PK Kersey, 52, was born and raised in East New York, Brooklyn — a neighborhood historically known to have a large working-class and Black community. It’s no secret that in America, kids from neighborhoods like these aren’t typically afforded equitable access to resources and information that would position them for success. Far too often, kids from inner-city and lower-class neighborhoods are left to fend for themselves and go wherever the streets may lead them to. Fortunately for Kersey, the blueprint to leading a life of hard work and discipline was laid out right before him. “My mother worked for Verizon for 30 years, and my [step]father worked for New York City Transit for 24 years,” says Kersey. “[My parents] taught me, my brother and my sister the importance of having a good, strong work ethic and working for a company and building your future.”
Kersey has worked with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) for over 20 years. It’s ironic he’s been there for so long; he almost skipped out on the interview altogether. The reason: “I didn’t have anything to wear to the interview,” he says. But a pastor friend bought Kersey a suit and other apparel items to help him look professional. It’s an act of kindness Kersey says he never forgets. “I went down there, got the job, and I always remembered that gesture,” he says.
Soon enough, Kersey became the one doing the hiring. He noticed a lot of young men showing up to interviews unprepared and without the proper attire. As a result, many of them were being turned away. Seeing a lot of himself in the interviewees and always considering how he was assisted during his come-up, Kersey wanted to pay it forward. He knows all too well the potentially negative consequences of an inner-city kid with a lower-class background repeatedly getting denied work. “Like I said, I’m from East New York, so a lot of times when we can’t get work, we’re going to do an illegal activity,” he says. “So I wanted to do something to help [people in those situations].” The idea he came up with: in 2013, Kersey and his younger brother, Jamael Thompson, 40, founded That Suits You — a non-profit organization aimed at preparing young boys and men for success.
For young boys and men, there’s often a correlation between professional preparedness and the male figures (or lack thereof) in their lives. “A lot of [the boys and men we help] come from homes where they don’t have that male figure, so we wanted to fill that void,” says Kersey.
The catalyst of That Suits You is teaching young boys and men how to dress for success. “We take the measurements, we teach them about ties, we dress them up,” says Kersey. But That Suits You isn’t limited to just making sure these young men look the part; it’s a fully encompassing service-based non-profit that also provides mentorship, networking, etiquette training and more. “We really want to, number one, make the connection with them, and then give them the information, and then the attire,” he says.
That Suits You works with many schools, companies, businesses and homeless shelters. While the organization is New York-based, they’ve reached a handful of other major cities around the country, like Los Angeles, Detroit and Philadelphia, to name a few. Kersey says That Suits You has assisted about 30,000 individuals thus far. An impressive feat, no doubt — but That Suits You is striving to continue broadening its reach and doing as much as it can to make an impact on the next generation of young men.