Urban Connect aims to diversify Pittsburgh

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A little more than a year ago, Pittsburgh’s Equal Employment Opportunity Officer Tamiko Stanley and Dina Clark, now director of the Center for Race and Equity at the YWCA, were brainstorming about problems they routinely ran into when trying to recruit and retain Blacks for municipal and corporate sector positions in the city.

“One young lady, who’d only been here a few months, when I met her at an African-American leadership forum, told me right off she was ready to leave,” said Clark. “She said there was a glass ceiling at the job, there was no place to go without getting shot. So I took her all over the city myself. Now she’s on our board.”

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REALIZING A DREAM—Urban Connect launch party organizers Tamiko Stanley, Dawnita Wilson and Dina Clark look on during the celebrity Urban Male Conversation that preceded the Aug. 20 party.

As a result of their brainstorming and subsequent networking with other Black professionals was the creation of Urban Connect Pittsburgh. It is a professional and social networking designed to acclimate Black professionals to the city, which Stanley said, no one had been doing. Well, they are doing it now. The network held its official launch Aug. 20.

“Companies were just bringing folks in and dumping them in Fox Chapel. So they’d be getting their hair cut at Phillip Pelusi, and they’d have no connection to the city and its Black community,” said Stanley. “They wouldn’t know the restaurants, churches or entertainment spots. So other than work, they’re isolated—and ready to leave.”

One of the first issues they addressed was the way the city is marketed to African-Americans.

“The visitors’ bureau, Visit­Pittsburgh, wasn’t marketing at the HBCUs,” said Clark. “And if you looked at their marketing materials, there is nothing in there about Black life in the city—no New Pittsburgh Courier, for instance. So we talked with them and they instantly became partners in Urban Connect.”

Other partners include the YWCA, Western Pennsylvania Diversity Initiative, UPMC Health System, the Pittsburgh Pirates, FedEx Ground, the Pittsburgh Association of Human Resources Professionals, Leadership Pittsburgh Inc., Onyx Woman Magazine, Urban Settlement Services and Chuck Sanders Charities.

Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said he is also pleased to support Urban Connect.

“Through the collaborative efforts of Urban Connect, we are working together towards a solution to improve the retention of our city’s diverse population,” he said. “A healthy and thriving urban region must be rich in diversity and culture.”

So in less than two years, an idea developed by two people has blossomed into a network of 427 members that also has an additional 192 “friends” on Facebook.

And their Official Launch Weekend reflected their success, starting with an Urban Male Conversation at the Roberto Clemente Museum that included R&B vocal artist Coco Brown, personal trainer Scott Parker and actor Mel Jackson from the films “Soul Food,” “Motives 1” and “Motives 2.” The official launch party followed, and the following day members enjoyed Urban Connect Saturday at PNC Park in conjunction with the Pirates’ Heritage Weekend.

“It was wonderful,” said Stanley. “We had a great turnout for the party and even more for the game, and we got 11 new memberships. So we were very pleased.”

Future functions include a social networking event tentatively scheduled for Nov. 5 and a professional development symposium in the spring. Urban Connect is on the web at http://www.urbanconnect.org.

(Send comments to cmorrow@newpittsburghcourier.com.)

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