“Why did you start BPN?”
Of all the questions I am asked, this one by far surprises me. I always thought the answer was so obvious. However, as I think about 2020 and how far this conference and organization has grown, let me share a little bit of how Black Professional Network (BPN) came to be.
For one, the conference came before the organization. I was asked to charter Florida International University’s (FlU) Black Alumni Chapter in the summer of 2009 upon graduation. I served as the 1st Council President of Black Student Union in 2009 and previously served as the Student Government (SGA) Vice President in 2008. So, it was a natural progression to charter FIU’s Black Alumni chapter. Initially, the idea was to help students on campus and recent graduates find Black mentors and career/industry-related organizations.
When I started law school at Nova Southeastern University (NSU), I quickly learned two things to be true. For starters, black students not having access to people who could give us a leg up wasn’t a unique problem to FIU. Law School also taught me opportunities are not birthed in silos. My success and development were achieved equally from classmates who did and did not look like me. Moral of the story- we have to embrace other racial and ethnic groups. The bigger your network, the better. The better it was cultivated, the more opportunities you were exposed to and so on. However, without first coming together as a racial and ethnic community we could not harness the greater influence this provides. As residents within a city, county, state, and nation if we could come together, no matter our individual goals, we could achieve more.
Although, we know the saying “It’s not what you know but who you know,” my experience taught me that as a people, we needed both. The “what” and the” who” matters. As people of color, we do not have the privilege to have one or the other. We needed both. So, with the support of my alumni association, in 2014 the Black Professionals Summit was launched. It was our goal to expand and leverage the intellectual and social capital to foster growth and opportunities. Thus, we held our first conference in the Biscayne Bay Campus Wolfe Center on Saturday, September 27th, 2014. The conference included workshops and speakers, designed to help you win at home because your strongest network is built where you work, live and play.
Miami-Dade alone is a big county with at least 40+ cities. If you are a business owner, you need to know who are the key people and resources where you’re headquartered. Whether coming out of college or seeking to reach a career milestone knowing the industries that are thriving here, what skills they are seeking and how you can develop them; should be a part of your career plan. How to thrive and shape a well-rounded Miami life, is largely based on engagement. If you want to increase your reach, impact, or relevance staying connected to people, resources, and experiences in Miami is key.
Connections build relationships, self-improve and increase your quality of life. Government, politics, and policy, as a history and political science major, it was important, early on, we – people of color had government and public education at the center of our conversations. These entities impact the decisions we can make and choose to make in business and how we work, live, and play. Its an ambitious endeavor and the team doesn’t take our work lightly. All these things had to be apart of the conversation to increase our collective influence.
The conference provides all those things in a hyper-local way, connecting people across industry, functions, and job roles within business, career, and government so our professionals can win at home. And while the one or two day conference was great for a while, I knew I couldn’t stop there. In 2016, I got the feeling that it wasn’t enough. We needed to help people come together much more frequently. Give more people a platform. Network = net worth. Black Professionals Network became an official organization in 2017, member-based in 2018, and launched a full-weekend conference. The 2018 BPN conference earned the attention of the Democratic and Republican Florida parties and the attendance of both parties Gubernatorial nominees.
I know, what a journey – having the honor to have executives from Fortune 500 companies and Miami’s top business leaders to serve as thought leaders and provide guidance on how to navigate this Miami life to our black professionals. It has been a worthwhile experience to hear the stories and testimonials of people who gained opportunities for their business, brokered deals or made connections that impacted their career and personal life.
The marathon continues. This year’s theme: Into Focus – Maximizing Your 2020 Vision ask our attendees to think of that burning goal they are working on and let us help zoom in on it and maximize the results. The organization nor the conference dictates your goals; we simply collect the resources and gather the people. You do the work.
2019 Black Professionals Summit
Into Focus: Maximizing Your 2020 Vision
On October 17-20, meet us at the Koven Center for the 2019 BPN Summit with speakers such as Erika Bennett, Global Head of Social & Influencer Marketing, YouTube Originals & TV, Kevin Stuckey, Original Slate Publicity, NETFLIX and CEO of Enterprise Florida Jamal Sowell to name a few. The next decade ahead is critical to our community. We are discussing what’s the next wave in business and career. Let’s carve our place and be reminded that together each achieves more.
Take a moment to visit our social media pages and wish Black Professionals Summit a ‘Happy anniversary!’
Kenasha Paul, J.D., Founder and President