Greater Washington Urban League Celebrates Community Leaders

Norma Porter Anthony | 3/24/2010, 9:35 a.m.
Hundreds gathered to celebrate the work of local community leaders and to pay homage to...
The photo is a rendering of how the I AM EMPOWRED exhibit will look at the National Urban League 100th Conference to be held at the DC Convention Center July 28th - 31st.

Hundreds gathered to celebrate the work of local community leaders and to pay homage to one of the oldest civil rights and social services organizations in the country during a Black-tie soiree at a Northwest hotel.

More than 800 people dressed to the nines attended the 38th Annual Whitney M. Young Jr. Memorial Gala at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, Wed., March 17. The event attracted District politicians, movers-and-shakers and nationally recognized civil rights leaders for an evening of chit-chat and camaraderie.

€We know the economic climate has had a devastating impact on families, corporations, nonprofit organizations, and the public and private sectors.

But we also know that amidst the despair of massive job loss, shuttered businesses large and small, foreclosures at a rate never before seen, we as Americans are blessed,€ said Maudine Cooper, president and CEO of the Greater Washington Urban League.

€So we welcome you tonight to celebrate the League€s fortitude in continuing to offer help to our 65,000 clients through education, housing, job training, and nutrition, health services and social services,€ Cooper said.

This year, the Greater Washington Urban League presented sportscaster James Brown, Go-Go music legend Chuck Brown, the Clark Construction Group LLC and Virginia and the late Ben Ali, owners of Ben€s Chili Bowl in Northwest with the Whitney M. Young, Jr. Community Service Award for their unwavering commitment and service to the D.C. area.

€We€re honoring people who have done important work in this great city -- our nation€s capitol -- but also you are contributing resources and support needed for the Greater Washington Urban League,€ Marc H. Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League said after the award presentations.

€Sixty-five thousand is the number of people that the Greater Washington Urban League serves every year and they are people looking to become home owners, people trying to connect with a job, young people looking to achieve academically; they€re people from all walks of life,€ he said.

The honorees, Urban League officials said, exemplify the dedication and commitment demonstrated by Whitney M. Young, Jr., executive director of the National Urban League from 1961-1971.

Young fought so that African Americans could gain economic parity through politics and entrepreneurship. He also served as an advisor to Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and John F. Kennedy.

During his 10 years at the helm, Young expanded the scope of the National Urban League nationwide. He increased the organization€s local affiliate chapters from 60 to 98. The National Urban League currently boasts 100 local affiliates in 36 states and the District of Columbia.

Wesley Stith, vice president of Clark Construction LLC, said that he humbled to have been acknowledged by the organization.

€This is a great opportunity to accept this wonderful award from the Greater Washington Urban League,€ he said.

€Clark has a strong focus on supporting the community and I am so happy to be a part of it. So on behalf of Clark Construction and myself, Wesley Stith, we would like to thank you for this award,€ Stith said.

Proceeds from the gala and silent auction provide resources for the organization€s operation and programming costs. The Greater Washington Urban League currently offers five programs in the community: education and scholarships, employment and training, housing and community development, utility and food assistance and a parent center.

District officials including Council member Michael Brown (I-At-large), Council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8), Council member Harry Thomas (D-Ward 5), Council member David Catania (I-At-Large) and Council member Yvette Alexander (D-Ward 7) attended the gala.

Alexander said that she wishes the Greater Washington Urban League 100 more years of service. Further, she added that she recognizes the important role the organization plays in the lives of District residents.

€The Urban League has done so much for our community, particularly for the community in Ward 7,€ she said.

€We€ve referred people [to the organization] for foreclosures and job training. They€ve also helped with voter turnout.€