ULGM’s 9th annual Unity Picnic will provide many with first look at almost-complete Black Business Hub

The Urban League of Greater Madison’s Unity Picnic, a family-friendly community event with food, music, activities for kids and adults, and more, will have an interesting backdrop this year that it hasn’t in years prior — the almost-complete Black Business Hub.

The free event will be held on Saturday, July 22, 1-5 p.m. and is hoping to bring a large community presence out to check out the progress being made on the $26 million Black Business Hub, which is looking to become the Madison region’s premiere Black-led enterprise center devoted to incubating, accelerating, and networking under-served entrepreneurs. Located on Madison’s South Side across the parking lot from the Urban League, the hub will include office space, retail storefronts, pop-up vending spaces, co-working space, a shared commercial kitchen and more.

Dr. Ruben Anthony, CEO of the Urban League of Greater Madison, is excited to show the community what is quickly on the way, and plans to share ways that community members can now invest in the project themselves.    

“We expect to open up the Black Business Hub for tours,” Anthony told Madison365. “It’s not totally complete yet, about 85% complete, but complete enough that we can let the community have a sneak peek inside of the Hub. The first floor has this beautiful flooring and the second-floor balcony situation is set up, so we want this community now to have a sneak peek. The focus of this Unity Picnic will be launching our public campaign so that the community can now make their contributions.”

There has been $25 million raised so far, and with tenant improvements and inflation in mind, Anthony hopes to raise $2 to $3 million more to solidify the investment into Madison’s South Side. The annual Unity Picnic will have music and entertainment, along with food from BP Smokehouse and Kipp’s Catering.    

Anthony spoke on the Unity Picnic being a perfect opportunity for the community to come out in solidarity to claim their presence on a changing South Side. 

“We want to make sure that we ignite a renaissance in South Madison,” said Anthony. “One that unifies brown and Black efforts to be a part of helping create a vision for South Madison. As we see the change happening fast, gentrification is happening. Folks are coming in and building high-rise apartment buildings that are overpriced for many members in this community. We want this community to grow in a way where Black and brown people are included in this wealth building.”

Anthony also gave praise to other South Side organizations such as Centro Hispano and projects that are in development such as the Center for Black Excellence as leading the way into staking a claim in South Madison. 

“We are making it happen right here,” Anthony said. “We refuse to sit on the sidelines and watch as this neighborhood is gentrified and wealth gets stripped out of this community and goes somewhere else. We want residents and entrepreneurs from this community to be a part of this new renaissance, and this new development of South Madison. We have partnered with the city, the county, and others who really feel like we ought to celebrate this.” 

With a focus on affordable housing, building wealth and equity for generations, and making Madison a suitable destination for aspiring Black and brown families, the goal for many on the South Side is reached through community. The 9th Annual Unity Picnic looks to highlight that by celebrating what is here and what is to come. 

“We do have a place here in Madison, because for many years, we haven’t been able to identify a place to direct people,” Anthony assured in closing. “When faculty come into town that are African American or Latino, and they want to feel like there is a space for them and their family, we haven’t been able to show that. Now we can, and this is just the start.”

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