Center for Black Excellence and Culture Announces $ 5 Million Raise and Unveils Design


By Robert Chappell, for Madison365

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MADISON, WI (365 Media Foundation, Inc) – The Center for Black Excellence and Culture announced today that it has raised $ 5 million to meet its fundraising goal of $ 36 million – including a $ 2 million pledge from Summit Credit Union , the largest donation in credit union history – to build a three-story, 65,000-square-foot cultural center on six acres in South Madison, slated to open in 2023.

“My heart is thrilled,” Founder Reverend Alex Gee said at a press conference outside the Fountain of Life Baptist Church, where he is pastor and which is adjacent to the center site.

The Center also unveiled architectural renderings and a floor plan for the center. Designed by Rafeeq Assad of JLA Architects, the center will include a 220-space car park, two theaters, a fitness center, an art studio and gallery, a recording studio, a coworking space, spaces for young and old, the offices of the Nehemiah Center for Urban Leadership Development and more.

“As members of the black community, our concerns were not always taken into account widely, but my team and I listened carefully to what (black people) said to make this community great for you and your children.” , Gee said. “What would help us heal from recent and past atrocities and what would make Madison a wonderful community for black people now and in the future.” And you told us that we want our children to be seen as leaders to be developed and not as problems to be studied and solved. You said we want a space for networking, innovation, education, healing, performance, creation and belonging.

While the initial fundraising campaign saw blacks make the first few donations to create a foundation, Gee said, “The Center needs to have the support of Madison’s white and philanthropic community.

“We have had enough studies. The black community needs to know that the wider white and philanthropic community listens to us and supports us. We need that momentum to manifest itself financially in a major way, the same way you supported downtown for everyone, the same way you supported clean lakes for everyone, in one place. that you have supported great cycle paths for many of us, ”he said.

The first dollar campaign attracted more than 300 donations from blacks or laureates, said fundraising chairwoman Frances Huntley Cooper.

“The results were simply historic and inspiring,” she said. “A testament to the power of this movement and how quickly the community galvanized behind the center, black professionals, cultural leaders. And so many others are lending their time and expertise at all levels of this project.

Fundraiser Chair Frances Huntley Cooper announced that $ 5 million has been raised so far. Photo by Robert Chappell.

A number of major donations have moved the needle over the $ 36 million needed to build the center debt-free, Gee said, including Summit Credit Union’s $ 2 million.

“It’s time for all of us to join visionary and inspiring leaders like Dr. Gee in transforming Madison from one of the worst cities for black people to live in to one of the best,” said Kim Sponem, CEO of Summit Credit. Union. “For businesses, the center will help us retain our Black talent, recruit talent from other fields and make Madison the welcoming and supportive place she wants to be, but has struggled to find. to become.”

Additional donations include $ 500,000 each from the Pleasant T. Rowland Foundation and the Jerome W. Frautschi Foundation, $ 125,000 from Marla and Larry Frank, $ 100,000 from UW Health, $ 100,000 from M3 and $ 100,000 from ‘an anonymous donor. The City of Madison also allocated $ 250,000 and the County of Dane allocated $ 810,000. In addition, Representative Mark Pocan was able to allocate $ 1 million in federal funding, pending legislative approval.

Gee said it was “very, very important” for the Center to open almost exactly 10 years after the Race to Equity report, which shocked many Madisonians by showing that racial disparities are worse here than in almost any other city. the United States. This report prompted Gee to respond with an essay titled “Justified Anger,” which has become the name of an organization providing anti-racism education as well as other services.

“It’s one thing to listen. We have listened and we have taken a step back, but I feel the community is ready to respond, ”he said. “We have seen a lot of things over the past 10 years, and I think those who found it hard to believe racial disparities were real are now believers. And I think this is an opportunity for us to be not only a community that is surfing on these great laurels of its social activity and its social action in the sixties and the beginning of the seventies. It’s a chance to respond to a national crisis right now. And I’m proud that our community took the discussion one step further into action.

The center is being built in the middle of a revitalization of the south side; The Urban League of Greater Madison (ULGM) Black Business Hub is also slated to open in 2023, and the ULGM has programs in place to help black families own homes in the area.

“I have lived, worked, sold newspapers, or owned property in South Madison for the past half century. And I have never been so proud to be a member or a part of the South Madison community, ”said Gee. “I love that it’s happening here and… I’m just happy for the part we can play.”

Gee said it took him a while to agree to raise $ 36 million, but every donation counts.

“I have been running an association for 30 years. We can do a lot with five or seven thousand, ”he said. “($ 36 million) is a large number, but the number is proportional to the problem.”

Anyone wishing to make a donation can do so at TheBlackCenter.org.

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