The National Urban League Centennial Conference (NUL) begins this week in Washington, D.C., from July 28th to July 31st and follows the theme Empowerment Time: Past, Present, Future.
The conference will feature such speakers as President Barack Obama (who also spoke at the NUL conference as the Democratic presidential candidate in 2008, pictured above), Maya Angelou, Sheila Jackson Lee, Benjamin Jealous, Vernon E. Jordan Jr., Soledad O' Brien, Reverend Al Sharpton, and Andrew Young.
Headed by former New Orleans mayor Marc H. Morial (pictured below), the NUL celebrates 100 years of service to underserved communities, particularly black communities across the United States. With more than 100 local affiliates in 36 U.S. states, NUL prides itself as a "historic civil rights organization dedicated to economic empowerment in order to elevate the standard of living in historically underserved urban communities."
This Tuesday's kick-off reception, held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in downtown Washington, D.C., featured the likes of the Rev. Jesse Jackson, U.S. Senator Roland Burris, Cornel West, the National Director of Strategic Alliances and Corporate Relations for the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) Monica Newman McCluney, Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter, the Executive Director of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History Sylvia Cyrus, President of the Emmett Till Legacy Foundation Debra Watts and the Executive Director of the National Association of Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Arturo Vargas.
All introduced themselves and their organizations with the statement, "I am empowered," which was a crowd pleaser. The statement not only served to inspire the crowd but also served as an official social mobilization slogan of the NUL, which asks "citizens across the country" to join in a pledge to achieve empowerment goals in the areas of education, jobs, housing and health care by the year 2025.
Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) members Danny Davis and Roland Burris presented H.R. 1157 on behalf of the U.S. Congress to the Urban League and congratulated them on 100 years of service to the United States, expressing their gratitude for the hard work put forth by men and women in the league to improve the lives of Americans.
The only African-American member of the U.S. Senate, Burris spoke briefly about his work with NUL in Chicago and enthusiastically called for 100 more years of success and improvement in communities.
The centennial celebration features a three-day conference filled with events addressing such pertinent issues in black communities as housing, jobs, education, and personal and economic empowerment.
President Barack Obama is the conference's featured speaker and will deliver a speech on education reform as well as discuss his signature program Race to the Top, a $4-billion incentive program to "encourage and reward states that are creating the conditions for education innovation and reform" on Thursday.
As the NUL moves forward in to the next 100 years, its relevancy will depend on how effectively it meets the needs and desires of the communities it represents and strategically addresses the changing tide in America, particularly in terms of the changing economy.
For the schedule of the conference, click here. In the meantime, watch Morial discuss the state of black america here: