The National Urban League Leadership Youth Summit recently held at New Orleans’ Tulane University presented NUL members, supporters and young people with possibility, encouragement and real-time reminders of steps for success.
Hosted to encourage education, empowerment, and employment, the NUL presented diverse panelists and speakers to address the youth.
Tony Jones, a representative of Best Buy’s global strategy team, reminded the audience of an ideal society.
Jones asked listeners to imagine a world where education connected with employment and technology so that people can “better empower themselves.” While asking for individual work and aspiration, the Best Buy rep also emphasized the power in numbers and unity.
The strength of numbers was highlighted as the crowd was called to action on behalf of slain teen Trayvon Martin.
“We will not let Trayvon’s death go in vain,” civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump said to the crowd. Crump is the Martin family’s attorney.
The first African-American named Philanthropist of the Year by the Association of Fundraising Professions, Crump, called on NUL’s youth and supporters to keep up with the Martin case, and continue social media and cyber advocacy by tweeting and blogging about the topic so that justice will be served.
While civil rights and daily life meshed at the event, young people who are involved with the NUL also earned the crowd’s amens, claps and support.
Troy Simon, a member of the Urban League’s college track spoke truth to power about growing up in New Orleans, overcoming illiteracy and claiming the education necessary to make his life what he wants it to be.
“As a kid growing up in New Orleans, education has played a pivotal role in my life,” Simon said.
He said that he was could not read until age 14 and expressed his anger through violence and hiding his literacy struggle.
Simon said that he initially thought that education happened by experience, but didn’t acknowledge the choice. With no one in his immediate family stressing the importance of education, it took self-determination and assistance from the NUL to get Simon on the track to pedagogical progress.
“With education, we do have a choice to be our best selves,” Simon said. He will attend Bard College on a 4-year scholarship.
Loyola University in New Orleans’ Associate Director for Educational Initiatives, Dr. Andre Perry, encouraged young people to pursue higher education and increase the numbers of people who looked like them in various fields.
“Understand the power of your intellectual capacity,” Dr. Perry said.
Thirteen-year-old Miss Black Louisiana, Tori Turner, emphasized the importance of mentors (instead of dictators), avoiding bullying and not succumbing to peer pressure.
The discussion continued as questions from Urban League members across nation included ways to increase motivation, combat boredom and live above the fray.
The youth members were encouraged to maximize opportunities, avoid taking things personally, do their best and know that blessings will come.
As for the implications of education, aspiration and pursuing justice, the north Florida attorney and philanthropist, Crump, brought everything back to a universal level.
“It is all about all of us,” he said.