In February we commemorate, and celebrate the contributions made to our nation by people of African descent through the recognition of Black History Month. Almost a century ago in 1926, Carter G. Woodson established a week devoted to the contributions of the black community. In 1976, in honor of our nation’s bicentennial, this was extended to an entire month. In honor of Black History Month, PYP would like to highlight individuals in the Pittsburgh community making a difference.
College Attended: Penn State
Company/Title: Partnership Development, Sparq Designs
What has kept you in Pittsburgh (or brought you to Pittsburgh) as a young black professional? Because I graduated during the Great Recession, finding a job after college was difficult. I worked in retail while I applied to thousands of jobs as if it were my full-time job. I expanded my search to other cities and when I finally landed one in New York City, I took it! After six years, something about Pittsburgh brought me back home. The affordable housing market was a big pull after living somewhere as expensive as New York, and I was excited about all of the growth the city underwent while I was away.
What issues or challenges do you face as a young black professional in Pittsburgh? I think one major issue is that there are simply so few of us. We are severely underrepresented in this city. Additionally, I think that unless you are working for one of the large corporations here, it’s likely that your company is not focused on diversity and inclusion. I’m happy to see more awareness around the importance of D&I in the workforce and I hope that small to midsized businesses here start to follow suit.
What resources do you believe need to be available to make Pittsburgh more equitable for black professionals? There is a lot of work that needs to be done to make Pittsburgh a more equitable place for black professionals, but one easy fix that I can think of is mentorship opportunities. I can’t express how significant the impact of having a mentor can be on your career growth. Having the ability to provide young black professionals in Pittsburgh with genuine mentorship would be huge. I, like so many others, came from parents who weren’t necessarily well connected. All of the moves I made were on my own until I was lucky enough to find mentors when I was working in New York. The influences they’ve had on my career progression has been exponential. I would love for more young black professionals to be afforded that same opportunity and to have someone in their corner who knows the ropes.
Hometown: Pittsburgh PA (Penn Hills)
College Attended: Thiel College
Company/Title: 1-800-GOT-JUNK? / Senior Business Operations Manager
What has kept you in Pittsburgh (or brought you to Pittsburgh) as a young black professional? It’s Home! My family is here, I grew up here. It was very important to me to grow both professionally and personally in the area in which I grew up.
What issues or challenges do you face as a young black professional in Pittsburgh? I believe this biggest area of opportunity is the lack of celebrating success. Pittsburgh itself is going through a transition where it is becoming more appealing to young professionals and I feel that we are losing a large portion of our young black talent to other markets that may seem more appealing because black successes is celebrated and better recognized elsewhere. While there are many names to mention a few that come to mind are Elisha and Elijah Hill (Levels Agency), Taequan Troxler (Trox Tect Enterprises) and Eric Frye (Secure The Kid). These young black professionals/entrepreneurs have not only created very successful companies for themselves but also have created opportunities for others within their communities such as Jobs, Internships, and most importantly they have become role models for the younger generation. This is the type of success I feel needs to be legitimately recognized and celebrated more often.
What resources do you believe need to be available to make Pittsburgh more equitable for black professionals? To reflect on my last response, I feel that if we can commit to celebrating and recognizing successful young black professionals within our own community. This would show that you can be successful in Pittsburgh as a young black professional so that we as a city can retain the talent that is here and attract new talent to join the wonderful talent that this city has groomed.
Hometown: Wheeling, WV
College Attended: West Virginia University; Duquesne University School of Law
Company/Title: Meyer Unkovic & Scott, Associate Attorney
What has kept you in Pittsburgh (or brought you to Pittsburgh) as a young black professional? My father is originally from Pittsburgh, so I spent a lot of my summers and weekends in the city. When I was choosing a law school, I knew I wanted to be in a place that had a “Downtown” that was also close enough to home. Pittsburgh was the perfect option for me as it is only an hour away from Wheeling, I knew the city well, and Duquesne University provided me a place to live and work downtown.
What issues or challenges do you face as a young black professional in Pittsburgh? Personally, I am continuously working to overcome the “imposter syndrome” I feel when I am in spaces where I am the only person of color. One of my biggest challenges from law school and now starting my career has been navigating through finding my own voice in an environment that I have had no prior experience in.
What resources do you believe need to be available to make Pittsburgh more equitable for black professionals? I think that we all would benefit from a space for black professionals to be able convene and get support from those that may share the same or similar experiences in our day to day lives. Even related back to my own challenges I face, having a space where I can express these issues with those who may have also had to overcome their own version of imposter syndrome would be a significant benefit for all of us.
Hometown: Homestead, PA
College Attended: Clarion University of Pennsylvania
Company/Title: Owner CEO of Live Fresh Cold Pressed Juice + Smoothie Bar
What has kept you in Pittsburgh (or brought you to Pittsburgh) as a young black professional? Upon the completion of college, I moved to Washington DC to work as a business consultant for a Fortune 500 company. The opportunity to uplift and economically empower people from my community and this is what motivated me most to come back and open a business in my hometown.
What issues or challenges do you face as a young black professional in Pittsburgh? Role Models. I haven’t met many black male professionals throughout my career development that I have had a chance to befriend and learn from. I would love to meet more black male individuals who are business driven as well.
What resources do you believe need to be available to make Pittsburgh more equitable for black professionals? Accessibility to funding. Funding is key, and honestly the most important element of starting/growing a business (aside from the actual business plan itself). I started my business with my own capital that I had saved over the previous years and I strongly believe that it would’ve been a tremendous help if there was some type of fund for young blacks in the Pittsburgh area to start/grow a business.
Hometown: Pittsburgh, PA
College Attended: Lincoln University of PA
Company/Title: Good Days Brand / Founder/CEO/Creative Director
What has kept you in Pittsburgh (or brought you to Pittsburgh) as a young black professional? As blessed as I have been to be able to start my business here in Pittsburgh. I cannot say that anything professionally has kept me here. I don’t believe Pittsburgh is the best place for black professionals. As a young black professional I don’t see a lot of opportunity for growth compared to other areas such as Atlanta, DMV, NC etc.
What issues or challenges do you face as a young black professional in Pittsburgh? As a young black professional a challenge I face is not getting the job I deserve especially when I am more than qualified. I also believe we don’t get paid what we deserve.
What resources do you believe need to be available to make Pittsburgh more equitable for black professionals? I believe there can be seen growth, resources, and more opportunity seen in the creative community. I believe compared to other cities that are viewed as progressive for young black professionals we lack a lot of opportunity for growth in this city. I honestly don’t know what I’d really ask of the city besides the providing the tools we’d need and real opportunity to take advantage of.
College Attended: Slippery Rock University
Company/Title: CEO/Director of Sports Operations- Privé Management Group, Director of Marketing and Mid-West Operations-Inland Farms Cannabis, CEOCromwell Solution
What has kept you in Pittsburgh (or brought you to Pittsburgh) as a young black professional? Wanting to provide another layer of opportunity to the black community in Pittsburgh. Creatives in our city need more outlets to fine tune and polish their crafts.
What issues or challenges do you face as a young black professional in Pittsburgh? Not having many resources in my industry or anyone to help guide me on my career path to make it easier or help open doors. Pittsburgh is not a major hub for sports marketing and creative content and branding but there are a vast number of people that are creative beyond belief here but cannot show their true talents here or polish their skills.
What resources do you believe need to be available to make Pittsburgh more equitable for black professionals? There needs to be a wider variety of career options for black professionals and not just jobs. Many of our black professionals in Pittsburgh get jobs and not careers because they don’t have a strong path here for the career they desire. We need to provide more internships in creative industries and have more black professionals in C suite positions and board member positions to create a perpetual cycle of nepotism for our people.
PYP would like to thank Kay, Mario, Azhia, Brett, Chrisarah, and Rafiyq for taking the time to review, reflect, and respond to the questions. It is young professionals like the aforementioned individuals that continue to keep PYP and Pittsburgh alive and challenge us as a community to do better and be better.
Authored by a collaboration of the PYP Diversity & Inclusion Committee and PYP PR Committeefiled under: Press Release