County Executive Parisi Announces Funding for Center for Black Excellence and Culture on Madison’s South Side
October 05, 2020
Ariana Vruwink, 608-267-8823
Today, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi joined Reverend Dr. Alex Gee to announce that he is putting $810,000 in his 2021 budget to help organizers pursue and acquire land on the south side of Madison for the Center for Black Excellence and Culture. This development will foster a sense of community and family, celebrate and teach about impactful Black culture, help nurture and develop Black business and community leaders, connect employers with talented Black professionals, and become a new cultural landmark along the Beltline corridor.
“Madison’s Black community needs a central place to gather, network with fellow Black professionals, and celebrate culture,” said County Executive Parisi. “I’m grateful for the work of Dr. Gee and others in pursuing this vision, another progressive step forward in our community’s conversation about improving diversity, equity, and opportunity.”
Madison is continually recognized as one of the best places to live in the United States. Yet, Wisconsin is regularly named as one of the worst states for racial inequality, with Dane County’s racial disparities being among the state’s most extreme. The county’s Black community has longed for a central place to gather to engage in fellowship, network with Black professionals, celebrate their culture, or plan for their advancement. Organizers hope the Center for Black Excellence and Culture will address this absence of cultural space to celebrate and advance Dane County’s Black community.
“We truly believe that creating a physical space for Black people to celebrate our culture, pay tribute to our history, and nurture future Black leaders will advance the entire community, so we’re thrilled that the County Executive’s proposal includes support for The Center for Black Excellence and Culture,” said Rev. Dr. Alex Gee, Jr.
The Center for Black Excellence and Culture will be located on 3.5 acres on the 700 block of West Badger Road and situated in the historic Black neighborhood of South Park Street, ultimately becoming a new landmark along the Beltline. County funds will be used to purchase the land needed for the building pad and a portion of the entry area for the project and leased back to the Center at nominal cost. The area encompasses 54,000 square feet.
“Empirical data now proves the long-term health effects racial disparities have on people of color,” said Rev. Lilada Gee, founder of Defending Black Girlhood and Black Woman Heal. “Creating safe places for Black residents in Dane County and beyond to heal will benefit all of us.”
Organizers hope the Center for Black Excellence and Culture will:
- Foster a Sense of Family and Community: It will create meaningful opportunities to build strong interpersonal relationships between and across generations of the Black community.
- Celebrate and Teach Black Greatness and Culture: It will be Dane County and South Wisconsin’s central space for learning about and celebrating local, state, and national Pan-African art, history, and culture.
- Nurture and Develop Black Business and Community Leaders: Its Center for Black Enterprise will assist Black entrepreneurs in developing and launching business ventures that will benefit the entire Greater Madison region and showcase Black excellence in action.
- Attract, Connect, and Retain Black Talent: In partnership with local businesses, educational institutions, and community-based organizations, The Center will provide cultural connection and immersion opportunities to Black professionals.
- Provide the Space for Conversation, Connection, and Growth: The Center will host events and activities designed to bring the entire community together.
"The powerful impact of The Center will radiate such positive change for the future of our Dane County community,” said Rick Phelps, project strategy director and former Dane County Executive. “We are extremely grateful for the leadership of County Executive Parisi and for our new partnership with the county government."
The Center will bring together members of the Black community to advocate for the project and help ensure it meets their needs. Its Advisory Committee is supported by a project team that consists of prominent local businesses, many of whom are giving portions or totals of their services in-kind. The Center for Black Excellence and Culture, a Wisconsin-based 501(c)(3), has been formed to raise the capital for the project, provide development and fiduciary oversight during construction, and provide governance oversight of The Center once completed.