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Alliance seeks to link black professional men

Frederick Ellis Dashiell Jr.
Alliance seeks to link black professional men
Roxbury native Daniel Rivers launched the Nexus Alliance in February 2008 with the goal of creating a network of black male professionals devoted to changing the way black men are viewed. (Photo: Daniel Rivers)

Daniel Rivers is focused on changing the image of black men.

Through his initiative, the Nexus Alliance, Rivers is determined to make everyone rethink how black men are viewed in public and in the media.

“The Nexus is strong with a single purpose,” said Rivers. “We want to be the new drug providing energy to black, working Boston.”

Since February 2008, Rivers has been working to engage and create a network of black male professionals united in the common goal of impacting how black men are viewed, both in public and in their communities. A native of Roxbury who attended Roxbury Latin High School before going to Dartmouth College, Rivers grew up influenced by his neighborhood.

“When I was young, all the men on my block knew each other,” said Rivers, 42. “Now, it’s like every black man is on an island.”

That isolation can extend from the block to the office, Rivers explained, noting that he has often been one of the few black males at his job — if not the only one.

“The plight of the black man in Boston,” as Rivers calls it, is that too few have a professional resource — outside of the church — through which they could connect with other black men.

In early 2008, Rivers began to pitch the idea of a network of professional black men to several of his friends. There was one crucial point: everyone had to believe in the possible collective power of the network.

“I was looking for like-minded and ‘black-minded’ brothers,” said Rivers.

He spoke to five men: Darnell L. Williams, president and CEO of the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts; Darin Smith and William “Mo” Cowan, both of the of the law firm Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, P.C.; Joseph Feaster of McKenzie and Associates, P.C.; and Stephen Howard of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts. Rivers conducted individual meetings with each man to explain his idea.

“[I] told them that two is greater than one,” Rivers said. “In numbers, there is strength; in us, there is collective success.”

As Rivers spoke to more black men, Nexus Alliance’s membership grew. The group held its first conference last February, drawing over 150 black men to the Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel. The event was a success, according to Rivers, as attendees were able to expand their professional networks and make personal connections with other black men living in Greater Boston.

Rivers recalled the moment from the conference when a black male hotel worker pulled him aside to ask him what the group was all about. The man said he had never seen so many black men gathered together in one place.

“After that, I knew we had something,” Rivers said.

Since that first event, the Nexus Alliance has grown to more than 360 members. The group is focusing on increasing its presence in local communities by building trust through mentoring and economic “give-back” programs.

“All members of the Nexus Alliance invest in the alliance,” explained Rivers. The $250 in dues that each man pays is reinvested into the community through events like their Thanksgiving turkey giveaway.

More directly, the alliance runs a mentoring program that pairs members with inner-city youth to show the youth that there are a number of ways to be successful beyond the sports or entertainment industries. A Nexus-hosted Mother’s Day brunch that saw approximately 600 mothers honored by their families attested to the group’s ability to interact with the community it seeks to serve.

The Nexus Alliance is making strides. At its last meeting, held in May at Emerson College, attended by approximately 50 men, members spoke about why they invested in the alliance.

“It’s something you haven’t seen before,” said Javin Jones, the Nexus Alliance’s ambassador. “Nexus Alliance exudes a sense of excellence.”

As ambassador, a position he has held since he joined the alliance in April, Jones is responsible for the group’s outreach efforts and the recruitment of new members. 

The organization’s latest initiative has a civic engagement component, and builds on the record turnout by black voters in the 2008 presidential elections. On June 4, the alliance hosted an event in Roxbury with Gov. Deval Patrick that included more than 100 prominent and emerging black professionals in a variety of careers from around the Commonwealth. The purpose of the event was to show support for Patrick as he faces the tough task of steering the state through a time of financial crisis.

“We are committed to forging a positive relationship with the governor, and share in his endeavor of providing a positive social and economic impact in our inner-city community,” said Rivers.

In the future, Rivers said he hopes to expand the alliance’s power base to become one of the preeminent black groups in Greater Boston.

“After that,” he said with a smile, “we take over the world.”