It’s been just over a year since the Progress Center for Black Women obtained its own space on 5936 Seminole Centre, Suite 211.
In that time, the grant-funded center has evolved its mission beyond supporting black women in their entrepreneurial endeavors.
Founder Sabrina Madison said the goal is to continue building on that vision, since the center is set to find a home in Madison in the next few years.
While there remains a focus on providing an inviting space black women can call their own – where they can build networks, pursue career goals, ask for help and be themselves – Madison said the center has expanded its resources to help in other realms. That includes assisting individuals and families with housing issues, opening the space up to black youth, starting Community Coworking Days, holding holiday events and hosting book launches for black authors.
Funding for those expansions mostly has come from public donations from individuals and businesses.
The one thing Madison said she didn’t anticipate the center spending time on is housing. But there has been enough emphasis on that to inspire her to become certified as a real estate developer so she can educate herself about all the subtle nuances about the housing industry.
The center has helped people navigate such sticky housing situations as evictions and being late on rent.
The idea of opening the space up to black youth, Madison said, came from local middle school advisors and parents reaching out to her for a place their kids could feel safe and express themselves. The kids use the center for events and learning opportunities.
In the center, Instagram photoshoots run rampant among that age group, Madison said, adding that it shows how proud they are of the nonprofit.
Other age groups, including college students, use the center. A lot of them flock to Community Coworking Days.
Coworking days, which began in January 2019, take place on the second Wednesday of every month from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Madison said they provide opportunities for center visitors to work alongside one another, whether that be sharing a laugh or developing a business plan. Attendees can bring a lunch and a laptop while the facility supplies coffee, snacks and free Wi-Fi.
The center also has also been instrumental in helping the careers of local authors.
One Madison woman – Rita M. Johnson – launched her book at the center after she worked with staff to edit her website, Madison said. At another launch, there were only supposed to be 30 people in attendance, but Madison said around 70-80 people came.
The walls of the 800 square foot Fitchburg-space are adorned with empowering and feminine art pieces — by black artists — while the furniture is a royal purples and blues. While it features the same computer lab, kitchen, library, bookstore and community room it did a year ago, the center has become even more of a space for visitors to embrace their blackness, Madison said.
“I just want this to feel like a black woman’s living room,” she said. “ There’s community and there’s family.”