For years, Dr. Kimeka Campbell saw a large portion of young people, particularly of color, leaving Harrisburg. Their reasons were always similar: “There is nothing to do here,” or worse, “There is nothing for me here.”
With the help of people in their network, Campbell and Basir Vincent decided to prove them wrong.
Together, they created Young Professionals of Color Greater Harrisburg, or YPOC. For seven years, YPOC has worked to create a community and network of black and brown professionals in the area. The organization gives businesses and professionals of color a chance to connect and grow through socials, discussions, leadership development and more.
“We had several people tell us, ‘I found a track with you guys,’ ‘You guys are welcoming,’ or ‘I was going to leave Harrisburg, but I stayed because I found a community here,’’ Campbell said. “These kind of things are really what our goals are—to create a community for the black and brown collective.”
According to Campbell, it’s no secret that a majority of Harrisburg residents are people of color. The U.S. Census Bureau states that more than 51 percent of Harrisburg residents are black and about 20 percent are Hispanic or Latino. However, a contrast in color comes in the workplace. Campbell noted that people come into Harrisburg from predominately white areas for their jobs, then return home once their work day is over. YPOC wanted to highlight the black and brown people working here and give those people a place to connect.
“I’m not saying that there isn’t a community, there is,” Campbell said. “But, there are lots of gaps, lots of fragments. We’re really trying to be the organization that fills in some of those disconnects. We want to connect people. We want to connect businesses.”
Coming together is the first step in filling those fragments. YPOC hosts weekly happy hour socials, “Topic Tuesdays,” where they discuss current events, a new book club and “Board Games and Brunch,” among other socials.
After connecting the young professionals, the organization provides them with techniques to help them in the workforce.
A monthly leadership series, led by Vincent, a professional life coach and YPOC’s president, covers goal setting, conflict resolution, habit forming and other tactics to help young professionals. Though members receive a discount, their leadership series, like most of their events, is open to the public for only $10.
“We know that folks don’t have some of the same opportunities to go through these types of leadership trainings,” Campbell said. “[Other leadership trainings] are up to $1,500 to learn some of these same things that you can learn here in our leadership workshops.”
On the Pulse
Julia Mallory joined YPOC about two years ago. She befriended Campbell after finding out they were both members of Zeta Phi Beta soriority, and she naturally gravitated toward the organization.
Mallory has been promoting her poetry, children’s books and graphic T-shirt line under her brand, Black Mermaids, since 2016. The Harrisburg native is already connected with the area, but, since joining YPOC in 2017, has met many new and positive faces.
“If you are looking for a very live and vivacious organization that is doing good work in the city and the surrounding areas with a focus on young professionals of color, then you would want to be connected to the work that YPOC is doing,” she said.
YPOC is all about creating a community of young black and brown professionals, but they give back to the community, as well. Around the same time YPOC began, the group started its “Adopt a Classroom” campaign.
Throughout the year, YPOC provides the Harrisburg school district with weekly volunteer services for students. In the first two years of the campaign, YPOC raised $12,000 and adopted 12 classrooms. As their organization grows, Campbell expects that their outreach will, too. This year, the group hopes to raise enough money to adopt 10 classrooms within the school district.
“[YPOC] has grown month after month after month,” Campbell said. “We see the growth, and we’re happy about it. We just want to make sure more people know about it, and people can come out to support us.”
In the years to come, Campbell hopes that YPOC increases its memberships and events and expands to help out other young professionals of color in neighboring regions, such as York and Lancaster.
“What we really want to do is keep our finger on the pulse of what’s happening with the black and brown professional collective in the area,” she said.
Young Professionals of Color Greater Harrisburg is located at 315 S. Front St., Harrisburg. For more information, visit www.ypoc-hbg.org.