Meet Eastern Bank’s Black Professional Alliance

We are pleased to announce that we have received the 2022 Community Advocacy Award from Eastern Bank Foundation for our “innovative approaches to financing small businesses, growing wealth and creating a more equitable economy.”

Last month, we sat down with members of Eastern Bank’s Black Professionals Alliance, which named us for this award, for a candid chat on Ujima, influence and Black professional associations.

Boston Ujima Project: Thank you, first of all, for joining me today. We’re so happy to be chatting with you. Can you tell us a little about yourselves?

Abu Patrick: My name is Abu Patrick. I am an account executive for the benefit admin team on our Eastern benefits side. I’ve been with Eastern going on 10 years in September.

Candice Thomas: I’ve been with Eastern bank for a little over three years. I’m Assistant Vice President of Talent Acquisition, and I support a good chunk of the base in the organization with their recruitment. [I’m] also a coach, one of the co-chairs of the Black Professionals Employee Resource Group [for over a year], which is [where] we’re all co chairs together as well.

Darlene Ellis Donohue: I’ve been with Eastern for coming up on 13 years. I am a vice president and corporate trainer in our human resources department as well. I’m also a co chair. I’m one of the charter member co-chairs for this particular network. Our [Employee Resource Groups] here at Eastern started actually 10 years ago, coming up on 11 years ago. And I was one of the original co chairs for the Black Professional Alliance.

Why did you decide to name Ujima as an awardee for the Community Advocacy Award?

Candace: The CAA is a partnership between us and the Foundation. When we look at the Foundation, which is sort of the supporting party to the gift, we have four different areas that we focus on. Every year there is a different theme. We were looking at organizations that are focused on developing equity in the financial space for black people specifically.

What is the Black Professionals Alliance?

Darlene Ellis Donohue: The Black Professional Alliance is actually a voluntary group within Eastern Bank. It’s comprised of employees from both insurance and wealth management, etc. It is employees who voluntarily choose to be a part of the group. It’s not necessarily all Black employees; most of our members are Black employees, we do have a few who are not.

Sometimes it’s a space [of] conversation, sometimes it’s education. We always try to bring forward to the company issues that we can influence. Sometimes, with Candace and I both being in human resources, we have a unique ear to be able to do that.

It’s been a journey for us, just as a group, to have moved from being this small subset of people to being larger, and to actually having a lot more influence than when we started out.

And so, as a result of that, what kinds of issues have you been able to influence?

Abu: We helped bring along Eastern employees over to the insurance side, because, again, you don’t have a lot of Black people on the insurance side for Eastern. [I am] able to provide my insight, my input, being a part of the interview process, and being able to help mentor those four employees was awesome. Two of them actually joined on our Eastern Benefits team, while the other two are now playing different roles in our in on the insurance on the claims. So it’s, it’s just been just a great program to be a part of.

Darlene: Another substantial way that we have influenced the company is there’s now a DEI Steering Committee, which we were instrumental in ensuring that that was set up. And we sit on that [committee] very prominently. We can really ensure that it’s not just words, it’s action. And I know with Candace being a recruiter she sees this an awful lot with — you can speak to this as well (to Candace) — [in regard] to mak[ing] sure that there’s really equity in how we’re assessing candidates.

Candace: With [equitable hiring practices and] goal setting [from our CEO], the program that a Abu came [to be]. It’s a rotational training program to transition to develop people and careers in insurance. I was one of the leads on it. And we were able to get four people who were successful, two of the four are licensed now in their groups and their areas respectively. I’m so happy to hear that they’re excelling and doing really well. So with said goals, you know, also many of our managers have diversity goals, or have goals about enhancing the equity of their team.

Darlene: One of the things that we as, as the BPA also does, is we help to ensure that people aren’t passive and how they’re looking at the idea of implementing diversity. You know, a lot of times people are waiting for, you know, for instance, talent acquisition to bring them. A lot of the programming that we’re beginning to implement on is helping people understand that everyone has to take an active role in ensuring that we are helping people move along in their careers and that you can do that here at Eastern. ◼︎

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Boston Ujima Project

Boston Ujima Project

THE BOSTON UJIMA PROJECT is organizing neighbors, workers, business owners and investors to create a new community controlled economy in Boston.