Editor's Note: During Black History Month, PennLive recognizes the people who shape the history of the black community in central Pennsylvania. These are people who, in some ways, are examples of excellence and who inspire those around them for their work, the art they create, or the causes for which they fight. This is one of a series of profiles featured on PennLive and on Patriot News this month.
Meron Yemane said he had the energy to create a more inclusive Harrisburg.
Born and raised in Susquehanna Township, the 35-year-old is the youngest and first black to serve as chairman of the Harrisburg Regional Chamber. It was nominated by the Executive Committee last year and approved by the Board of Directors for 2021.
"I see the future as very bright," said Yemane. “When you look at the next generation and the possibilities, the region is a very exciting place. I get excited when I work with people – business owners – and see their desire for a fairer place to work. "
COVID-19 exposed areas where companies could make improvements, Yemane said. That may sound negative, but Yemane said it isn't. It sparked creative ingenuity, he said. More and more people say they want to find similarities, not differences.
Last year's troubles have underscored the importance of "families and communities," he said.
"The power and impact of the pandemic on all of us are undeniable," said Yemane. “I hope that feeling will stay with us forever because it only made us stronger. It is up to all of us to work together to make our communities more just. I want to see a community that gives so many people an opportunity. "
Yemane, the son of immigrants from Ertriea, an African country on the Red Sea coast, was baptized and raised Greek Orthodox, he said. At the age of 23 chairman of the Greek festival; was chairman of Harrisburg Young Professionals for a year; Having spent nearly a decade on the Chamber and currently chairing the UPMC Pinnacle Foundation, he believes his perspective can help businesses succeed.
"We're seeing a generation change in leadership," he said. "Millennials are starting to occupy leadership roles."
Within the chamber in particular, there are efforts to remove built-in barriers to health care and to change the system to include people of color in higher office and decision-making positions, he said. Next steps include helping companies create action plans to offer young people color internships and post-college placement.
Inclusivity is the opposite of what generations before Yemane saw, he said. As a father, he said he was excited to spread his energy and share his hope.
"My parents really encouraged me to come out and find my own voice," he said. "You are the gold standard for me."
Your sacrifice of moving to America will not be lost, Yemane said.
"Everything I do is in honor of them and to create a better community for my children," he said. “America remains the best country because the American dream is alive and well. I am proud of my diverse background. I hope we realize what potential each person has. "
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