The Young Executives, a group of black business people, say they defy the stereotype of blacks making it in the corporate world and forgetting that their roots are in the community. And they offer as proof their aid to the Greater Hartford Chapter NAACP, the Community Renewal Team Food Bank and, most recently, the Urban League of Greater Hartford, for which they hosted a membership reception last Thursday.
However, the organization’s purpose is twofold, and satisfies personal as well as altruistic need. The group, as one member said, is akin to the informal cliques among white executive who share experiences and knowledge of job opportunities. The group has a core of about a dozen people, a membership of 100 and a mailing list of nearly 700 names. It was initially was formed to support State Treasurer Henry E. Parker’s successful campaign for re-election last November. Since then it has veered from the political scene, turning instead to community service.
“I have some real concerns about what’s happening in Hartford,” said Joyce Willis, a member of the group, a Hartford native and a public relations representative for the Hartford Insurance Group. “I never thought I was involved enough. To channel our energies to help is something that appeals to me.”
The group last May helped the NAACP through a reception that attracted hundreds of people to the Wadsworth Atheneum and bolstered its membership considerable. NAACP officials said then that the involvement of the Young Executives marked a new infusion of young talent into the organization. The Urban League reception also attracted hundreds of people. The Young Executives presented a $5,000 check to the league, representing an anticipated 1,000 tickets sold for the function. Buying a ticket entitled the purchaser to a league membership.
During both receptions, the group used individual expertise in public relations, management and finance. The group elects no officers and the duties each member performs are determined by the activity and by individual specialties. Despite the rather exclusive title, the main requirements for membership in the Young Executives are a willingness to work and the ability to “think young,” said Gerald Peterson, a marketing manager for Aetna Life and Casualty Co. Who was instrumental in forming the group.
Peterson, the “elder” of the group and a former Bloomfield councilman, said the younger members can learn from the more experienced ones. Sharing experience and skills, he said, is a purpose of the group. Lynn Rogers, another member who was active at the NAACP reception, described Peterson as “very committed to developing young people in Hartford,” and a motivating force for the executives.
The group, through the interaction of its members, serves to break the ice for executives brought in b y corporations from outside Hartford who have no roots in the city’s black community. The members say they are not only professional associates, but friends.