Second Annual Black Women’s Leadership
Sabrina “Hey Miss Progress” is fulfilling her
entrepreneurship dreams since she left Madison College
Part 2 of 2
By Jonathan Gramling
Ever since she came to Madison in 2008 to study at and then work at Madison
College, Sabrina “Hey Miss Progress” Madison has been a social entrepreneur,
specializing in bringing people together to take it to the next level.
Madison has been learning how to take her own game to the next level as well.
She started out with the Word-A-Thon Poetry Slam held at the Urban League of
Greater Madison and her Conversation Mixtape, which were geared for relatively
small audiences. Over the past 1-2 years, Madison has taken on larger projects
with her Black Business Expo that attracted hundreds to The Villager’s Atrium last
November and her first Black Women’s Leadership Conference held at Winedown
on State Street. This year’s conference has moved down the Street a little where
it will be held May 19-19 at the Overture Center and May 20 at Edgewood College.
For Madison, it’s all about empowering women and helping them develop the
mindset to take advantage of opportunities or make opportunities so that they can
advance in their careers.
There is a saying that there is no harm in asking, yet many Black women are afraid
to find out and take advantage of those opportunities. She recalled the impact of a talk given by Malika Evanco, head of HR for the Sun Prairie
School District at last year’s event.
“I didn’t think about it initially, but Black women may have a hard time negotiating,” Madison said. “When I grew up, I was in a union family and
I was in a union prior to ACT 10 at Madison College and what you learn from a union that people don’t necessarily appreciate is you learn how
you are supposed to be treated in the workplace. You learn what tools are out there that your employer has to offer you to help you grow in the
workplace. At Madison College, we could take all kinds of little professional development courses. You could get that tacked on to your
resume. It’s not common that people know that your employer can actually pay for conference tickets. You can use it as a personal
development or wellness day and not have to use your vacation days or sick leave or lie about being sick. Last year, I started getting phone
calls from women asking me if their job would pay for the conference. We strategically created it so it could be a professional development
day. I had to coach maybe 10 women on how to get the professional development day. We wrote a justification letter that they could use with
their employer. Women were shocked that their employer said yes. We had a woman who was in a management training program at Target. She
was trying to manage her life like getting her kids in daycare and exchanging shifts and coming in late. I said, ‘You don’t have to do all of that.
Ask them to pay for the ticket and use your work time to go there. It’s empowerment.’ Not only was she shocked, but several other women from
large employers around the city were shocked. What bothered me emotionally — even though I was happy to coach them and help them — was
they didn’t know those things. These are women in their late 20s and 30s who have never asked for a professional development day that their
This year’s conference looks like it will be just as empowering. It kicks off with a social on Thursday night, May 18.
“There will be an opening art exhibit titled Black Girls’ Joy, Madison said. “We’ll have two featured visual artists. And we have a live band
coming up from Milwaukee, Cigarette Break. Trilogy, the girls from Madison will also perform. I wanted to make Thursday night a really family-
community opening night. We wanted to give everyone access to a sort of Black girls’ space. And it is open to the public at the Overture
Center, 6-9 p.m. Overture has been a really great sponsor.”
On Friday, the conference kicks off at Overture with some panel discussions and speakers.
“Nancy Hanks from the Madison public schools is also one of the Root 100’s Top African Americans in the State,” Madison said. “She’ll open it
up. We’ll have a panel moderated by Amber Walker. The panel is title ‘The State of Black Women in Wisconsin.’ We’ll have some of the top
Black women here in the area plus some out of Milwaukee. We’ll have Lisa Peyton-Caire, Annette Miller, Nia Trammell, Nancy Hanks and Quay
Ellison from Milwaukee. I’ll do a session right after that on leveraging social media. I’m not spending a lot of money putting myself out there. I
just leverage social media. And then we’ll have Malika leading a panel that explores the four different generations in the workplace. I just
found that interesting. You have Millennials, Baby Boomers and others in the workspace. You have all of these different generations who don’t
always know how to talk to each other or work together collaboratively.”
During the day, which goes from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m., attendees can get their complimentary head shots taken and of course lunch will be provided.
And then after Daha Kelly, the renowned poet from Milwaukee, ends the day with a poem and a group photo is taken at the State Capitol,
conference goers will be able to unwind at a social on the roof of MMoCA. DJ Ace, Vanessa McDowell, will be spinning the music as attendees
enjoy the view from the rooftop.
Saturday’s sessions will be held at Edgewood College starting at 8 a.m.
“Our opening speaker is Kara Stevens from New York,” Madison said. “She is the Frugal Feminista. She’s going to open the day talking about
your money mindset. She has a national presence. She was recently on the Joy Cardine Show. Then we have 12-15 breakout sessions. We
have speakers from Madison and Milwaukee. I’m doing a session with Gregory St. Fort on entrepreneurship. The sessions focus on everything
from starting your own radio show, dealing with racism in the workplace, the Black Women’s Pledge and Jordan Gaines talking about Black
Women in Media. I’m hoping the media folks do show up. We’ll see what happens. We’ll still be doing the headshots. We’ll also have vendors
at Edgewood. We’ll try to wrap it up by 3 p.m.”
The conference will also feature a special track for 50 high school juniors and seniors called Black Girl Magic Tracks. And the conference will
wrap up with the awarding of the Carola Gaines Hey Miss Progress Collaborator of the Year Award.
“Last year, we gave it to Ali Muldrow,” Madison said. “The award is to acknowledge women who have that same spirit like Carola Gaines.”
The Second Annual Black Women’s Leadership Conference can’t help but be empowering. Come out and get some.
Tickets for the Black Women's Leadership Conference are on sale through May 6th using discount code MAGIC at www.bwlc2017.eventbrite.