I had my fire stoked up so hot inside myself at that time … my furnace was burning hot.


There was strong anti-war sentiments going through the founders of WNPJ.  As anti-war as Braunginn was himself, he wanted the new organization to be much more than that.

“Everybody was anti-war, but I was always about looking at it the opposite way. Instead of looking at it negatively, let’s look at what it is that we want,” Braunginn remembers. “What do we want? We want peace! We want justice. We want social justice, we want economic justice.”


“The feeling was that we were doing all this work, Nan Cheney and I and other volunteers out of the Frank Boyle’s office … and we could tell that we were having an impact. I remember an issue that Dora Zuniga and I used to always talk about was the fact that the people on the front lines [of wars] were always going to be people of color and low-income. We really talked about the issues that needed to be talked about at WNPJ.”


“But I’m so excited that my son [Matt Braunginn of Young Gifted & Black] is out there doing what I can no longer do. I can’t physically do those things anymore – I can do it on Facebook, or if somebody wants to interview me,” Braunginn smiles. “But I cannot physically go out and organize any more. My body is sick. But both [my wife] Jenny and I feel like this is a time for young people to step up and step out. My son and people his age are doing just that and I want the spotlight on them … the young people.


“It’s about creating more inclusion … but you create more inclusion by getting more people involved by drawing them into issues that are important to them,” Braunginn says. “The hottest issues have to do with criminal justice, police reform, addressing the racial disparities in this state in every community – because we’re also talking with the Latino community, the Hmong community, and particularly, in northern Wisconsin, in the Indian communities. They get the biggest shaft.


“We said that we want every crook and cranny of the state to feel this movement. We had folks from Sauk Prairie to Park Falls to Kenosha ….. all over the state. Superior, La Crosse, Stevens Point and Milwaukee.”


Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice (WNPJ) is now a powerful coalition of activist groups and citizens of conscience statewide that has served as an essential coordinating force for movements to end wars and cut military spending, and to promote economic and social justice, sustainable agriculture, renewable energy, prison reform, immigrant rights, and more.


While with WNPJ Stephen became the president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Madison; deputy director of the Wisconsin Clearinghouse for Prevention Resources at UW-Madison; and director of Multi-cultural Affairs and Special Interest Groups for the Wisconsin Alumni Association. In all these roles, the networking and catalyst work of WNPJ assisted bringing nonprofits together.


See the remembrance of Vince Kavaloski by Steve Braunginn at the following link. It will clearly state Steve’s values and Steve’s hopes for the future.


Stephen Braunginn – Continues as Necessary - Voice for Peace & Justice; written and submitted to WNPJ by Mary Kay Baum, co-chair of WNPJ -


Mary Kay Baum

201 Dougherty Ct., Ridgeway, WI 53582