By Tracie Isaac –
Over twenty-years ago a group of African American professionals, academicians, entrepreneurs and community leaders came to an agreement that there should be an organization that provided networking opportunities for African-Americans in Rochester or those who were new or worked in the area and desired to connect for business-to-business or just getting to know the resources in the city.
This idea was spreading across the country and took shape formally in Rochester in 1998. True Networking Thursdays, Inc. (or TNT as they are called) was birthed.
“TNT is a resource collaborative that provides African-American agents of change and those new to the area with opportunities and pathways to reach personal and professional goals while ultimately strengthening our community,” notes their website.
Their moto: We INTRODUCE, INFORM, INTERACT, and INSPIRE.
Back in September the organization celebrated the 20 anniversary with a gala the Rochester Genesee Valley Club on East Avenue. Under the theme “Harambee”, a Swahili word which means “all pull together”, their message was one of inclusion and the coming together of members, community leaders, family and friends to celebrate as a “community” and acknowledge those who have made significant contributions.
“I volunteered to be a part of the celebration and served as a Historical Consultant. 1st Thurdays was the first group I was involved in. The response from participants was very enthusiastic and requests to increase the opportunity to network was extremely favorable,” notes Dr. Frederick Jefferson, a UofR Professor and one of the event organizers. “ My desire is to see the initiative continue and that we connect with younger demographics to pass on the tradition of networking, supporting local businesses, acknowledging and investing in our community.”
Referencing The Seven Principals of Kwanza, known as the Nguzo Saba, Umoja (Unity), Kujichagulia (Self-Determination), Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility), Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics), Nia (Purpose), Kuumba (Creativity), and Imani (Faith); three businesses and individuals who represented those principles were honored. The honorees were: The Avenue Black Box Theater (Umoja), The Baobab Cultural Center (Ujima), and Mood Makers Books (Ujamaa). Each honoree received a customized African art sculpture.
“We’d like to continue what was started 20-years ago with a fresh message to ‘all pull together’ or Harambee, as a mantra through efforts that are designed to strengthen the Black culture and community. To that end, we believe a community utilizing Harambee to recognize and celebrate the contributions of individuals and groups would create a powerful community-bonding energy that will support Black collective efforts in Education, Social Justice, Entrepreneurship, Political and Community Leadership.” Jefferson said.
Kimm Mitchell is the organization’s president. Mitchell originally Joined back in 2004 and became a member of the board of directors in 2014 after a brief hiatus.
“I was very pleased with what the organization stood for and what they were doing in the community. A key objective for me is to bring value to the membership with opportunities for professional development, learning about various topics in general, as well as learning how to improve their networking,” Mitchell said.
“We want to encourage something I call ‘connect-working’. This is where TNT connects with other networking organizations and we collaborate to bring opportunities to the community.”
TNT receptions are held every third Thursday of each month. To learn more about the networking events visit their website at www.tntrochester.org or call (585)340-7049 for more information.