When the National Urban League convenes in Philadelphia next week, the organization will focus on job creation and address attacks on voting rights, affirmative action, civil rights and justice.
The “Redeem the Dream: Jobs Rebuild America” conference, held July 24-27 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, serves to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington, while charting the course for the present and future of civil rights and urban advocacy.
“I think we’ll be able to address all these issues that in some respects help us to commemorate the anniversary of the March on Washington while really looking at the present and the future and how that is impacting the civil rights community as a whole,” said Patricia Coulter, president and CEO of the Urban League of Philadelphia, who is hosting the conference.
“One of the things that we also want to bring to light is 50 years ago when the march on Washington happened, the theme was the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. A lot of times during the iconic look back, I don’t think that the context is completely put around it today — that yes it was about civil and equal rights, but jobs and the whole economic landscape was a big part of what all that was about.”
Upwards of 3,000 people are slated to attend the conference which will have an estimated economic impact of more than $8 million according to the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The four-day conference will convene policymakers, newsmakers and business and community leaders for plenary sessions, workshops and networking opportunities.
The conference kicks off on July 24 at 7 p.m. at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, at Broad and Spruce streets, with an opening keynote on the State of the Urban League by NUL President Marc Morial.
Following the keynote address, the Urban League will host a special unveiling of an originally signed copy of the Emancipation Proclamation in celebration of its 150th anniversary at the National Constitution Center, 525 Arch Street.
The Urban League has called an emergency town hall meeting on July 25 from 8 to 10 a.m. at the Pennsylvania Convention Center to address issues of justice in light of the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the killing of Trayvon Martin and the Supreme Court’s ruling on voting rights. Town hall attendees will be addressed by Attorney General Eric Holder and author and MSNBC show host Melissa Harris-Perry.
“The not guilty verdict in the trial of George Zimmerman has extended the tragedy of Trayvon Martin’s death to a travesty and miscarriage of justice. While we must accept the jury’s decision under the due process of the legal system, we want to make it clear that this is far from over,” Morial said in a statement on the Travyon Martin trial verdict.
“We are focusing on two important aspects of federal law which may have been violated by George Zimmerman and which should be investigated, with the potential to lead to an additional indictment and another trial.”
The conference features a number of special plenary sessions. The first plenary session titled “Jobs Rebuild America: Educate, Employer, Empower” will be held July 25 at 4 p.m. Panelists include Willie Johnson, founder of PRWT Services, Inc.; Monique Greenwood, owner of Akwabba Luxury Bed and Breakfast Inns and Cathy Hughes, founder of TV One and Radio One. The panelists will highlight how small businesses are creating jobs.
“Part of what we are experiencing in this country is the lack of economic opportunities especially for African Americans and people of color,” Coulter pointed out, noting that young African-American men in particular are having astronomical unemployment rates.
The organization’s focus on job creation comes at a time when an estimated 43 percent of young African Americans are unemployed.
In May, the Urban League launched a 50-city $100 million “Jobs Rebuild America” campaign. The community investment component is a five-year multi-platform effort designed to reach job-seekers, vulnerable youth and entrepreneurs.
A morning plenary session will be held July 26 from 8 to 10 a.m. titled “Redeem the Dream: 50 Years and Marching On” featuring Congressman John Lewis, Rev. Al Sharpton, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr., George Curry and others who will reflect on the legacy of the March on Washington and charting a course for the next 50 years of the Civil Rights Movement.
That afternoon, the spotlight will be on the youth during a special town hall held at 3 p.m. titled “Hip-Hop Culture: Exploitation and Empowerment” featuring Rev. Lennox Yearwood, president and CEO, Hip Hop Caucus.
Another highlight of the conference includes the “Small Business Matters” entrepreneurship summit that will be held July 27 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Loews Hotel. The free summit features informative sessions and networking opportunities.
David Simms, owner of Philadelphia-based Eatible Delights Catering is gearing up to participate in a panel discussion on utilizing social medial to build a brand. Simms will also address how partnering with the Urban League has boosted his catering business.
“I definitely want to talk about how the Urban League has played a part in my business. We are partners. It’s just not me taking from the Urban League, it’s me giving back,” said Simms, who has donated scholarship funds to the organization for students going to college.
“The Urban League has assisted me in providing support for my business, marketing and by referring business to me.”
Coulter encourages local residents to tap into what the conference has to offer.
“This is more than just a conference for the people who are coming into the city. I want this to be a conference for the people who live in Philadelphia and live in this region. There are a number of free things that people can go to,” Coulter stressed.
The conference features free events for the public such as the in-person and online career and networking fair with more than 50 employers, an expo hall with more than 100 exhibits and a health zone where attendees can receive free screenings and health information.
Founded in 1910, the Urban League is the nation’s largest historic civil rights and urban advocacy organization.