Why Now

Black excellence can be found in every part of Madison if you look for it: in business, leadership, education, artistic expression and more. This excellence, this affirmation of the vitality of our Black community, is worth cultivating and celebrating.

Now is the time to bring all that Black Madison has to offer to the forefront. Now is the time to celebrate our excellence.

Now is the time for The Center.

Tale of Two Cities

Year in and year out, Madison is recognized as an ideal place to live in the US. However, Dane County’s racial disparities are among the state’s most extreme, and Wisconsin is named one of the country’s worst states for Black people.

Over the last three decadesthe team behind The Center has seen Madison’s Black youth leave the city once they reach adulthood. 

It’s Not Hard to See Why 

Wisconsin’s Black families are 5x more likely than white families to live in poverty

In 2018, 61% of Black households in Dane County had income near or below the poverty line

There were more established Black-owned businesses in Dane County 75 years ago than today

Systemic inequalities are everywhere, from the education and criminal justice systems to the housing and healthcare industries. It’s not just unjust; it’s a catalyst for chronic, debilitating stress. 

Racial Battle Fatigue

Racial battle fatigue is the medically proven stress and resulting issues Black people have from code switching and navigating systemic barriers and social situations while avoiding microaggressions. This level of stress is comparable to what soldiers face in war and can cause hypertension, diabetes and more.

How did we get here? 

Madison Through a Black Lens

Madison once showed promise of becoming a stronghold for Black prosperity. But as the decades have passed, this promise has not been kept. The city’s history paints a picture of neglect, inequity and the destruction of Black wealth and excellence — but we have an opportunity to reroute the course of its future.

1900s

With a budding reputation as a city offering opportunity, Madison was home to a tight-knit community of Black dreamers from the South.

1930s to 1950s

The Black community continually found strength in solidarity, working together to fight for justice and gathering at Black businesses and churches to talk culture, art and politics.

1960s

Opportunity for Black Madisonians expanded to the state university system as The Five Year Program was created to recruit Black students from all over the nation to UW-Madison.

“Urban renewal” expelled Black people from “The Bush,” a diverse Madison neighborhood with a prominent Black population. This marked not only the beginning of the forced migration of Madison’s Black population to the city’s south side, but the imminent destruction of Black wealth.

1980s to 1990s

Previously a beacon for young Black adults to prosper and advance, the lack of Black representation and inclusion drove many Madison-born Black people to leave the city for college or after graduation.

2011

Black wealth in Madison continued to suffer, as nearly 80% of Black households in Dane County had income near or below the poverty line.

2020

Protests against racism and systemic injustice gripped Madison and the nation as a whole, illuminating the constant threat racism poses to the health and well-being of Black people.

Tomorrow

The Center is poised to change the trajectory of Madison’s Black community and revive the promise the city once showed — and you can help.

Looking for more? The Capital Times has a comprehensive timeline of Madison’s Black history.

The Center as a Solution

Relief is possible. Research proves that social support and a sense of meaning are extremely beneficial in lowering the burden of chronic stress. The Center will offer visitors both. 

Together, we can build a space where the Black community in Madison can truly gather for the first time in decades; where visitors can feel the physical, mental and emotional relief of culture; where Black youth and elders alike can laugh, talk and see themselves represented; where they can refresh and reenergize from the exhaustion of everyday life.

Together, we can build a space that helps Madison live up to its reputation as one of the best places to live – for all of us.