Capital Rebirth: A Vision for Harrisburg

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Group Photo | Capital Rebirth | Harrisburg Pa
Photo provided by Capital Rebirth

Capital Rebirth’s vision for Harrisburg stretches from parades of superheroes to a super-community complex that benefits the city at large.

Founded in 2018 by Mikell Simpson, Capital Rebirth aims to uplift and unify Central PA by providing positive events and programs.

Capital Rebirth focuses its events on education, entertainment, and health and wellness for the community.

“We want to be the solution or get the conversation going to find the solution to the problems that are plaguing our community,” said Simpson.

Capital Rebirth is its name but also its mission.

Capital, obviously coming from the support and work done in and around the city.

Rebirth stands for their end goal of a new vision for the community. The name also spells out Respect Earned By Intelligence Resilience Truth and Humanity.

Through events, the group makes a difference in the lives of local youth and adults. With events ranging from kid parades to voter registration, Capital Rebirth is doing its part to support the Harrisburg, Pa. community.

Photo provided by Capital Rebirth

Rising from hardships

Capital Rebirth was born out of one of the hardest times for Simpson. He was a star football player at Harrisburg High Shcool and the University of Virginia. He ultimately landed a short stint with the Cincinnati Bengals. Then, a severe spinal injury dashed his career hopes.

“Like a lot of local kids, sports were pushed on me hard,” Simpson said. “After getting cut, I went through a stage of depression and suicidal thoughts, but it was my daughter that saved me.”

Simpson said he wants Capital Rebirth to be an additional outlet for kids to offer new experiences.

“We want to get the overwhelming focus away from sports,” Simpson said. “There are other kids out there who are talented in other areas but don’t have the outlets to express those talents.”

Simpson isn’t alone in this cause. He has a group of local volunteers who stand with him and help organize events and programs.

“When we got together we discussed that this wasn’t the Harrisburg we grew up in,” said Madeline Williams, Capital Rebirth’s Public Relations Officer. “We use to have so many opportunities outside of our homes. Now, when we became adults, we realized that they weren’t out there for a lot of kids.”

Group at Duncannon Borough Watershed Hawk Rock | Capital Rebirth | Harrisburg Pa
Photo provided by Capital Rebirth

Be A Hero, Not A Bully

Capital Rebirth aims to create completely free and family-friendly events for the community.

“We understand that people aren’t able to attend some events because of financial issues, so we wanted them to be free and open to all,” Simpson said.

The showcase event is an Anti-Bullying Superhero Day held in October during Bullying Awareness Month.

“The title of our event is Be A Hero, Not A Bully,” Simpson said. “We bring in organizations involved in violence prevention, mental health, and physical health and wellness.”

The main event also includes a Super Hero parade, games for the kids, entertainment, and food.

“It was a huge hit for us,” Williams said. “We probably had close to 500 people. But, because of that, we had to move this year’s to pretty much all virtual.”

The pandemic isn’t stopping Capital Rebirth from connecting with children. They see this year as even more crucial to talk about bullying.

“We want to keep people engaged,” Williams said. “Right now cyberbullying is getting incredibly high.”

Stay tuned for details about this year’s Anti-Bullying Superhero Day.

Black Voters Matter sign | capitol steps | Harrisburg Pa
Photo provided by Capital Rebirth

Community impact

The mission doesn’t stop with the kids. Capital Rebirth aims to support all citizens in our community.

“As they say ‘Idle time is the Devil’s time’,” Simpson said. “We try to have events like flag football and basketball for adults to get out and be active.”

The goal is not only fitness and activity, but to foster engagement within the community.

“To help do our part in the fight for equality and justice, we started our series What Now Harrisburg,” Simpson said. “We invite local elected officials and community activists to hold open conversations.”

A recent What Now Harrisburg talk occurred on the steps of the Capitol; others will be virtual.

“It’s not only so our community can see who these people are, but come up with solutions to problems at hand,” Simpson said. “We want to tell the stories about the countless injustices that have happened across the nation and talk about how can we fix this and make sure this doesn’t happen anymore.”

Capital Rebirth has organized conversations and local rallies. Simpson helped organize the rally in June where both the governor and the mayor marched with them.

They helped bring together the Juneteenth celebration as well with speakers, education, and a parade on Market Street.

“We wanted to have a huge educational aspect to Juneteenth to teach the community about its significance, and our members had a large hand in that,” Williams said.

Recently, they partnered with Black Voters Matter, a national voter advocacy group out of Atlanta, to assist with voter education and registration.

“We’re trying to make the process easier for the community to register and teach them how to vote,” Williams said. “Black Voters Matter was at our latest event to educate and help register people to vote.”

They are planning to team up again for a Voter Education Program on Sept. 9 to further their efforts.

Black T-Shirt | Capital Rebirth | Harrisburg Pa
Photo provided by Capital Rebirth

The Rebirth Project

With some events on hold due to the pandemic, much of Capital Rebirth’s energy has gone to The Rebirth Project.

The Rebirth Project is a vision to transform William Penn High School into a massive multi-use complex.

“The project feeds into our focuses of education, entertainment, and health and wellness,” Simpson said.

The Rebirth Project would use all 25 acres in two parts for a variety of indoor sports fields, classrooms, and more.

One section would be an enclosed football stadium that can seat 20,000 and double as an entertainment venue. The next section of the grounds is where the building currently stands and would serve a variety of purposes.

“We want to bring back the history of William Penn, which was a focus on education and health and wellness,” Simpson said.

They plan to have basketball and volleyball courts, a swimming pool, football and baseball fields along with fitness gyms. Their vision also includes 50 classrooms both lecture-style and trade-school.

“Sports are a large component, but we would also be exposing kids to other interests as well,” Simpson said.

Beyond education, Simpson sees The Rebirth Project as a tourist attraction with economic potential as well.

“People would no longer have to go to D.C., New York, or Philly to see large performance acts,” Simpson said. “The football stadium’s potential is endless.”

The Rebirth Project is very similar to something like Spooky Nook in Lancaster County, except for the major addition of the performance space.

“If you look at 2019, Spooky Nook brought in $98 million,” Simpson said. “If we even make a quarter of that, it will be $25 million for the city.”

Protestors | Capital Rebirth | Harrisburg Pa
Photo provided by Capital Rebirth

Show support + get involved

Capital Rebirth is always looking for volunteers for events and other skills.

The Rebirth Project has a petition to garner community support. They also are looking for letters of support from community leaders as well.

Keep an eye out for an upcoming sports memorabilia auction aimed at raising $40,000 to fund a comprehensive site plan.

Follow Capital Rebirth on Facebook and Instagram for more updates.

Sara Bozich
Author: Sara Bozich

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