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One year in, Urban Triage making an impact as it empowers Black families in Madison


When Urban Triage Inc. was officially founded in March of 2019 by Brandi Grayson, it was a much-needed organization – especially for Madison – with a mission to foster black families’ self-sufficiency, community leadership, advocacy, and student success through psychoeducation, community engagement, trauma response, parent engagement and cultural heritage.   

Just over a year later, Grayson, the CEO of Urban Triage, Inc., has received many kudos for how much her young organization has grown in a little time and for its ability to leverage community resources to help people at the grassroots level and to lift up families. Grayson deflects that praise to her army of volunteers at Urban Triage.

Brandi Grayson

“I have to give a big shoutout to all the volunteers and staff because this just ain’t me. So many people are helping to make this happen. This is all community-led and community-focused with tons of volunteer hours,” she tells Madison365.

Perhaps most exciting for Urban Triage is the $200,000 grant they recently received from United Way of Dane County as part of the $1.5 million Dane County COVID-19 Emergency and Recovery Fund which United Way presented to more than 90 local organizations for food, housing and other needs stemming from the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s the first time in history in Madison where anything like this has happened,” Grayson says. “There has never been a point in history where any Black non-profits or organizations have come together to do much, so this is a pretty big deal. We have 15 organizations and our collaboration is called Dane County Coalition of Black Service Providers.

The $200,000 funds is being divided evenly amongst those 15 Black-led organizations.

“It really is about us creating a network whereas we’re making referrals inside and coordinating services so people don’t have to go from one organization to another trying to piece together what they need because that can be the most stressful part of seeking help … along with the stigma,” Grayson says. “The $200,000 is great but when you divide it, it’s not that much. But the piece that is most impactful is the coordinated services and our coordinated referral program that we now have established.

“Our hope is to sustain the collaboration and get additional funding to continue to build and to add organizations to it,” she adds. “It’s huge.”

Urban Triage provides community support services including transportation, food, rental assistance, liaison to other resources (including mental wellness support), advocacy, personal development, and leadership training as well as curriculum development for institutions and non-profit organizations. The organization also provides training, keynote speaking, coaching and workshops centered in transformative justice, equity and transformative education.

Last week, in partnership with Black Excellence Madison Metropolitan School District and Think Tank, Urban Triage, Inc. launched “Thriving Through Adversity Workshop Series,” a collection of workshops focused around a bold approach to supporting and advocating for Black families in the Madison Metropolitan School District.  

Urban Triage’s ‎Thriving Through Adversity Workshop Series

“They will be running until June 20. We will be doing a couple every week. We’re pretty excited about this,” Grayson says.  

The workshops were launched to help support families through the coronavirus pandemic and help them obtain resources like housing and childcare support. The workshops are tackling topics like “Mentally Preparing for Job Searches During COVID-19,” “Work Readiness Workshop,” and “ Thriving Under a Microscope – “Zoom Meetings are the Windows to Your Home” 

“The Madison School District allocated $350,000 to their Black Excellence initiative. We originally had started doing Black Student Unions and were building curriculum and we were going to do facilitation,” Grayson says. “But then COVID happened and we went back to the drawing board and said, ‘what can we do right now that’s impactful?’ We decided to do workshops around surviving COVID and thriving through adversity and dealing with many other topics: How do we get back integrated in our lives and what is the new normal after they open up things?”

Urban Triage is also doing youth engagement along with the MMSD contract, including a Youth Engagement COVID-19 Scavenger Hunt (below), which kicked off on Monday.

“We’ve got some cool things going on with that including scavenger hunts, TikTok challenge and awards will be Play Station 2 cards and Amazon gift card,” Grayson says. “We’re working with our young people to pull this together. This will run for five weeks.”

If you have a student who would like to get involved in this, Grayson says to check out the Urban Triage/MMSD Black Excellence page.

Along with the workshops, Urban Triage has two PSAs – one already has launched (below). The first one, produced in partnership with Black Excellence Madison Metropolitan School District and Madison365, is narrated by Grayson and talks about staying strong during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Urban Triage is made up of community members and we have some pretty talented people who volunteer their time. Digital Method, for example, did our video PSA for half price – he didn’t charge us anything. He’s super-dope,” Grayson says.

The Urban Triage’s COVID Relief Effort, with the support of United Way of Dane County and Boys & Girls Club of Dane County, has been offering coordinated services, advocacy, rental assistance, and miscellaneous funding to those in the Madison community who need it most. Urban Triage is offering 100 free meals a week in partnership with Rib Master’s Food Truck and Catering along with delivery services for food, medical supplies, and other essential items for 25 families a week.

“We’re offering our free meals and have raised $30,000 through our crowdfunding. That’s huge. We’ve been able to provide assistance through gift cards to Wal-mart, Woodman’s, gas cards so people can buy groceries,” Grayson says. “We also provide delivery services in collaboration with N Motion Medical Transport Company. We provide about 25 deliveries every week. We partner with Sherman Methodist Church on the north side, Mt. Zion Church on the south side and River Food Pantry.

“Because of COVID, our collaboration and networks and volunteers have exploded, so we’re able to do a lot with a little,” she adds.

The coronavirus pandemic has not slowed down the training for the third cohort of Urban Triage’s Supporting Healthy Black Families, a 90-day training program designed by Grayson that helps black parents support their children and to examine the effects of white supremacy and racism in their lives, which kicked off on April 28.

“We have gone online for that. We have 18 people who are a part of that,” she says. “It’s tremendous what this training is able to do for people as it relates to trauma healing, looking at ourselves, being accountable within this context of white supremacy racism. It has been amazing.”

Racial disparities cannot be overcome, Grayson says, and Black families cannot become empowered if we’re not equipping the people who are most impacted by racism to navigate it.

“Urban Triage has come a long way in a little time. We are building capital and the people are trusting us and the community has shown up to support,” she says. “And for that we are thankful.”