Tag Archives: Kimeka Campbell

Harrisburg groups to hold Juneteenth celebrations, encourage people to take day off

Harrisburg Young Professionals of Color’s Juneteenth event last year.

It was just last year that Gov. Tom Wolf passed a bill officially recognizing June 19 as a state holiday celebrating freedom from slavery, known as Juneteenth.

In the wake of the death of George Floyd and other black men and women at the hands of police, Juneteenth takes on special meaning this year in the midst of protests and calls to action.

The Harrisburg Young Professionals of Color, La Cultura, Capital Rebirth and The Bridge are joining forces to host festivities in Harrisburg this Friday.

“It’s a celebration,” Mikell Simpson, founder of the nonprofit Capital Rebirth, said. “We have gained a lot of momentum. Now, let’s take a break for a day and celebrate.”

Young Professionals of Color will host events during the day, including time for rest and wellness activities, a cookout and a Juneteenth affirmation.

“We are encouraging people to take the day off,” co-founder Kimeka Campbell said.

In the evening, Capital Rebirth and The Bridge development group will hold a parade starting at The Bridge’s building (the former Bishop McDevitt school) that will continue to Market Street over to Herr Street and end at Sunshine Park.

There will be over 25 vendors, including healthcare providers, retail shops and businesses present, Simpson said. He added there will be no shortage of food as they plan to have enough hot dogs and hamburgers for over 700 people. Free T-shirts are available for the first 300 people, as well.

In addition to food and shopping, speakers will present on the history of Juneteenth and black culture in Harrisburg.

“Juneteenth isn’t something that is taught in schools,” Simpson said. “We want to get people educated.”

For the city’s weekly “Community Conversation” at noon, Simpson will join Mayor Eric Papenfuse along with representatives from All You Can Inc. and Harrisburg’s Peace Promenade to discuss the holiday.

A packed-full day, events will continue with the leadership of La Cultura at 3rd in the Burg. They will host pop up vendors in their storefront on the 200-block of Verbeke Street.

Closing out the Juneteenth celebrations, Capital Rebirth is showing Marvel’s “Black Panther” on their inflatable movie screen outside

“Everything is going to be black culture,” Simpson said. “That day is for us. All races are welcome, but it’s for us to celebrate.”

Simpson explained that mask-wearing to prevent the spread of COVID-19 will be enforced, and anyone who doesn’t comply will be asked to leave.

Even with the COVID-19 crisis complicating things, Juneteenth celebrations will continue, allowing time for people in Harrisburg to take a break, reconnect with friends and commemorate the important holiday.

“Police shootings are traumatizing, celebrating Juneteenth helps us remember black people have overcome before and we will overcome again.”

Juneteenth celebrations in Harrisburg will take place on June 19. Harrisburg Young Professionals of Color events will run from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Hurston Manor on Front Street. For more information on YPOC, visit their website. Capital Rebirth and The Bridge’s parade will take place at 5 p.m., starting at The Bridge Eco Village on Market Street. For more information, visit https://www.capitalrebirth.com/ or https://www.thebridgeecovillage.com/. La Cultura’s pop up shop at 3rd in The Burg will take place from 7-10 p.m. For more information, visit https://laculturahbg.com/.

 

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Creating Community: YPOC focuses on connecting, retaining Harrisburg’s young professionals of color.

Photo by Dani Fresh

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.

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