‘Momentum’ builds as future Black cultural center in Madison gains statewide support
MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - “This is beginning to really feel like a statewide movement,” Rev. Dr. Alex Gee says, as he looks back at a major fundraising milestone and thinks ahead to constructing a multi-million dollar center on Madison’s south side.
As founder and CEO of the Center for Black Excellence and Culture, Gee has spread his vision for the future site as one that highlights leadership development, entertainment and storytelling by and for members of the Black community.
“It’s important to change the narrative to create the true narrative about the resilience and perseverance of Black people and how we have created things that benefit all of Wisconsin and not just things that have benefited Black Wisconsin,” Gee said.
Major players around the state have contributed to the campaign to hit $36 million. The Green Bay Packers Foundation matched donations last year, giving $250,000. Gee also said the president of the Milwaukee Bucks have helped set up fundraising meetings and is a part of the fundraising team.
“The word is getting out that this is happening,” he said. “And it just gives me more confidence that this project and this offering is going to become a real national model about how you rebuild a community.”
The Center still has about $13 million left to raise. “We are moving to the part of the campaign where everything from $5 to $5 million. It all matters,” Gee said. “So now is a place where we need the entire community, the entire state to begin to help us and to support us.”
Besides fundraising, the Center still has to finalize future programs.
Lilada Gee, a local artist and sister to the Center founder, is helping curate the programs and spearhead community listening sessions. Alongside other Black women leaders, she says a goal of hers is to give space within the center to different artists.
“As both an artist and as a Black woman in this community that has experienced many, many microaggressions, I am looking forward to the space and place where I can come, and other artists and other people from the community can come, and feel safe,” she said.
Rev. Dr. Gee says ideas coming from around the state point to specific Black artists and opportunities for entrepreneurs.
“They love the idea that we’re creating a space where we’re growing the next crop of Black leaders, not just business leaders, but Black thinkers, influencers and leaders. It just makes this work really, really unique,” he said.
The Center is now slated to break ground next spring, with an opening late 2025, which is later than originally planned. Lilada Gee said Tuesday, this is due to construction getting extended. A Center spokesperson wrote back Wednesday, the delay would allow representatives to apply for the spring New Market Tax Credit. “This will enable us to open a debt-free building in 2025,” he said.
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