Madison has been challenged to find enough inclusion for minority business enterprises (MBEs) and disadvantaged business enterprises (DBEs) for a very long time.

There have been many who have dedicated their lives to building these programs to help minority-owned businesses grow and develop. The father of the DBE program was Parenn Mitchell. He was a congressperson from Maryland who fought for equal rights in business for minority-owned businesses across the nation. Many business owners like Ray Allen, here in Madison, have had opportunities to set up businesses at airports across the nation because of his work.

These were hard fought battles to create equal access to opportunities for minority-owned businesses. Today, many of these businesses have been lumped under the category of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Whatever you call it we cannot sit back and let these opportunities be taken away. So much was sacrificed and so much will be lost, if we rest on our hands and let these programs be eliminated.

State Senator, Gary George, Hermetta Williams, Bob Wynn and many others ushered the MBE program into this state in 1984. There have been many caretakers of these programs over the years. One of the most noted is Bishop Eugene Johnson, who was the director of the disadvantaged business enterprise program at the Department of Transportation, who put forth a bold and herculean effort to make sure that Black businesses got a piece of the “silver” for nearly 30 years. Others such as Godwin Amegashie, Kirbie Mack, Wesley Sparkman and Norman Davis have dedicated their careers to opening doors to grant greater access to opportunities.

Madison has made great strides with long-term entrepreneurs like Jeff Patterson, founder of JP Hair Design, rising stars like Annette Miller with her consulting firm Equity by Design and with inventors and venture capitalists such as Winslow Sargeant. I look at Madison through a jaded lens because I believe in the greatness of Black Businesses. I look at the success of the Black billionaire Reginald Lewis and believe that we can have that kind of success here in Madison. If they can have a Black Wall Street in Tulsa, Oklahoma, I believe that we can have a thriving Black business community here in Madison.

Milele Chakasa Anana, the matriarch of UMOJA Magazine, paved the way for many business owners and helped with the evolution of the Black Chamber of Commerce here in Madison. The Black Chamber of Commerce is now located in the Urban League of Greater Madison’s Black Business Hub and is led by the President and CEO Camille Carter.

The Black Business Hub stands squarely on the shoulders of many of the giants mentioned. It was launched so that Black businesses in this region would have a place to start up, grow and have access to capital and training. We are “building the Hub and flying the Hub” at the same time. It is time for us to do something great in this space.

We expect to have a grand opening with the Unity Picnic this summer. If you have not seen the Hub, stop by and ask for a tour. If you are not a subscriber to the UMOJA Magazine, make sure you go to the back cover of this issue for more information..