Often we hear what Americans need to do to be inclusive to immigrants, but rarely do we hear stories of Immigrant groups taking matters in their own hands and making inclusion a priority. This is just what African Professionals Network (APNET) did when it held its 6th Annual Symposium to a full house crowd at the Cincinnati Red cross in October. The symposium connected African professionals, foreign students and African entrepreneurs with the local business community while learning important lessons from successful African Immigrant businesses and education leaders.
The event brought together over 100 individuals from at least 10 African countries, and representatives from some of the region’s top companies and colleges including P&G, Luxottica, Xavier University, UC Clermont, UC Clifton, Cincinnati State, NKU and PNC to name a few. As in previous years, the event provided valuable networking opportunities and set the stage for further collaborations and business opportunities among the attendees.
The symposium began with a formal pre-event networking hour followed by opening remarks from its President and co-Founder Dr. Prince Ellis; and continued with interactive table discussions on the value of diversity and inclusiveness, African cuisine dinner buffet, presentations on topics pertaining to African development and a keynote panel. It concluded with the Annual APNET Awards presentations.
Welcome and Opening Remarks
Opening the Symposium, Dr. Prince Ellis talked about APNET’s vision and mission. Over the years, APNET has seen steady growth where similar organizations have failed. The organization has made an art out of mixing business and pleasure and family. Diverse talents are connected through quarterly business mixers that draw from local corporate types seeking to diversify their workforce to African artists enhancing the multicultural and global image of Cincinnati. A summer series of family events spread throughout the Greater Cincinnati area ensures families seeking different experiences for their children or those seeking to connect with an African community do so in a fun way complete with African food and music, and APNET has stayed true to its founding pillars of providing a platform to network, do business and build community.
Participants were randomly sat at tables and given topics to discuss amongst each other. The topics focused on the transformative power of inclusion in our communities. After discussing the topics at their respective tables, participants were asked to share what they had discussed and how it tagged into the theme of the evening. Some shared personal experiences while others shared how their organizations and institutions had created welcoming environments for immigrants.
The featured speakers, Dr. Bryan Wright from Cincinnati State, and Dr. Vanessa Allen-Brown and Dr. Joseph Takougang of UC provided varied viewpoints based on their own personal experiences and those of their organizations. Ms. Clara Matonhodze moderated the panel. Dr. Bryan Wright mostly focused on his work as an International Student Advisor and a Member of the Immigration Task Force by Mayor Cranley to discuss how Africans can leverage their backgrounds to their advantage. Dr. Brown emphasized the need to connect with oneself and embrace one’s roots to create an unshakable sense of self and purpose. Drawing from his years of experience raising a family full of Doctors, Dr. Takougang talked about the need for Africans to organize and form strong political ties that can translate into positive business outcomes.
Special thanks to the Symposium Planning Committee and Volunteers for their hard work. Our gratitude goes to Students, Faculty & Staff of University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati State and Northern Kentucky University.
The date for next year’s symposium’s is set for Saturday, October 14, 2017.
Click here to view pictures from the 2016 APNET Symposium.