Fifth Annual Madison Black Chamber of Commerce
Black Restaurant Week
All In During the Pandemic
Camille Carter recently became the Madison Black
Chamber’s first paid CEO in its history
By Jonathan Gramling
During the good times, it may seem that we need no one in our corner as we cruise through life
taking care of business. But when trouble hits — especially trouble that will linger on — it’s
necessary to come together as a community, however that community is defined, to look out after
each other’s mutual business.
Especially during the COVID-19 era, the Madison Black Chamber of Commerce has been trying to fill
that role as it too adapts to the pandemic.
“We’ve been pivoting like most other businesses,” said Camille Carter, the Black Chamber’s CEO.
“We have been bringing our technical services online and pivoting towards online platforms
delivering our consultations virtually. We have also been delivering our webinars virtually as well.
And we will extend our virtual services through one of our flagship programs, which is Black
Restaurant Week. We continue to adapt just like every business is having to do.”
As COVID-19 began to shutter businesses and government sent an initial wave of financial relief to
businesses, the Black Chamber helped their members navigate the bureaucratic waters.
“The SBA, WEDC and Dane County all had special programs for businesses,” Carter said. “Each of
them had very different underwriting criteria. We really advocated for those opportunities to
underwrite businesses differently because you have a combination of different considerations. Not
everyone will fit into the perfect underwriting scenario. We had the traditional financing through the
SBA, which was for PPP and Emergency Disaster Loan Relief Fund. Then we had WEDC, which put
forward a very straightforward grant. We had two grants through them, the Ethnic and Minority
Business Grant as well as the We’re All In Grant. Many businesses were able to qualify within that
program. And then there was the Dane County grant, which served as a resource for many
businesses. We’ve been working on opportunity after opportunity just to make sure that we got as
many people qualified for something as possible.”
McGee’s Chicken at 2702 E. Washington Ave. is waiting for
the end of COVID-19 restrictions to have its Grand Opening.
And the Black Chamber has also had to advocate with governmental entities to make sure that programs and policies included minority businesses and didn’t hurt
them through adverse policies or neglect.
“Our Chamber is very active at every level, from the national level to the state down to weekly partnership and business meetings with our local area chambers of
commerce and the city and the county,” Carter said. “We all understand that our organizations have roles for and goals to meet within the community. And it is really
important that we work together to leverage our resources and keep as many businesses as possible alive. I’m very pleased to say that our Chamber is very active
and engaged in making sure that the voices of Black businesses are heard and their needs are being met to the best our available resources will allow.”
One thing the Black Chamber learned during COVID-19 was the power of joint marketing to raise the visibility of its culinary members. It did a joint marketing
campaign with the Latino Chamber and The Capital City Hues that had an impact on the level of business that many of the restaurants experienced during the
“Our joint advertising campaign showed that it can lift all boats, so to speak,” Carter said. “We want to thank The Capital City Hues for that partnership. We did hear
from some of our restaurants that they experienced a higher level of foot traffic as a result of that marketing. We really want to thank The Capital City Hues for getting
that out about our restaurants that are struggling to remain sustainable and available.”
During August, the Black Chamber holds one of its flagship programs, Black Restaurant Week, a way to cooperatively market a key constituency of the Chamber,
Black-owned restaurants. It was an idea that was brought to the Chamber by the late Milele Chikasa Anana, one of the founding members of the Chamber.
“Ms. Milele had to sell the concept to the Chamber,” Carter said. “She will sell a little bit and then will go in for the close. When she first brought the idea and the
concept to the Chamber five years ago, the board laughed at her. They thought, ‘No way.’ We did not connect with the concept right away. Yet we did it anyway. Just
as with many ideas that Ms. Milele had — and I’ve been aware of — it might not be popular, but if she brings something forward, it has potential for growth and
vitality. And boy did this program ever take off. In the five years that we have promoted this program, we have been able to highlight our area Black-owned
restaurants and continue to promote their business to increase patronage and awareness of the businesses. The program continues to evolve and grow and become
a favorite within the Madison community. We really look forward to promoting it.”
Last year, one way in which Black Restaurant Week evolved was kicking it off with a Jamboree held at Badger Rock Neighborhood Center where some of the Black-
owned restaurants, especially those who cater or have food carts, came together to collectively offer their tasty cuisine to people who attended. With COVID-19 and
the limitations on social gatherings, the Black Chamber has had to be creative once more.
“We have had to think very differently and to pivot,” Carter said. “We have expanded our program in a couple of different areas. We’re having a webinar on food
nutrition that will be held on Thursday, August 20th. And we are also introducing an executive chef series where we will be presenting a nice cooking
The Black Chamber will be promoting and urging people to utilize the Black restaurants all throughout the week.
“We have over 10 restaurants where people can go and visit and have lunch or dinner,” Carter said. “A lot of companies will cater in from our restaurants for their
employees during Black Restaurant Week. We completely encourage our community to support our restaurants.”
And the joint marketing of Black Restaurant Week has an impact.
“We’ve been a part of it since the beginning,” said Esperall McGee, owner of McGee’s Chicken. “In the past, it has increased our business, letting more people know
that we were there,” McGee said. “Some people came who didn’t even know that we were there. Black Restaurant Week is awesome.”
And in spite of COVID-19, they still plan to bring the restaurants together in a socially safe and healthy way to give people easy access to the culinary treats of the
restaurants through a Jamboree featuring a virtual marketplace.
“We are introducing our Black Restaurant Marketplace on August 16th,” Carter said. “The Marketplace will be available as well to preorder food from a variety of
Black-owned restaurants and caterers. You can shop online from the providers and then at a COVID-19, contactless way of delivering the food, customers will be
able to come to the Jamboree on August 23rd, drive through and pick up those orders that they pre-ordered from the Marketplace.”
The Jamboree drive-through will occur in the morning of August 23rd. But
there will be an outdoors Jamboree as well.
“We will close out Black Restaurant Week much like we’ve opened it last
year with our Black Restaurant Food Jamboree,” Carter emphasized. “This
year, it will be held on August 23rd at the FEED Kitchen in the parking lot of
the Northgate Shopping Center. In the afternoon, from 2-5 p.m., we are
planning a walk-up and to-go Jamboree. We’ll have the traditional Jamboree.
We have submitted some very aggressive social-distancing policies to keep
the environment very safe for individuals. We have a plan for moving visitors
through the Jamboree in a pleasant and expedited manner, but healthy and
socially-distanced as well. That will be an opportunity to really come out and
taste on-the-spot a variety of different foods that will be available that
Beyond the economic impact, Carter feels that Black Restaurant Week serves
a higher purpose.
“One of the goals of Black Restaurant Week is to build community amongst
our food service professionals and to allow them to have opportunity to build
relationships and partnerships and leverage the resources that they have
together in order to build stronger businesses for the long-term, Carter
emphasized. “Marketing exposure, really bringing our business owners
together and looking at opportunities as to how to keep their doors open and
their businesses afloat is what we are really trying to put the spotlight on
during Black Restaurant Week.”
Now is the time to come out — or stay in — and support the Black restaurant
can catering community. Culinary treats will be served all week — and year
For more information about Black Restaurant Week, visit https://www.