Like most organizations and individual citizens in the U.S., the last few years have proven to be challenging, sometimes even overwhelming because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
But that hasn’t stopped one of America’s most highly regarded organizations, the National Urban League (NUL), from continuing to lead the struggle for economic empowerment, equality and social justice.
Since its founding in 1910, the Urban League has made it its mission to elevate the standards of life for African Americans as well as other historically underserved groups.
And for the first time since 2010, the Urban League has returned to the District for its annual conference with Marc Morial, president and CEO, at the helm. The four-day event, held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Northwest, will once again bring hundreds of community leaders, policymakers, corporate partners and other committed citizens to the table. And it’s a sure bet that they will be discussing some of the more salient issues that Blacks continue to face.
Morial, who has led the NUL since 2004, spoke with The Washington Informer about his concerns for Black Americans and the nation. While the full interview can be seen on The Informer’s YouTube channel, we have included several of his observations below.
On the current inflation rate, which now stands at 9.1% and represents a new, 40-year high and disproportionately impacts Black and Latino families due to soaring gas, food and housing prices. Morial said while these are painful times, “it is not the time to panic.”
“Rising inflation rates have been driven by the aftermath of COVID-19 and the war in Ukraine,” he said. “And China, which represents one-third of all manufacturing in the world, has not completely reopened. So, there are factors beyond what the White House or the Federal Reserve can do that are driving inflation.”
“Still, I hope and believe that this will be a short-lived situation. In the meantime, we must be vigilant and diligent. We know whenever America faces economic troubles, Black America pays the greatest cost. But we have to manage through this. I just hope we will not see a repeat of the 70s when the Federal Reserve created ‘stagnation’ which caused a reduction in jobs.”
Morial said the unprecedented move by the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the Roe v. Wade abortion rights ruling can be best understood by looking back at the 2016 election cycle.
“The current Supreme Court has three justices who were nominated by Donald Trump,” he said. “Because we had low voter turnout and a message from one faction that said, ‘don’t vote,’ along with propaganda facilitated by Russia, many Blacks failed to show up at the polls in 2008 and 2012. That’s why Roe v. Wade was overturned – we allowed Trump to win the White House – the rest we know.”
“This is the first time the Supreme Court has taken away people’s rights and that’s disturbing. It’s not about pro- or anti-abortion. It’s about who has the ultimate say so – the government or the individual – about a woman’s control over her own body, which the Court has undercut. A woman should have the constitutional right to control her own body.”
“I see the Court second-guessing what has happened over the past 70 years. They seem hellbent on overturning some of the hallmark decisions like Brown v. Board of Education that have improved this country, strengthened individual rights and made ours a stronger and better society,” he said.
Morial said while he is not a cheerleader for the Biden Administration, he commends the president for remaining true to several of his key campaign promises.
“I believe in stating the facts,” Morial said. “I see a president who said he was going to make a Black woman his vice president and he did it for the first time in U.S. history. He said he was going to appoint a Black woman to the Supreme Court and again, he did it – the first in our nation’s history. He said he was going to appoint a Black person to the Federal Reserve’s board of governors – he appointed two. And he has a diverse group of individuals in key positions who are overseeing the development of our country’s economic and infrastructure policies. He has civil rights attorneys of color at the Department of Justice who are second to none. Biden has assembled the most diverse administration this nation has ever seen. And these are not symbolic appointments.”
“The bottom line is this – we know we’re facing obstructionism in ways and through methods that many of us have never witnessed. But no matter what is thrown at us, we have to vote. If we have to take a day off from work, so be it. If we have to walk 100 miles to find a place to vote, then we’d better start walking. We have to stop crying about the lack of choices for offices and admitting defeat or giving in to cynicism. Just because you’re not excited about the candidates does not logically connect to one not voting. If we don’t demand a seat at the table, which voting provides for us, then we are on the menu, talking to no one else but ourselves,” he said.