MADISON (WKOW) — Just behind Fountain of Life Church on Madison’s south side is a six-acre lot that will soon house a 65,000-square-foot facility dedicated to Madison’s black community. The facility’s founders hope the Center for Black Excellence & Culture will serve as a home and community center for black people in the city.
Dr. Alexander Gee, Jr., who also happens to be the pastor of the nearby church, is spearheading the project and says the three-story facility will house a theater, gymnasium, library, space for young people and various meeting spaces.
“We felt what Madison was missing was a real cultural home, where the black community can come to gather, plan and celebrate,” Gee said. “And that space doesn’t exist so far.”
Currently, the six-acre site is home to a garden, field and a small office building. All of this will be cleared to make way for the $36 million facility.
The project is also led, designed and inspired by black people – something Gee says was very important to him.
“As a black person who grew up in this community, the images of myself, my story and our contribution – it was very negative,” he said. “I want people to understand that Africans have touched and shaped the world, it engenders a sense of pride.”
Frances Huntley-Cooper is co-chair of the project and says the new center will serve as a place for African Americans in Madison to come together and celebrate their culture.
“It gives people the opportunity to have a place to come and talk to other people who look like us and feel comfortable,” Huntley-Cooper said. “‘Where do you get your hair done’ and ‘where do I get my nails done’, and all those sorts of places and things like that. That doesn’t exist.”
Project organizers say more than $10 million has already been raised and construction is expected to begin by the end of the year. The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2023.
Gee says the location of the center is critical. More than 140,000 cars pass through the Park Street exit where the center will be located – an opportunity to let black people in Madison know when they pass by that they are welcome.
“My ultimate goal is to know that I’m working with black people who haven’t given up on Madison,” Gee said. “Although we have often felt that this community or the state has let us down, we are always at the table trying to make this community better for everyone and inclusive for everyone.”