A little over a year ago, Sabrina Madison came up with an idea to give black women a space of their own.
In early November, the year-old nonprofit organization she founded, Progress Center for Black Women, opened an office in Fitchburg, at 5936 Seminole Court, Suite 211. The center provides programming and resources promoting upward mobility for women such as the Black Women’s Leadership Conference and the Black Business Expo.
Madison had created those events last year after getting frustrated with the lack of diversity at speaking events she attended in Wisconsin.
A motivational speaker – for which she goes by the moniker Heymiss Progress – and former administrative coordinator at Madison College, Madison said there were “too many spaces where there were all women in the room, and none of the women were like me” at those events.
“During one of those last bookings,” she said, “I just asked myself, ‘What would leadership development look like for black women?’”
That led to the Black Women’s Leadership Conference, which sold out in under a week.
“Doing all of that, I just quit my job,” she said.
Out of the Leadership Conference came the Black Business Expo and a youth conference for black teenagers, Madison said. She then created the Progress Center to create some “permanency” to her work in the area.
“I just started thinking something like a home or a center, a space that belongs to us, a space for black women,” she said. “The Progress Center for Black Women was a way to strategically bring some of my work together under one house, and then create new programming around leadership development and entrepreneurial activities.”
At first, she rented space within the Urban League of Greater Madison. And she had planned to keep it there until she raised enough money to build a permanent space; however, black women demonstrated the need for a space, however temporary, they could call their own, she said.
“They’re looking forward to walking in there and having it feel like black girl magic,” she said. “Black women always talk about black girl magic, this sort of energy or vibe … when they would just walk in – we didn’t even have anything in the space other than some poster boards and some chairs – you could see these emotions coming in.”
For now, the 800-square-foot space features a computer lab, a kitchen, a library and bookstore for business resources and a community room, with the idea of making the Progress Center a space where black women can use resources to better every aspect of their whole person, Madison said.
It also allows black female leaders from around the area to have a location where they can put on their own programming at a low cost, in a space that “belongs” to them.
Madison said she plans to stay there for two or three years while planning for a permanent space.
She chose the Fitchburg location after former Madison Area Builders Association executive director Amber Schroeder reached out to her about the space next door to theirs on Seminole Court just off of McKee Road. Madison was unsure about the space at first – there’s limited access to the Madison Metro bus line, she said – but once she stepped foot inside, she found a “beautiful” space.
“There was no way I could say no,” she said. “It was meant to be, almost.”