PK Kersey still remembers his first suit.
“I needed one for an interview but couldn’t afford it,” the founder of That Suits You, a Brooklyn-based non-profit that collects, then redistributes gently worn professional clothing recalls. “My pastor went out of his way to purchase one for me and that made a tremendous difference. I got the job and a new perspective on life.”
In the County of Kings, income inequality, gentrification, and sheer growth have made it a tale of two cities. But Kersey believes the disparities faced by a growing number of Brooklynites should only be looked at as an obstacle, not a roadblock. With his 501c3 he helps address some of those hurdles by providing transitioning Black men with training and attire to get to the next level.
This weekend, the author of Suited For Success collaborated with Monet’s Closet and the New York chapter of One Hundred Black Men for a special task — outfitting Brooklyn students for their high school prom. It’s the culminating activity for an initiative that kicked off in March with a tie drive, spearheaded by OHBM member Jarred Denzel Keller.
The Director of Fashion for a major NYC-based communication and marketing firm understands dressing well. But beyond that, he recognizes what it can do for a person’s morale.
“It was really important to me that this drive not only be successful but also lead to a transformative experience for the young men,” Keller shares with ESSENCE of the initial event. “I believe that every Black boy should be able to go to prom in a look that makes him feel amazing and helps him exude confidence. It means everything to be able to give that to someone.”
The partnership between OHBM and Kersey had an original goal of acquiring more ties for the clients of That Suits You. More importantly, though, the men wanted to raise awareness of the needs within the community. To date, That Suits You has assisted 8000 individuals and is currently on a push for 10000 before the year ends. “There are some people who need assistance in achieving some goals that they have in life and sometimes it can be just as simple as donating a suit, a tie or even a financial donation,” Kersey explains.
Synergy among the organizations was natural, given that much of what Michael Garner seeks to do as the current president of One Hundred Black Men is help offer a support system for men of all ages who are in a state of transition. That could mean youth going from high school to college, college graduates entering the workforce, or men who have been formerly incarcerated re-entering the workforce. As Garner points out, the 56-year-old organization is comprised of successful men from different industries who are able to give back and offer guidance.
This weekend serves as evidence that the work they do is in fact, reaching the community, but still, Garner tells ESSENCE he would like the organization to do a lot more.
“We would like to focus more on offering Black men better career and business opportunities through our networking channels,” says Garner, who has spent much of his career in the minority business community. “Also guiding our young college graduates and integrating them into careers and business opportunities through paid college internships.”
Even so, what the men accomplished this weekend was a reminder of what happens when the community comes together to address a specific need. For the young high school students who were supplied suits and ties, the experience, as Keller hoped, was a transformative one. And for the men who made it happen — the sense of joy that comes from giving that feeling of pride to someone else is a gift on its own.
As Garner insists, “A Black man in a suit, shirt and tie is a powerful statement and sends the message that I have arrived.”