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Dane County announces $810,000 funding for Center for Black Excellence and Culture

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 Dane County Executive Joe Parisi joined Rev. Dr. Alex Gee on Monday 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.

“Madison’s Black community needs a central place to gather, network with fellow Black professionals, and celebrate culture,” said Parisi in a statement. “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.”

Gee is the senior pastor of Fountain of Life Covenant Church and CEO of the Nehemiah Center of Urban Leadership. The Center of Black Excellence and Culture has the goals of fostering a sense of family and community; celebrating and teaching Black Culture; paying tribute to Black history; nurturing and developing Black business and community leaders; attracting, connecting and retaining Black talent; and providing the space for conversation, connection, and growth.

“This will be a place where we certainly strengthen our community and nurture and foster greatness in our communities. We are going to attract and retain Black talent. We are going to build Black businesses and community leaders. This will also be a place where the broader community can see us through a light we shine,” Gee told Madison365 in an exclusive story about the announcement of The Center. “We create this space and we create this narrative … and no one else. That’s never happened in this part of Wisconsin.”

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 a nominal cost.

The Center, which Gee and others have been planning for a year and a half, will be designed to house core, long-term elements while maximizing flexible space for multiple uses. The Center will have the ability to adapt over time as new needs arise. Gee says that they hope to begin building in 2022 on an area that encompasses 54,000 square feet.