“From your founding, amid the great migration, to the struggles of the civil rights movement, to the battles of today, the Urban League has been on the ground, in our communities, working quietly -– day in, day out -– without fanfare; opening up opportunity, rolling back inequality, making our union just a little more perfect.” – President Barack Obama
The New Year is a time to reflect and assess, and organizations like ours are not immune from the impulse. Since our founding in 1910, The National Urban League has remained resolute in its foundational resolution to invest in the economic empowerment of underserved urban communities. Every year, for more than a century, we have reflected on and tallied the economic and societal effects of the programs and initiatives provided by the National Urban League and its nationwide network of affiliates. This census provides keen insight on the people we serve, the communities we empower, and the work that always lies ahead.
Through the hard work of our 88 affiliates in 36 states and the District of Columbia, our latest figures show the Urban League was able to offer services ranging from job placement to education programs to more than 1.4 million people nationwide. Some of the highlights of our movement’s work, from the latest census:
· More than 35,000 participants were placed in jobs, at an annual salary of $26,360 - a salary increase of $5,199 from the previous year.
· Urban League affiliates counseled or trained 6,374 welfare-to-work clients, of which 2,115 were placed in jobs.
· Nearly 15,500 entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs received information on financial and credit management and marketing their businesses – and increase of more than 6,000 over the previous year.
· The Movement’s 152 housing and community programs counseled 71,697 residents in diverse housing and community development programs, ranging from financial literacy to support services for veterans and foreclosure prevention.
· There were 11,168 participants in homeownership programs, of whom nearly 1,600 became first-time homeowners at an average purchase price of $148,882.
· The Urban League Movement provided more than 326,000 people with healthcare services and information, ranging from sickle cell awareness, nutrition, mental health and services for women, infants and children.
· The movement’s 298 affiliate-led programs actively prepared 141,190 students for college, work and live with a variety of education initiatives, including STEM programming and workforce alternatives.
· Activities elevating awareness and support for inclusive and equitable social policies – addressing police misconduct, voter protection and registration, civil rights and social justice – engaged 567,300 citizens nationwide, and increase of 13,000 over the previous year
But the struggle to continue to make strides in civil rights and racial progress is thwarted by the open hostility of the Trump administration to longstanding civil rights laws. The struggle to continue to make strides in social policy that narrows the wealth and equity gaps and lifts whole communities out of poverty is thwarted by tax cuts that would benefit the very, very rich and corporations, policies that rip holes into our social safety net and drain our government of money it needs to provide even the most basic of services to its citizens.
It is at moments such as this that I am reminded of Coretta Scott King’s response to those who questioned the success of the civil rights movement. She reminded the skeptics that, “the struggle is a never-ending process. Freedom is never really won. You earn it and win it in every generation.”
Like so many of you, the National Urban League will take stock and gather courage for the twelve months ahead. We resolve to invest in those communities hardest hit by the inequities and injustices in our society. We will continue to protect our progress against any and all threats. We will sound the alarm and stand at the frontline of the battle to create a more just and equitable society for all.
So, Happy New Year to you and your family, and if you’re still looking to make and keep a resolution, what could be nobler than protecting our nation’s hard-fought-for progress?