WHY FORUMS FOR AFRICAN AMERICAN PROFESSIONALS, A HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE
For decades, African American Club professionals held informal meetings at Boys & Girls Clubs National Conferences. These meetings were held in individual’s rooms, in corners of lobbies, or in locations near the conference site. During these earlier periods, many African American staff members felt that their employment would be in jeopardy if they were observed at these meetings.
During the earlier years, the meetings provided an opportunity for African American professionals to express sentiments regarding various issues they felt were unique to them at their Club or were Movement-wide. These meetings provided an opportunity for individuals to “vent” frustration, compare “wounds” and on some occasions to be consoled by peers. This was the only opportunity for African Americans as a group to share their unique challenges.
Over the years, the meetings evolved to a self-help approach. Opportunities for new professionals to access seasoned, experienced, knowledgeable African American colleagues in a free exchange became another benefit of these meetings. Issues like retention and advancement were discussed in a culturally sensitive manner, and when necessary, frank and direct. These meetings provided an opportunity to address critical issues in a free flowing yet constructive environment.
In 1999, the Society of African American Professionals was created to provide assistance to any professional in the Boys & Girls Club Movement on the recruitment, retention, and upward mobility of African Americans. Some SOAAP forums are designed specifically for African Americans to be able to continue the tradition of open, direct, and frank conversations among African Americans on unique and often critical issues that often face in their professional careers. Click here to LEARN more about SOAAP.