By Marc H. Morial
“You can holler, protest, march, picket and demonstrate, but somebody must be able to sit in on the strategy conferences and plot a course. There must be strategies.” – Whitney M. Young, National Urban League President, 1961-1971
America faces tremendous challenges today and tomorrow. As a nation, we are experiencing what may be the most intense focus in decades on economic inequality, educational equity, racial justice – and injustice.
In a moment of perhaps the greatest social and economic upheaval in a generation, thousands of people from all walks of life and manner of profession will convene in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. to do more than recite our country’s familiar litany of challenges; more than march and raise our voices in rightful and outraged unison; and more than debate within the narrow confines of our individual communities. For four power-packed days, we will discuss and debate the state of our cities. We will become the architects of new solutions to old, entrenched problems and well thought out strategies to save our embattled cities.
This year’s National Urban League Conference theme, “Save Our Cities: Education, Jobs + Justice,” is a unique opportunity for mission-oriented conversation and action on policies and issues affecting African Americans and urban communities. As in years past, our nation’s most influential community leaders, top policy makers, political and business leaders, and so many more, will join in our continuing efforts to make a real difference for our cities.
Following a long-standing tradition of major-party presidential candidates addressing the conference, the National Urban League counts several 2016 presidential hopefuls – Republicans and Democrats alike – as invited guests. The candidates, including former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and retired neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson, will share their respective visions for a more equitable and inclusive America in the candidates’ session, “Off to the Races: The 2016 Presidential Candidates’ Plenary.”
It is vital that those contending for the highest office in the land not only listen to our concerns, but be a part of its discussion and offer up their unique strategies and solutions for consideration to the very people who may one day move them into that coveted White House at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
The chance to engage in thoughtful dialogue and interact with national leaders and luminaries is one of many unique opportunities being offered at the conference. The National Urban League has also developed quality programs, events and forums to inform and inspire attendees and motivate them to continue empowering themselves, and by extension, their communities and the nation.
The Expo Hall will feature hundreds of exhibitors; a career and networking fair; a Health Zone where attendees can enjoy workshops and get free health screenings for the entire family; an Empowerment Stage with celebrity-filled sessions and local entertainment; a college fair with colleges, universities, and scholarship organizations; and a marketplace of local small businesses.
In a nod to these modern times and this generation’s methods of mobilizing around issues of social justice in the digital era, the National Urban League, in partnership with Digital Grass, is hosting “TechConnect: Hack-A-Thon for Social Justice,” presented by Comcast NBCUniversal. The two-day hack-a-thon is a call to action for tech-savvy innovators to design original applications to alleviate the most pressing social issues of our day, particularly in the areas of education, jobs and justice.
There are many reasons to register and become a part of this singular, unprecedented opportunity. Besides the unmatched professional and civic engagement, business development and networking opportunities, this conference is stronger, more inclusive and more reflective of the diversity of thought around the areas of economic and social justice as the number of voices and opinions added to the discussion grows. The benefit of your presence is another noteworthy addition to this conference that only you can decide to include in what promises to be an enriching and inspiring experience.
I look forward to meeting you in South Florida.
Marc H. Morial, former mayor of New Orleans, is president and CEO of the National Urban League.