3rd Annual Madison Black Women Rock Awards
Building Sisterhood in the Community
by A. David Dahmer
Black women and girls are often overlooked for the many roles they play in families and the countless achievements and contributions they make in the community. The 3rd Annual Madison Black Women Rock Awards is aiming to inspire African-American women and girls in the Madison area to pursue their passions while recognizing and supporting one another’s achievements. The annual celebration will be held Saturday, Nov. 8, at the newly constructed Gateway Entrance of the Madison College Truax Campus.
“The very first year we did this I met some amazing black women that I didn’t know and I got to know them,” organizer Keetra Burnette tells The Madison Times. “The first question you ask somebody that you don’t know that you meet at the event is ‘How long have you been here in Madison?’ And they were like, ’12 years!’ and I’m like, ‘Whaaaaat? How have I never come across you?’ We get a lot of those stories and the event is great way to connect and to keep building our network around sisterhood.”
In 2012, at the first annual event, about 75 people packed into Hotel Red. Last year, about 200 people came to the Marquis Ballroom in Fitchburg. “This year, our capacity will be 250 people. We’re trying to grow it a little bit each year and add a little special element each year,” Burnette says. “We have to take it up a notch this year and I’m looking forward to that.”
Networking can be a significant challenge for people of color in Madison — specifically black women. “In a lot of instances, human resources departments don’t look like us so it’s not as easy or as comfortable to network in those types of environments,” Burnette says. “Networking at environments like Black Women Who Rock allows you to meet people of color; more specifically, black women representing all kinds of organizations and businesses. It’s a great way for us to discover each other’s talents.”
There are eight different categories that members of the community can be nominated in (see sidebar below). “The Friday before the event we are hosting a VIP reception where the two finalists in each of the categories can come and get to know one another,” Burnette says. “It’s really a great networking opportunity and a chance for us to learn more about the finalists. On Saturday, Nov. 8, we will announce which one of the two finalists between those women is the winner of each category.”
At the event, they will celebrate and recognize all 16 women who are finalists giving special recognition to the winner of each category. “A lot of these women are every day women. One of our categories, for example, is ‘Unsung SHEro.’ We are really looking for African-American women in our community who are just doing amazing things but aren’t really doing it to be recognized. We’re not looking for the usual suspects, we’re really trying to dig deep in the community to find those hidden gems.”
Awards will be given in eight categories to black women and girls nominated by their peers for leadership and a commitment to making a positive impact on the lives of others; working to address and solve pressing community concerns; balancing motherhood, work, and volunteerism; and making exceptional strides in advancing themselves and others in meaningful ways.
“One of the best things that I like about the event is just the nomination process and just getting to know about all of these great things black women are doing in our community,” Burnette says. “Unfortunately, we have to narrow it down to just two.”
To help pull ladies from a younger generation into the event, Burnette’s daughter, Kiana, is working with her this year. “I’m so excited about that. She’s in college at Northern Illinois University where she is studying education,” Burnette says. “She’s helping us with social media promotions and helping us to attract a younger audience. She’s learning some leadership skills as well, not only from myself but from the other eight ladies who are members of the planning team.”
Those eight ladies on the planning team are: Jacquesha McFarlane, Gwendolyn Jones, Jacquelyn Hunt, Nia Trammell, Britney Sinclair, Corinda Rainey-Moore, Kiah Calmese Walker, and Kimila Jones Daniels.
Burnette, who started her new job as senior director of community impact for the United Way of Dane County earlier this year, is excited for the
“It’s been difficult this year; especially with the transition in my job and sending my youngest child to college. At one point this year, I felt like there was just too much going on and I wouldn’t be able to do the event,” she says. “But I was reminded by the energy I got by bringing this event to life and hearing about the sisters in our community who are doing great things. In the end, there was no way I couldn’t do it again.
“We got a little later start than what we’re used to but we are rocking it hard and pulling it together and it should be an amazing event,” she adds.
Proceeds from this year’s event will directly benefit the South Side Raiders Cheerleading team, a program designed to instill a sense of excellence, pride, leadership and self-esteem in elementary school aged kids.
The 3rd Annual Madison Black Women Rock Awards Celebration will be held Saturday, Nov. 8, 7-9 p.m. Admission is $35.
For more information, contact Keetra Burnette, (608)438-9378 or firstname.lastname@example.org