(FinalCall.com) – The National Urban League was set to usher in its Centennial Conference in Washington, D.C., on July 28 with a clarion call for more jobs, a tenet of the group’s centerpiece, “I Am Empowered Campaign.”
The four-day conference, with its “Empowerment Time: Past, Present, and Future” theme, was planned to a celebration of the Urban League’s 100 years of progress for civil rights and economic progress.
“We’re going to be focusing not just on celebrating the past, but also reaffirming the future. We want people to understand our feet-on-the-ground operation. The thing that makes the Urban League movement strong and unique is what happens in local communities,” said Marc Morial, Urban League president in a pre-conference interview with The Final Call.
The Urban League’s work centers on its affiliate networks that provide Head Start, job training and job counseling centers, and housing counseling and home education programs in local communities. The networks are vital to the organization’s I Am Empowered Campaign, employing more than 2,000 people and operating in nearly 100 cities, including Washington, D.C., and touching more than two million people each year, Mr. Morial told The Final Call.
Through the campaign, the Urban League asks individuals to commit to help ensure that children are ready for college, work, and life; adults have access to jobs with a living wage and good benefits; that they live in safe, decent, affordable, energy efficient homes on fair terms; and that they have access to quality and affordable health care.
Another main Urban League concern leading up to the convention was the use of Senate fillibusters to slow down and stymie the discussions of health care, extending unemployment benefits and summer jobs, confirmation of Obama administration appointees, and bank reform, which are all part of a people’s agenda, said Mr. Morial.
The Urban League is also concerned about obstructionist tactics used by members of the Tea Party, an anti-tax, anti-government organization that gained momentum after media coverage of its town hall meetings largely opposing President Obama and challenging his policies and some members challenging his citizenship.
“What I saw with the Tea Party, when I saw Congressman Emanuel Cleaver and Congressman John Lewis jeered at and when I saw a billboard out in Iowa that compared the president of the United States with Lenin and Hitler, it turned my stomach and I asked myself a simple question. Would you see any other American president on such a billboard, whether it was Clinton, or Nixon, or Bush, or Johnson, or Kennedy? That kind of thing greatly concerns me and I think it’s important to spotlight those factors in terms of the Tea Party movement,” said Mr. Morial.
The Urban League will certainly highlight impediments that stand in the way of progress and its civil rights and economic opportunity agenda, Mr. Morial added.
“We’ve been on record for a long time supporting not only unemployment extension, but summer jobs, small business assistance, and direct job creation. I encourage the president to talk about, work on jobs every day of his presidency. The most pressing problem facing urban communities, suburban communities, rural communities in this nation is the rising tide of joblessness and the idea that the economy could begin to recover, but it doesn’t recover by producing enough jobs to re-employ the unemployed,” Mr. Morial said.
With 14 million people out of work, it is hard to bring down the deficit, stabilize families, and stabilize housing markets, he added.
The league’s conference will feature a career fair, professional development workshops with one-on-one career counseling and a Centennial Exhibit.
“We want people to know and understand that the National Urban League is not a think tank, not a talk tank, but a do tank and a lot of our work is not flashy and fancy, meaning when you have a lot of people that talk about after school programs and initiatives, but the National Urban league is running those kinds of initiatives,” Mr. Morial said.