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“Black in the Bay” event offers connections for young people in Green Bay


University of Wisconsin- Green Bay’s Multi-Ethnic Student Affair (MESA) Office will host the Second Annual Black in the Bay Networking Event on Wednesday, Februar 24.

“I have a ton of Black professionals all over the state who have signed up,” MESA Director Mai J. Lo Lee said.

Lo Lee planned the first-ever Black in the Bay Networking event after students questioned the presence of the Black community in Green Bay. She said students would ask questions like “How can any Black people live here?” 

“One of the beauties of what she created with Black in the Bay was a level playing field,” Multicultural Advisor Miriam Brabham said.

Brabham joined the staff at UW-Green Bay in fall 2019. Initially, Brabham did not have the impression that many Black people live in Green Bay. Instead, she thought that Black community was transient in Green Bay, coming and going. 

Brabham attended last year’s Black in the Bay Networking event. She then learned Black people crafted spaces for themselves in the area. 

“I was sitting at the table with a retired dean, a police officer, two students, and I was professional staff,” Brabham said.

Many Black students come from cities like Chicago or other cities in the state. Lo Lee realized students did not have a lot of exposure to Black professionals or community members while living on campus. The event offered students an opportunity to learn more about Green Bay’s Black community; however, networking can often feel awkward and uncomfortable for some. 

“We really pull away from using the word ‘networking.’ It’s really just meeting Black people in the area,” she said. 

Black in the Bay creates an authentic opportunity for Black professionals to meet diverse undergraduate students at the university. As someone who works in student affairs, Lo Lee attempts to provide the best experience for her students to thrive while on campus. 

“To be an authentic ally, you have to recognize your experience only goes to a certain point,” she said.

Black and African American students needed to connect with others who looked like and shared similar experiences as them. Black in the Bay began as a speed-dating-style event. 

Brabham appreciated the fact that there were no panels and that individuals sat on the table across from each other. This created an intimate environment for those participating. The COVID-19 pandemic put a damper on that environment, though.

Mai Lo Lee

“I had to be honest that in November I was thinking about postponing because it was missing that intimacy,” Lo Lee said. “But the Black Student Union came to me and said ‘we want to cosponsor this event because we need it.’”

This year students and community members will meet each other virtually; however, staff have organized the event to allow for students to build authentic relationships.  One of the conversation starters is, “How are you coping?” 

Lo Lee said students have become very familiar with navigating virtual career fairs, classes, and events at UW-Green Bay prior to the pandemic.

“I don’t want them to survive, I really want to thrive in their four or five years here,” she said.

Anyone interested in attending the event can register at this link.