Harriet Yocum Fosters Conversations, Connection, and Collaboration in Sioux Falls, South Dakota

When Harriet Yocum joined the Junior League of Sioux Falls 10 years ago, she hoped to become an active part of a group of women that brings communities together and champions progressive ways to collaborate for social and policy change. The Junior League gave Yocum an opportunity to further conversations she was conducting in her community about race; social justice; Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI); human trafficking; poverty; voting rights; literacy; and more.

“To be part of a movement of trailblazing women who are doing groundbreaking things around the country, volunteering their time and resources and leaving a legacy appealed to me,” she says. “Also, the valuable training through taking on leadership roles and developing new skills, making lifetime friends, and learning how to be a better advocate for myself and others were the things I was looking for to help fulfill my mission.”

Yocum has held a variety of roles in her League, including President, President Elect, Membership Chair, Project Research & Development Chair, Nominating & Placement chair, Human Trafficking Task Force Co-Chair, and At-Large Board Member. She has served on committees related to human trafficking education and awareness, sustainability, community development, and fundraising. Recently, she has been helping to create a space for conversation, connection, and collaboration through community table talks. The talks between Junior League Members and community members are geared toward providing better resources and services for the community.

Beyond her Junior League efforts, Yocum uses her voice to empower and strengthen some of the most impactful organizations in Sioux Falls. All of her work is built upon the foundation of creating a more uplifting, inclusive community. She is a board member of South Dakota African American History Museum, Avera McKennan Hospital Board of Trustee, Regional Philanthropy Council, Ronald McDonald House Charities, Sioux Falls Woman’s Alliance, Sioux Falls Area Community Foundation, Establishing Sustainable Connections, which supports underrepresented communities in effectively communicating with the city. As a member of the SD Coalition for Justice and Equity, Yocum assists in representing diverse ethnic communities to address criminal justice concerns. Ultimately, her passion of being a community relationship specialist of connecting individuals with causes they care about and DEI work led her to leave an executive corporate position to establish Pathways to Inclusive & Equitable Workplaces, which provides strategies to businesses seeking to practice DEI. These are just a few of the organizations Yocum serves.

In all of these community engagement roles, Yocum uses skills fostered by her Junior League experience. When the South Dakota House Committee was considering a bill to make Juneteenth an annual holiday in South Dakota, she called upon her League-developed leadership skills and relationships to reach out to state representatives and legislators to allow marginalized communities to speak before the committee. South Dakota was the last state to recognize Juneteenth, which commemorates the end of slavery in the U.S., as legal. Harriet serves on the Board for the organization Juneteenth Sioux Falls and was chosen to be the 2022 Grand Marshal. “This was an amazing triumphant victory for the community and SD Coalition for Justice and Equity,” Yocum says. “I believe the work I do and continue to learn [to do] from my colleagues makes a difference.”