The Urban League of Greater Madison’s 4th annual Urban Cabaret will take place Friday, Oct. 7, at the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center.

“The Urban Cabarets have been a great hit with the community. This is one of those events that brings a mixed audience from different socioeconomic strata,” Urban League of Greater Madison CEO Dr. Ruben Anthony tells Madison365. “We make sure that there are tickets for folks in the community who might otherwise not be able to afford an event like this. Also, there’s a lot of corporations who donate extra tickets and we’ll have those tickets on hand for people who just want the experience.

“But a lot of the corporations and the CEOs of non-profits come to the Urban Cabaret because it’s a great event, too,” he adds.

Urban League President and CEO Ruben Anthony
Urban League President and CEO Ruben Anthony

Every year, the Urban Cabaret brings the community together to network with each other, to celebrate progress made over the year, and to recommit to creating a more equitable Dane County where all citizens are enjoying the same great quality of life. The Urban Cabaret also puts a spotlight on the diverse culture and artistic talent of the community.

It is a unique and dynamic fundraising event that will feature diverse performances by Brandon Beebe, Fr3sh Trilogy, Megan Bob and The Lux, Shawndell Marks, Leotha Stanley and Friends, Zhalarine H. Sanders, and DJ Chill.

“[MMSD Executive Director of the Family, Youth & Community Engagement Department] Nichelle Nichols will be our emcee for the event and she will also do a little spoken-word [poetry],” Anthony says. Nichols is a former Urban Leaguer herself.

Every year at the Urban Cabaret event, the Urban League of Greater Madison Board of Directors honors the recipient of its 2016 Whitney M. Young, Jr. Award. This award is the most prestigious given by Urban League Boards across the country and is given in honor of the great civil rights leader and former head of the National Urban League

This year’s winner is Bishop Harold Rayford, the founder, CEO and president of 1800 Days, a non-profit corporation he was inspired to launch after spending time working as an educator in a Dane County middle school.

Harold Rayford
Harold Rayford

Anthony will also present this year’s President’s Awards which he says “honor community servants who are dedicated to helping make Madison a great place for everyone live, work, and play.” The 2016 President’s awardees are:
• David Cagigal – Distinguished Service
• Theresa Sanders – Exceptional Community Collaborator
• Neil Heinen – Community Champion
• Sina Davis – Grassroots Hero
• Felicia Davis – Rising Star
• Exact Sciences – Corporate Partner

The Urban Cabaret invitation says to come dressed in cocktail or business attire and that cabaret attire is also encouraged. What exactly is “cabaret attire”?

“For some people, it gives them a chance to really put on some flashy stuff. They might have on bowties, some people might have on tuxedos or half-tuxedos. Last year, I saw some people with the tuxedo jacket and jeans,” Anthony says. “It’s a fancy step-up thing. You don’t have to put on your Sunday best but you want to look good coming to the event. It’s a great feel … that cabaret feel. Almost like a New Orleans-type of vibe.”

The Urban Cabaret is the marquee event for the Urban League and it raises money to support the Urban League’s empowerment, employment, and education programs that include things like job training, placement, and coaching for unemployed parents along with academic tutoring, career awareness internships, and other enrichment programs for youth.

“The Cabaret is a great opportunity for individuals to network and see the best of Madison,” Anthony says. “It’s an informal setting. It’s one of our biggest fundraisers of the year. We could not do many of the programs that we do for the community if we didn’t have fundraisers like this. This gives us an opportunity to have a pool of unrestricted funds for some of the things that we don’t have grants and resources targeted towards.”

The Urban League of Greater Madison is currently involved in a handful of exciting initiatives, many of them revolving around workforce development. “We just partnered with the City of Madison to be the operator of the employment and training center in the former Griff’s restaurant [on McKenna Blvd across from Elver Park],” Anthony says. “The city is expecting that to be redesigned and opened up in 2018 but we’re looking to raise up programs over there within the next couple of weeks. We’re looking for a temporary site and we have resources to begin employment and training services over there within days.”

ULGM has also partnered with Dane County and Latino Academy in a commercial driver’s license (CDL) training program. “These are training programs that are paying $18.95 an hour and after successful training the jobs at the County will start at $24 an hour,” Anthony says. “That’s a pretty big deal.”

The Urban League’s Foundations for the Trades program, an apprenticeship readiness program designed to help prepare individuals for a career in the construction and utilities industry, is also going strong. During the Academy’s 7-week training program, participants focus on learning important industry skills and concepts and have a chance to apply new skills during a hands-on experience.

Urban League's Foundations for the Trades Academy participants
Urban League’s Foundations for the Trades Academy participants

“We’re starting to build up stronger relationships with trades. We’re getting people ready for apprenticeship training and ready for their testing so they can provide those services over on the southwest side,” Anthony says. “This is real boots-on-the-ground stuff where we’re training individuals in the trades and they’re going in and getting some practical experience from Operation Fresh Start on how to build houses.”

The 4th annual Urban Cabaret is a great chance to learn a little more about the Urban League and its many great programs and initiatives. Or it’s just a chance to watch an eclectic mix of local performers that has traditionally included artists, dancers, aerialists, instrumentalists, magicians, poets and so much more.

“What I love the most about the Urban Cabaret is the diversity you see in the audience. That and the fact that people really clean up well for the event,” Anthony says. “It’s a fun time. You don’t have to talk about business at the event … we’re just having some time to relax, to chat, and to enjoy the entertainment. It’s a festive event where people are having fun and just coolin’ out.”