It’s hard to believe that the Madison Network of Black Professionals (MNBP) will be turning 14 years old later this year. Back in August of 2004, a group of 20 individuals started up MNBP to provide a place to connect as professionals to help learn and leverage themselves as active African Americans in Madison.

“The organization has evolved quite a bit since then. Membership has increased and our partnerships have increased,” says new MNBP President Corinda Rainey-Moore says. “Our networks have increased and our exposure has increased, too.”

MNBP membership is now up to 80 individuals and rising. They’ve just elected a new leadership team to lead the way to advance its mission to make Madison an ideal place for black professionals to thrive. That team includes Rainey-Moore as president, LaRuth McAfee as vice president, Carrie Braxton as membership chair, Oscar Mireles as treasurer, Sharon Johnson as secretary, Terra McKinney as First Friday coordinator, Nasra Wehelie as professional development coordinator, and Sabrina Madison as social media chair.

Although the Madison Network of Black Professionals is made up of primarily African Americans in their 20s, 30s, and 40s who are interested in promoting ideas and concepts that positively impact the black community in Madison, Rainey-Moore makes it clear that the Madison Network of Black Professionals are a diverse and inclusive group.

Madison Network of Black Professionals

“Even though we call ourselves the Madison Network of Black Professionals, we don’t exclude anybody who wants to be a part of our organization,” Rainey-Moore says, mentioning that MNBP has had Latino members like Mireles and Brenda Gonzalez.

“Some people also think that the Madison Network of Black Professionals is an organization that is exclusive to people who are at a certain level of their profession … and that’s not true either,” Rainey-Moore continues. “We’re open to people at any level. If you’re just looking to improve who you are and are looking to leverage your networks in that way, then you can be a member. Some people who are in our organization are at the beginning of their career and some people have been in their career for decades or even retired. We have a cross-cultural group of individuals in our organization at varying degrees of their career.”

One of MNBP’s signature events is their monthly luncheon, hosted by different community organizations throughout the city, where members can come together and enjoy each other’s company but also a great way to connect members to career opportunities.

“The MNBP Luncheon was started by a group of African Americans – Dawn Crim, Malika Evanco, Nia Trammell, Annette Miller were some of the original people – who didn’t see anybody in the office who looked like them,” Rainey-Moore says. “So having a space to be able to connect to people outside of the workplace was how the luncheon got started.

“It’s also a great networking event. We have a different organization sponsoring us each month and they come in and talk about their organization. It gives our members exposure to those organizations but it also gives those organizations exposure to African Americans in different professions to make a connection,” she continues. “So, if they are looking for employees, and our network members are also looking for a job or to change careers, then the MNBP Luncheon is an opportunity for them to connect.”

In addition to the luncheon, MNBP also offers career professional development and training. The MNBP also hosts their Annual Summer Picnic at McKee Farms in Fitchburg, a festive affair where members get together to have fun, network and play board games and dominoes. “Last year, we also hosted a holiday function to give members a chance to engage and network but to also have fun,” Rainey-Moore says.

Madison Network of Black Professionals at the annual MNBP summer picnic

MNBP’s First Fridays is a fun, networking opportunity that takes place at various downtown restaurants at the beginning of every month. It’s often a very diverse local group of individuals interconnected by heritage, education, business, technology and social activities who have the mission of networking and sharing information of interest to African Americans.

Carrie Braxton, new MNBP membership chair, says that MNBP’s goal is to connect many people from various areas professionally.

“What I really like about this network is that it is a ‘no pressure,’ yet progressive group of people that add a learning element to networking,” Braxton tells Madison365. “The network’s growth will continue, as there are motivated members ready to keep things moving onward and upward.”

New MNBP social media chair Sabrina Madison

MNBP is pretty excited about their 80 members right now, but they know they can become a much bigger organization. “We’re very happy about that but we’re looking to increase that with our new MNBP social media chair Sabrina Madison,” Rainey-Moore says. “I’m excited about growing our membership.”

Members get a free MNBP t-shirt and full online access to the MNBP website, which includes access to the membership directory as well as community resources. Members can submit events, activities, and jobs information directly on the website.

“Now is a great time to join the Madison Network of Black Professionals. You get exposure to different companies. You get discount to different events,” says Rainey-Moore. “For example, we’re partnering with the Overture Center for the upcoming Frostiball. So members will get discount prices.

“But the most important thing is that you get a network of individuals in many different professions, and that is very important,” she adds. “One of the great things people say to us at our events is that it is one of the few places you can come to see people who actually look like you. That’s a pretty big deal.”

And you will make friends. Lifelong friends. Rainey-Moore has made many friends since she joined MNBP. “Most people assume that I’ve always known everybody,” she laughs. “But I started with the network and have made so many friends through the years.

“We’re looking forward to 2018. It’s going to be a big year for us,” she adds. “I’m looking forward to the connections we are going to make in this community. I’m really looking forward to really getting out the message of who we are and what we do and how we provide service in the community. I’m looking forward to building more partnerships, as well.”