National and local power players provide forum
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — “We will save our cities!” was the mantra quoted at the 2015 National Urban League (NUL) Conference, held at the Broward Convention Center, Fort Lauderdale, Florida last week. With Broward County at the helm of issues surrounding education jobs and justice, there was no shortage of solutions as to how the Urban League and its affiliates were to resolve these concerns.
Addressing the topics at hand were a host of national, state and local officials, celebrity and television correspondents, community activists, civil rights leaders, along with noted educators, members of the clergy and esteemed professionals.
On the topic of education, systemic changes needed to close the education gap were addressed by Robert W. Runice, Superintendent of Broward County Schools. “The achievement gap is linked to the opportunity gap as we see increasing numbers of students showing up to our classrooms each year and each day struggling to overcome the challenges of poverty, violence and homelessness. The future of our nation will be determined by how we treat our most vulnerable people. Now is the time for this generation to do whatever it takes to break the cycle of poverty for the next generation. I am here to tell you that Broward County Public Schools, the sixth largest school district in the country, has the determination and tenacity to become the national leader in closing the achievement gap. “
From the national perspective The Honorable Arne Duncan, U.S Secretary of Education, said the positives the Department of Education has achieved in past years include “putting more than a billion dollars behind states that want to increase high quality access in early childhood education, and 1.1 million additional students of color, not only graduating but going on to college.”
The Department has also funded Pell Grants of $40 billion dollars by ending bank subsidization and eliminating the need to raise taxes, going from 6 million Pell recipients to about 9 million.
However national challenges remain as with the No Child Left behind act where reform needs to take place and accountability needs to be achieved. Urban communities are getting less than half the financial resources received by wealthier communities, Duncan said fixing this imbalance, “Isn’t the right thing to do just for the black community or the Hispanic community; this is the right thing to do for our country. We have to make sure that whether kids get educated or not, is not a state by state decision. “For the first time ever, the majority of our nation’s schools are minority, and the children who need the most, receive the least which is unfair and un-American. Either we are going to help every child be successful and have strong families, strong community and ultimately a strong nation or the whole nation will struggle” said Duncan.
Also mentioned under the theme of education was Target’s announcement to give $1 billion for education by the end of 2015, the FCC,s inclusion of broadband services to qualifying SNAP households through its Lifeline Assistance program, free wireless and broadband services to eligible k-12 students living in public housing offered by Sprint’s partnership with HUD, and the White House’s ConnectED initiative, along with President Obama’s College Promise bill allowing tuition-free community colleges to students.
Leader’s also looked at how the inequalities in our country have led to such huge socio-economic disparities, giving rise to discussions on justice and crafting solutions based on the power of voting.
With the voting rights act of 1965 currently being challenged, threating discrimination to minority voters once again, attendees were urged to exercise their right to vote as a viable means of giving voice to our concerns about injustice.
Voter education was a key issue for panelists. Although black voting has been on the rise, there must be a significant increase in our frequency of voting and in the wisdom reflected in our electoral choices
Yolanda Cash Jackson, a local government law attorney with Becker & Poliakoff and general counsel to the NAACP – Miami Dade Branch, said “we have to see the correlation between pulling the lever and outcome; it is the only way to hold our elected officials accountable. When we see something we voted on change that is where the difference is made and change really begins to happen. ”Reverend Al Sharpton, founder and president of National Action Network urged the urban community to demand more of the officials we elect to office.
Roland Martin, host of TV One’s “News One Now” said “if you are not registered to vote you can’t serve on jury duty and serving is also a part of Black Lives Matter.”
Benjamin Crump, attorney and spokesperson for the Trayvon Martin case stated “there were 30% of black people, who were offered to serve for potential jury service in the Trayvon Martin case and 74% of those people came up with reasons why they couldn’t serve. Those people could have re-written history in how Trayvon Martin’s death was handled.”
The conference was seen by most as a huge success. Albert Tucker, Vice President of Multicultural Business Development, Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention $ Visitors Bureau, whose efforts were instrumental in hosting the Conference said, “The 2015 National Urban League Convention was the single greatest achievement the Multicultural Business Development effort has had in a long time. “The exposure we received from the media was more than expected. It really showed what South Florida, as a destination, is able to accomplish.
Orlando vendor Akila Collier, owner of Akila’s 100% Organic Shea Butters said “this is one the most amazing expo’s I’ve been to just because of the different things they offer to the people as well as the exhibitors. I love how they offered the vision and dental services on site for the children; I was able to get some things squared away that I needed to take care of for my daughter, before she heads back to school. I also love the fact that they gave us the opportunity to network with Walmart to see how we could get our products in the store. That was my first time having a corporate meeting with an actual buyer that goes to different suppliers looking for products to put on the shelves. That put me one step closer to becoming a nationwide retailer of my goods. If it was not for me being here as an exhibitor I would not have been able to take advantage of that opportunity.”
Following the conference the National Urban League website will provide ongoing resources for job seekers, who can go online and access their bi-weekly webinar, the Digital Career Success Series, starting the third week of September through the first week of November. The series covers topics for job seekers and those looking to enhance and develop themselves professionally. Secondly, residents also have access to the National Urban League’s online job board, where, for the next 60 days recruiting companies from the conference will post their job openings online at www.nuljobsnetworks.com. Sunshine Health is one example that is currently recruiting online for over 300 jobs locally.