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Apr 28, 201504:37 PMMinority Biz Report

with Sam Owens

To be young, black, and ambitious in Madison

If you are young, black, and ambitious, Madison is the type of town that makes it easy to be pessimistic.

Obviously, my peer group finds some value in jump-starting a career –– or brand –– in Madison. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have come here. Or, perhaps we would have come, procured a highly esteemed diploma from UW-Madison, then run toward warmer, less hostile climates.

If you are young, black, and ambitious, the idea of making a long-term investment in Madison, whether purchasing real estate or rearing children, can seem nearly –– if not outright –– comical. As strange as it might sound, most of us are simultaneously ambivalent and reticent about committing our youth and sweat equity toward the development of a “new and improved” Madison.

If you are young, black, and ambitious in Madison, you might have a particularly wry method for expressing time. You likely quantify your stint in one of America’s “best” cities using diction that takes on the tenor of a prison term, or a military tour of duty.

If you are young, black, and ambitious in Madison, you must contend with a black middle class superstructure that is often toxic, and perpetually incapable of fulfilling the social obligation to be our brother’s and sister’s keeper. They perpetuate myths that the style of dress and musical preferences adopted by our youth are the causes of their pain and distress. Under the color of authority –– from institutions we were conditioned to revere –– they continuously attempt to shame younger generations for demanding new paradigms for leadership and community action.

Yet –– and still –– I have hope for Madison. I’ve found people and communities that give me reason to believe being young, black, and ambitious in Madison doesn’t have to entail being treated like persona non grata.

When I joined CONNECT Madison, I began to believe that other young professionals were excited to help me develop my social network. When I joined 100state, I began to believe that other entrepreneurs were enthusiastic to invest in the development and sustainability of my business. Within the CONNECT Madison and 100state spaces, we’ve grown team-working communities, with shared values and a common vision for blueprinting a Madison 2.0. As a member of these communities, I was made to feel as if being young, black, and ambitious were valued assets, and not simply quaint attributes or points of envy.

Someone recently suggested to me that the key to success in Madison is to find your “tribe.” For the young, black, and ambitious in Madison, truer words have never been spoken.

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