We are launching #Memunatu50, a list of 50 professionals spanning the African Diaspora. We have selected people we believe are making a difference in their respective fields while putting the continent on the map. Every other week, we will post someone new. From entreprenerus, creative, and policy makers, these are the game changers to watch out for.
Name: Margaret Kamara
Role: President of YAP, Young African Professionals
Location: Washington DC
The Young African Professional, better know as YAP, is a network connecting people of the African Diaspora in the DC metro area. Founded in 2002-2003, their mission has and continues to be to foster business relationships and ideas among Africans in the area. It now boasts around 10,000 members and is a certified 501(c)(3).Their main focus recently has been on strengthening their platform and presence through events like a screening of film “The Prince” with the director in collaboration with Mansa Colabs. Even though the staff consists of 5 volunteers, we spoke to Margaret Kamara who works as the president of YAP DC.
MM: What do you do?
Margaret: On paper, I am the president of the Young African Professionals (YAP DC) Network. However, since everyone at YAP DC is a volunteer, our work is shared and we all wear many hats. My other role is that I am the operations lead for YAP DC.
I oversee the efficient and effective day-to-day operations of the organization and cultivate relationships with the African community locally and abroad.
MM: What inspired you to start doing this?
Margaret: YAP DC was founded 2002-2003 by professionals who wanted to bring Africans together to share ideas and engage in an exchange that would help in the betterment of the Continent. For this reason it has been the foundation for many Africans in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia. When I joined YAP DC seven years ago, I was looking for an African support system that would connect me to the diaspora and also back home. When I was asked to join YAP DC leadership, I took the opportunity because I wanted to give back to a community that had given back to me in so many ways.
MM: Please describe your biggest obstacle and how you overcame it:
Margaret: YAP DC is run by volunteers and for this reason the organization has operated more informally as a meetup for professionals to network. When you have a network with professionals that have been a part of the organization since 2002-2003, changing the structure of the organization to serve its mission, which is to connect young African professionals for career development and opportunity creation, is not an easy task and requires resources as well as consistent volunteers to execute.
However, the current YAP DC leadership team is full of visionaries and they have not let the challenge of being volunteers with full time jobs limit their investment to the organizations.
MM: What is your greatest accomplishment so far at YAP DC? What made it so great?
Margaret: There are three great accomplishments to date that are really helping to take YAP DC to the next level.
- Network: our membership continues to be our greatest asset and the support from the community and interest is what keeps the organization going. We are a household name in DC and it’s because our members to tell others about us.
- We recently obtained our 501(c)(3) status and this is helping to open doors for us so that we can have access to resources to help us better serve our membership. This is also helping to formalize relationships because having this status is the golden ticket to getting your foot in the door to having meeting with investors.
- Our reputation has been our biggest accomplishment. While there are many organizations in the D.C. area that serve professionals and specific African countries, YAP DC has always operated in the best interest of all African professionals and those interested in African affairs. We are transparent and we continue to push the agenda for career development opportunities for all professionals. Our list of partners and constant requests we get to partners or collaborate is a testimony of our work.
MM: What is something that would surprise our readers to learn about you?
Margaret: Since I was child in Sierra Leone I have always loved to cook. I used to play cook and help my mom cook. Today I have recently started exploring this passion and interest again. I want to own a west African fusion restaurant one day to show the cultural influences and deep heritage of west African food.
MM: What was your favorite class in secondary school (middle school)?
Margaret: I loved history class. There is something about learning about the past and connecting it with the present and seeing the consequences and impact this can have on the future.
MM: What advice would you give to young girls interested in pursuing your path?
Margaret: My advice to young girls is to dream big and not limit yourself to one type of career. Today people are living long and therefore you should be able to pursue many dreams!
Create your own path. It’s important to consider the influences in our lives, that of our families, culture, and friends but search and find what makes you happy and feel satisfied; is it art, is it traveling? Do your research on how to turn what makes you happy into a career. Dream always and dream colorful!
Interview has been edited for brevity and clarity