Dr. Alex Gee creating safe places for the Black community   

Eimy Gonzalez, Assistant Editor

By the fall of 2023 Madison’s Black community will have a space to be supported, inspired and feel represented in. Rev. Dr. Alex Gee, a leader and spokesperson of the Black community, is developing a Center for Black Excellence and Culture, an initiative that will bring forth incredible cultural advancement and inclusivity to the city of Madison.  

Per the city of Madison’s awards page, the city has been ranked as the 18th best place to live in the United States, reached a platinum level bicycle friendly community and was named one of the happiest, healthiest cities. However, what does this mean for the Black community?   

The 2010 and 2020 census, in comparison, have a notable change in its population size. By 2020 Madison had 269,840 inhabitants, an increase of 15.7%. Yet 7% identified as Black or African American, the same percentage as in 2010.   

Dr. Gee has lived in Madison for the past 50 years, serving as a pastor for the community, being an employee for the University of Wisconsin Madison as a recruiter, as well as being a leader with multiple initiatives. He has dealt with the difficult conversion for the past years that the City of Madison struggles to retain Black professionals and talents.   

Dr. Gee made mention as to how newly arrived people inquire about a community for them, asking for black restaurants, hair products or a place for culture. “This is a question that becomes difficult to answer,” said Dr. Gee, “and as a result people leave.” People of color come to Madison finding that there is a lack of a place to assemble and feel welcomed in. This pushes them into moving yet again to where this void can be satisfied.   

“So, I want to see African American people stay here in Madison, but if we’re going to do that it needs to be a place where our culture is reflected, our history is told and our children and the children who aren’t our children learn that our culture is stronger and deeper and older than slavery,” said Dr. Gee.   

The Center for Black Excellence and Culture is not meant to capture just the idea of being African American, rather, it has as a vision to be a place for all Black culture to come together as one, including African Blacks, North American Blacks, Native American Blacks, Afro-Latinos and more. It welcomes all Black identities and non-Black to demonstrate how African culture has not only influenced this community, but the entire world with customs and knowledge that has been passed down through generations and preserved almost intactly.   

Dr. Gee explained, “There’s so much about our contribution to this world that people don’t know, and so you can’t look at people that have had this kind of influence and just refer towards us as minorities.”   

The center is focused on developing four aspects in favor of the community: Innovation and leadership development, History, culture and gathering, performance and wellness. The center will be a home of a theater for the arts where performances will take place to support Black talent and strengthen their voice. There will be film festivals, showcases of images, as well as celebrations of Black history and culture. In addition, when it comes to supporting future Black leaders, there will be opportunities to develop skills to start their own business, learn about politics and how to use their talents to better themselves and the community.   

“We need a place that feels like home, otherwise it would never feel like home in Madison.” said Dr. Gee.   

Dr. Gee also mentioned that the center not only will provide a space for Black and non-Black people to congregate, share their stories, learn, grow and be a community, but it also represents job opportunities for people of color. It will be a place for experienced African Americans to serve the younger generations, training and inspiring them, as well as sharing their experience as to how to navigate in predominantly white spaces.  

Matthew Charles, a Black artist—a poet, made a comment on the initiative that Dr. Gee is developing. Mentioning how Dr. Gee is making safe places for Black people to be in. “Alex’s work is necessary and forward thinking. And I hope that he continuously finds and gets all of the partners he needs to be able to fund these things, to be able to resource these things, to be able to staff these things and create all of the programming. Whatever he is doing is needed,” said Charles.   

The Center for Black Excellence and Culture is a much-needed project in Madison. Any place for people to feel safe and represented in is welcomed with open arms and the city has been a supporter of this initiative.   

The center will open in the Fall of 2023, located on the 700 block of West Badger Road. For more information about the center and to become a supporter, visit https://www.theblackcenter.org/about/. Any contribution and donations to the center are welcomed. To know more about Rev. Dr. Alex Gee and to learn about the work he is doing you can visit https://www.alexgee.com/about/.