Well over 10 years ago, Kaleem Caire put a group of young people on a boat.
He was CEO of the Urban League of Greater Madison at the time, and sent a group of young professionals on a one-day cruise on Madison’s lakes. One of the young people on that boat was Nia Trammell.
“Before we got off that boat, he made us all sign a pledge to our community, and made us all to start thinking about what that blueprint for improvement would look like, and how could we make the city of Madison an incredible place of opportunity,” said Trammell, now a Dane County Circuit Court Judge.
She said the handful of young people on that boat talked through education disparities, wage disparities, food insecurity, homelessness — a wide range of issues facing Madison’s community, especially its Black community. More important, they talked about what they could do about those issues.
“We had a shared vision of our ideal city, and we wanted to work with our Urban League to make this a better place for everyone else,” Trammell said.
That pledge led to the creation, in 2012, of the Madison chapter of the Urban League Young Professionals. Trammell served as president for two years beginning about four months after the group launched with just 19 members.
In the 10 years since, Trammell has seen the benefits.
“It really curates leaders, creates young professionals, and it grooms them to become change agents within their community,” she said.
The organization will celebrate its 10th anniversary at a fundraising gala at Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center on December 17.
Current president Kurt Rose echoed Trammell’s sentiments on what makes the organization special.
“Past members have gone on and continue to grow in their careers and move forward,” Rose said. “In Madison, we have notable leaders within the community who were members. It’s a grooming ground for community leaders, as we grow up here in Madison.”
He also noted that the organization has continued to grow — the membership is now 73 strong, more than triple the number it started with 10 years ago — even through the pandemic.
“A lot of our professional organizations in the city, as well as volunteer organizations in general, really came to a halt during the pandemic. We actually grew during the pandemic. Our membership grew, our engagement grew. We were able to really engage a lot of individuals during that time,” Rose said. “Lots of people who moved here right before the pandemic or during the pandemic for employment opportunities were looking for a community and connection. We were able to reach them in a virtual capacity in a way that we hadn’t seen before. It’s been a place of belonging for people who move to the city, who want to be active in the community, who are looking for the young Black professional population.”
While the gala is a fundraiser for the growing organization, that’s not necessarily the focus of the event.
“We’re more focused on celebrating the great work that we’ve been doing and getting people together to celebrate the great work that’s happening in unity … and really have a good celebratory moment,” Rose said.
Tickets for the event are $95 for an individual or $750 for a table of eight.
The night will include a cocktail hour, dinner and dancing to tunes spun by Milwaukee’s DJ Gemini Gilly, who won the organization’s virtual DJ battle in 2020.
The program will also include recognition of four young professionals doing extraordinary work in the community with the Presidential Award, Inspire Award, Invest Award and Impact Award. Nominations for those awards are open now, and you can nominate people you know at this link.
Additionally, Trammell will deliver the keynote address. While she hasn’t written the speech yet — she’s been a bit busy as a circuit court judge — “my message will likely focus on our ability to change our community and how our work and our voice can amplify the work of the Urban League,” she said.