On Wednesday, Sabrina “Heymiss Progress” Madison walked into the Fitchburg office building that will temporarily house her Progress Center for Black Women.
“Look at that! Suite 211! The Progress Center for Black Women!” she told viewers on a Facebook Live video showing off the new space. “I couldn't have done it without y’all.”
She found her own space for the center less than a year after launching the program. But for local African-American women, it’s been a long time coming.
“I often get women reaching out to me privately to say, ‘You just don’t know how much I need that space, Progress,’ and there are women who sit me down and say, ‘We’ve been waiting on you,’" Madison wrote in a recent Facebook post.
Sentiments like that bring greater urgency to her work, she said.
“It’s almost like these women are saying, ‘Pick up the speed,'” she said. “It just made it even more real how important that space is for them.”
Last October, Madison announced the creation of the Progress Center, along with a $150,000 fundraising goal, to create a home for her existing projects including the the annual Black Women’s Leadership Conference, Black Excellence Youth Conference and Black Business Expos, and allow her to expand her efforts to empower African-American women and families. She temporarily set up shop in the Urban League while looking and fundraising for her own space.
“It’s really asking the community, hey, let’s make an investment,” she said at the time of the launch.
Madison hit her fundraising goal, which allowed her to lease the 800-square-foot office in Suite 211 at 5936 Seminole Centre Ct. in Fitchburg. She plans for the office to host the center’s activities for the next two to three years, before transitioning to a permanent space, which she will either buy or construct.
“There have been so many people who have contributed a couple dollars here, a thousand dollars here,” she said. “I’m so happy that I have something to show them.”
Next, she’ll have designers help her plot out the space, and will then raise funds to cover the cost of furniture.
“I don't want it to be a bunch of knick-knack, second-hand stuff. I want it to ring (with) empowerment — it feels good, it feels new, and it doesn't feel run down right at the beginning,” she said.
But before the grand opening, Madison will bring community members in and ask them what they want to see in the Progress Center.
“We’re going to start literally with black women, because I want them to be the first ones to put their energy into the space and tell me what they want,” she said.
Madison wants art created by African-American women on the walls, and incorporate a “Wakanda feel” in the space, referring to the fictional African country from this year’s blockbuster film "Black Panther."
“I’m excited that black women will have a space to walk into where it feels like them, it looks like them, it was created with their best intentions in mind,” Madison said.
The Fitchburg suite includes three offices and a larger common area. At the moment, Madison is envisioning using one office for entrepreneurship efforts and one for black women leadership collaboration.
In the future, permanent space, she wants room for a computer lab, library and community kitchen. The current space can host scaled-down versions of those services like a lending library, she said, and can use a kitchen across the hall for activities like meal planning classes.
The Fitchburg space also includes an outdoor patio, which Madison is particularly excited about.
“So when you come out, you'll be able to come work in this space right here. Isn’t it cute y’all?” she asked in her Facebook Live stream.
She’ll continue collecting community feedback on the best use of the office through August and the first part of September, then the center will close for a few weeks to prepare for a grand opening in the third week of October.
That opening will be marked with “A Toast to Progress” event, a way for Madison, who admits she is prone to rush on to the next goal, to celebrate what she’s done so far with and for the community.
Also coming this fall, Madison will launch her leadership accelerator known as AMBITION for African-American women. Women can apply in August and programming will begin in early October.
The Progress Center belongs to African-American women, Madison said, and she can't wait for them to own it.
“I cannot wait, especially for local black women ... to come into the space and be able to say, ‘Hey, we’re going to have our meeting today in the Progress Center for Black Women’ or ‘We’re going to hang out with our kids today at the Progress Center for Black Women' or 'We’re going to do some meal prep at the Progress Center for Black Women,’” she said.
On her Facebook live video showing off the new office, one recent high school graduate commented, “I’ll be expecting an office space in about 4 years!”
“That’s a small comment, it’s a quick thought, but that’s the kind of thing that I want to be able to do ... to get women to think about that, ‘That could be my office one day,’” Madison said.