Madison Network of Black Professionals
A transition of the guard
By Jonathan Gramling
The old saying is ‘If you want something done right, give it to someone who is
busy.’ If that is true, then Keetra Burnette, the new chair of the Madison Network of
Black Professionals (MNBP) certainly fits the bill. As we talk in a coffee shop on
Madison’s west side where Burnette has just finished a conversation with another
MNBP member, Burnette talked about her husband, three teenagers and a dog on
top of her work as an educational specialist with UW Health and part-time real
estate agent on top of that.
Yet Burnette has taken on the leadership role for MNBP, a 60 plus member
organization, because she believes in the community service orientation of the
organization and what it does for young Black professionals like her in the Madison
area. “Before I joined MNBP, I wasn’t aware there were so many Black
professionals in the city of Madison,” Burnette said. “It has opened up a whole new
friendship circle for me. I met a lot of people who are professionals and have
families and do other things and are facing some of the same struggles that I was
facing. So now I can have those conversations with people and they understand
whereas before, it wasn’t necessarily a person of color that would go with those
same issues. But now it is people with whom I have a lot more in common, people who are still developing their professional careers and
raising a family at the same time. That comes into play a lot. And a lot of our members do have families and so, we have the opportunity to
do things as families together. It all just works out.”
At the heart of MNBP are its monthly luncheons, held on the first Tuesday of every month. In addition to giving members the chance to
share information and get support from each other, it also allows them to hear from speakers whom they might not otherwise meet. Mayor
Dave Cieslewicz and other community leaders have spoken to the group.
MNBP also is a sponsor of First Fridays at the Brink Lounge with DJ Chill and have a yearly summer picnic, which the whole family can
Burnette is quick to point out that MNBP isn’t just for young Black professionals. It is open to everyone. “The only thing that we ask
people is that they support our mission,” Burnette emphasized. “And our mission is focused on the Black community. But you don’t have to
be a Black person just like President Barack Obama is a Black president, but not everyone on his team is a Black person. It doesn’t work
that way. We need everyone’s strength to help us achieve our mission. I feel the need to clarify that. The perception that it is just a young
person’s organization comes into play, I think, because the young people bring the energy and the spunk to the network. But we have a lot of
mature professionals and we encourage mature professionals to join the network. Basically what is happening right now is that the more
mature professionals are mentoring the younger professionals. We’re encouraging them to step up and take on leadership roles. That is why
they are more visible.” Among its members is septuagenarian Milele Chikasa Anana.
MNBP is also about mentoring, whether it is members mentoring other members or members mentoring middle school students. And
during her term, Burnette plans to expand the mentoring role of MNBP to high school and college students.
What would a professional network be if there wasn’t a little business being taken care of? The MNBP counts among its members lawyers,
real estate agents and government workers. There is a lot of expertise in the room to help other members in their professional and personal
lives. And there are business opportunities.
“We always have some business representative come and present to our network,” Burnette said. “It is a really good opportunity for
businesses to promote themselves and reach out to us and find out how we can develop a partnership. What can we do to help them and
what can they do to help us?”
Annual membership dues are $40. An on-line membership application is available at www.madisonblackprofessionals.com.
Burnette is MNBP’s second chair, succeeding Annette Miller who founded the group. When asked if it was going to be a challenge to follow
the founder of an organization, Burnette replied yes and no. “I would say yes because Annette has done such a great job with developing
the network,” Burnette said. “I would say no because our leadership styles are so different that it is kind of easy for me to pick up the reins
and go in my own direction whereas if we had the same type of leadership style, it would be a challenge to step into the exact same shoes
and do the exact same thing.”
Since she keeps such a hectic schedule, Burnette likes to do absolutely nothing during her scarce free time. Even when she goes to
bed, Burnette keeps a pen and paper close by to jot down ideas that might come to her in the middle of the night. One can’t help but think
that she will be doing that a lot during the coming nights with ideas about MNBP as she works to take it to the next level.
Keetra Burnette (r) is chair and Malika Monger is vice
chair of the Madison Network of Black Professionals.