Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Urban League chief executive urges continued action

By John Bland 
Marc Morial, the national Urban League president, said that urban public universities such as UNC Charlotte should take positions of thought leadership on issues of civil rights and economic mobility. He said those institutions should be active in researching, convening and sustaining fruitful action to advance the greater good within their communities.

Morial brought a message focusing largely on economic mobility when he spoke on Jan. 20 to more than 300 people at McKnight Auditorium. His visit was sponsored by the University's Multicultural Resource Center. His official topic centered on “Building Bridges through Civility, Justice and Action.”

Marc Morial at UNC Charlotte
Morial’s appearance helped close out MLK Day activities at UNC Charlotte.  He said that the Urban League is unique in that it both advocates for civil rights and also provides direct services to organizations and individuals. Morial has led the Urban League since 2003 and had formerly served as mayor of New Orleans and as a Louisiana state senator. In a meeting with a smaller group of local and regional civil rights advocates and elected officials, Morial said that a key goal for the Urban League is to help advance economic mobility for all Americans, especially those who are minorities.

Morial rebutted suggestions he said he had heard in 2003 that equality and civil rights have been achieved in the United States and thus organizations such as the Urban League are less relevant than in decades past. He noted that 2010-2012 were the Urban League’s biggest years for providing services and that in 2010 the organization refreshed its operational goals for the foreseeable future. He said the Urban Leagues priorities are 1) every child ready for college, work and life; 2) safe, decent, energy efficient housing on fair terms available to all citizens; 3) every American having access to a good job paying a living wage with benefits and 4) access to affordable healthcare solutions. Morial said that with goals as fundamental -- yet far-reaching -- as those, the Urban League is as relevant as ever.

When asked what indicators he has seen that suggest those goals are achievable, he had a quick two-word answer: “Hope and goodwill.”

As part of Morial’s address to the crowd in McKnight, Chancellor Philip L. Dubois shared brief remarks with the assemblage.

“ … The events of the past year in Ferguson and elsewhere remind us that there remain deep divides along racial lines in this country,” Dubois said. “As the old saying goes, freedom is not free and it requires continuing vigilance. We need that next generation of civil rights leaders to emerge and speak for the conscience of this nation, as great leaders have. I’m sure that many of these future leaders are sitting in this room.”

Urban League of Central Carolina CEO Patrick Graham
Indeed, Morial said that Urban League leadership is keeping up with the ascendancy of millennials, who, he said, were now the largest segment of the American population. Morial said he was proud that Urban League chapters across the country were experiencing generational changings of the guard in their leadership, with scores of young, talented chief executives taking the helm; he noted in particular Patrick Graham, Ph.D., president and CEO of the Urban League of Central Carolina.


John Bland is senior director of public relations and news services at UNC Charlotte.

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