“What can I do?” As editorial director for WISC-TV and Madison Magazine for almost 30 years, that was the question I was asked most by viewers and readers. It came from a genuine desire to help, and uncertainty as to where to begin. In many cases the answer was easy. Madison is replete with networks for collecting and distributing resources for those who need them. Volunteers with time and/or money are always welcome. But when it came to issues of inequities and disparities, when the response required a change in one’s perspective and assumptions, the answers were often hard to find, and sometimes harder to accept. The Center for Black Excellence and Culture, the Rev. Dr. Alex Gee’s visionary Black-inspired and -led $36 million dollar project on Madison’s booming south side, is a beautiful answer to the question: “What can I do?” It will change this city as it is changing the people supporting it. And I am one of them.
When Gee asked me to help with this truly big idea, I found my perfect, first post-retirement gig, along with other fellow “failed retirees,” like former Fitchburg Mayor Frances Huntley-Cooper, former Dane County Executive Rick Phelps, former University of Wisconsin–Madison administrator Alan Fish, and a team of committed business and civic leaders inspired by Gee’s response to another answer to another question, this one to more than 700 Black Madisonians: “What do ‘we’ need?” (Just to be very clear, this is a totally different question than the oh-so-typical, white people asking each other “What do Black Madisonians need?” and the typical response of giving Black people what white people think they need.)