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Urban Cabaret 2019: Unique and Dynamic Fundraiser Showcases Urban League’s Talents, Highlights Programs and Future Plans

Brianna Ware performs at last years Urban Cabaret. [Photo by Hedi Lamarr Photography]

“At the Urban Cabaret, you have people from multiple walks of life come together to relax and have fun for a good cause. It’s a great time,” says Urban League of Greater Madison President and CEO Dr. Ruben Anthony. “It’s a chance for us at the Urban League to get closer to the community that we serve.”

Every year, the Urban League of Greater Madison hosts a unique and dynamic fundraising event that raises funds to directly support education, employment, and empowerment programs that benefit members of the greater Madison community. This year, the 2019 Urban Cabaret will be held Friday, Oct. 11, 5:45-8:45 p.m. at Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center in downtown Madison.  

“The first Urban League Jazz Cabaret happened back in 2013. In 2014, the name changed to Urban Cabaret,” says Anthony, who was hired to lead the Urban League of Greater Madison in 2015. “We have a really great lineup for this year’s Cabaret. George Smith, anchor from Channel 27, will be the emcee of the event.”

Urban League of Greater Madison CEO Dr. Ruben Anthony [right] with Ralph Hollmon, past President/CEO of the Milwaukee Urban League
[Hedi Lamarr Photography]
Urban Cabaret 2019 will be an eclectic mix of local performers that will include artists, dancers, aerialists, spoken-word poetry, and more. “Leotha Stanley will be coordinating the music this year,” Anthony says. “It will be a little bit of a different look.”

It’s also a chance for the ULGM to recognize its 2019 Whitney M. Young, Jr. Equal Opportunity and 2019 President’s Awardees.

The Whitney M. Young, Jr. Award is given by boards of directors of Urban League affiliates across the country in memory of the great civil rights leader and former head of the National Urban League.  This year’s local recipients will be Greg Jones and Nia Trammell.

Jones currently serves as president of the Dane County NAACP. He has served on the Board of Directors of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute, Chair of the NAACP Wisconsin Conference of Branches Political Action Committee, Dignity at Work Steering Committee, Chair of the Dane County Equity and Inclusion Advisory Board, Tri Chair of the Wisconsin Poor Peoples Campaign, Co-Chair of the United Way Law Enforcement Leaders of Color Collaboration, Past Co-Chair of the United Way Community Solutions Team on Income, and former Chair of the City of Fitchburg Police and Fire Commission. 


NAACP Dane County Branch President Greg Jones (Photo by A. David Dahmer)

“Greg has had an impact here in Madison for four or five decades. He’s always been a civil rights giant,” Anthony says. “He has demonstrated his undying commitment to social justice and being an advocate for poor people and people of color here in the city.”

Nia Trammell joined Governor Tony Evers’ administration in 2019 and is the Deputy Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services. Previously, she served as an Administrative Law Judge for the State of Wisconsin Worker’s Compensation Division, making her the first African-American woman to hold that position.

Nia Trammell

“Nia has just done wonderful work as the founder of a young professionals program here at the Urban League. She has served as our former board chair when I first came in,” Anthony says. “Nia has played a vital role in the development of the Urban League of Greater Madison and now serving as the Deputy Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services. She has been just wonderful in terms of volunteering. She has been a wonderful leader.”

Among the past winners of the prestigious award are Madison civil rights activists and community members like Stephen Braunginn, LaMarr Billups. Addrena Squires, Rev. Alex Gee, Karen Seno, Mona Adams Winston, Sydney Forbes, Dr. Charles Taylor, Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings, and Dr. Muriel Simms.

At the 2019 Urban Cabaret, the Urban League of Greater Madison will also present the 2019 President’s Awardees, which are selected by the Anthony based on their exemplary service and partnership on behalf of the ULGM mission.  ULGM will present the President’s Community Collaborator to Keetra Burnette, the President’s Rising Star Award to Alex Lodge, the President’s Grassroots Hero Award to DianeSmall, the President’s Jobs Champion Award to Pat Schramm, and the President’s Most Valuable Player Award to the City of Madison.

The annual Urban Cabaret is also a chance to learn about what the Urban League has been doing for its community, how they are impacting lives and what they have planned for the future. The big recent thing for the Urban League of Greater Madison has been the grand opening of the Southwest Madison Employment Center, located across the road from Elver Park.

“It gives us the ability to have an additional resource in an area that really faces a lot of poverty and lack of opportunities,” Anthony says. “The job center is located on Aberg Avenue (on the north side of Madison.) A lot of people looking for jobs have to take two/three buses just to get there. This puts an employment and training center in close proximity.

Folks gather for a picture at last year’s Urban Cabaret (Photo by Hedi Lamarr Photography)

“One of the most critical things about having that new employment and training center located where it is, is its close proximity to Exact Sciences,” Anthony adds. “On the build-out of that building, the city put together a TIF deal where Exact has agreed that the Urban League will be one of the primary trainers to bring in people at good wages and benefits and a great opportunity to be with a great company.”

Another thing, that Anthony plans on talking to the Urban Cabaret audience about istheir Urban League of Greater Madison Young Professionals’ RAMP (Retaining, Advaning, Mentoring Professionals) program.

“We haven’t seen enough promoting and advancing in city government, county government, and the private sector and the professional development that we really need to see,” he says. “We want to change that and create strategic mentorships to help these young people get the leadership opportunities that they deserve and the RAMP program is going to help to do that.”

The other thing that Anthony says is really moving to the front of the Urban League of Greater Madison agenda is dealing with the housing crisis here in Madison.

“Madison has a 3 percent vacancy and that really puts landlords in the catbird’s seat, but it puts poor people in an awkward position,” he says. “Many poor people are finding themselves having to go on month-to-month leases and having them be abused by landlords. We want to step in and start checking that.

“Homeownership is the key to allow people to have equity and build wealth and we want to help people do that, too,” Anthony adds. “Madison has the worst black ownership rate in the nation – it’s 17 percent. Nationwide, it’s 45 percent. We have to turn that around. We have to make greater opportunities for people here in Madison to be a full part of the economic system. Homeownership is one of those ways we can make that happen.”

Madison favorite DJ Chill will be closing out the night of entertainment for the Urban Cabaret. Guests are expected to wear cocktail or business attire. Cabaret attire is also encouraged.

“What I really love about Urban Cabaret is the ability to relax with friends and community. We work some really long days. My staff and I, we don’t take a lot of vacation. They do their work and do not look for a lot of publicity,” Anthony says. “But this event is an opportunity to tell our story, the breakthroughs we’ve had, and how people who are using our programs are finding their way to better lives.

“The Urban Cabaret is just a really fun time,” he adds. “We’re looking to have a great turnout.”

Urban Cabaret 2019 will be held Friday, Oct. 11, 5:45-8:45 p.m. at Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center in downtown Madison. There are still some seats left for the big event. Get your tickets for Urban Cabaret 2019 here.