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New York Urban League Debuts “100 Stories of Black New York"

Updated: Mar 9, 2020

The New York Urban League (NYUL) held their centennial kick-off event “100 Stories of Black New York” on February 20, 2020, at The New-York Historical Society, coinciding with a special installation titled “The New York Urban League at 100” on exhibit now through May 17th, 2020.

Open to the public, the sold-out program featured the stories of the 106th Mayor of New York City David N. Dinkins and Queens Public Library President & CEO Dennis Walcott. A panel discussion was also held titled The Importance of Storytelling to the Civil Rights Struggle Then and Now, where participants included Marc Morial, National Urban League President, Arva Rice, President & CEO of New York Urban League, Wes Moore, CEO of Robin Hood, and NBC Anchor & Host David Ushery as moderator.

Photo Credit: Mailk Yusef Cumbo

For over 100 years, the New York Urban League has led the way in the education, employment, and empowerment of under-served African Americans across the five boroughs of New York City. During this time, the organization has inspired, influenced, and ignited over one million Black people to achieve their highest aspirations. NYUL remains a vital resource for the city’s African-Americans and other underserved groups. The League helps to transform the lives of over 8,000 families each year by providing quality higher education options, economic opportunity, and community engagement.

The New-York Historical Society program, Co-sponsored by Gale Brewer, Manhattan Borough President, was an opportunity for NYUL to reflect on the New York Urban League’s crucial work over the past century, and explore the stories of those the League has personally impacted.

NYUL’s “100 Stories of Black New York” – February 20, 2020

Storytelling is central to the African-American experience. It was forbidden in policy and practice for blacks to read or write. It wasn't just illegal but could be deadly for the slave, so they shared their stories. Slaves knew that telling stories was the only way they could bear witness to what they'd been through. Stories were used to interpret the universe, resolve natural and physical phenomena, teach morals, maintain cultural values, pass on methods of survival, and to praise God. So it is fitting that this evening as an iconic Civil Rights organization launches their year-long celebration, that they begin by storytelling. On February 20, two of the 100 stories featured former New York City Mayor David Dinkins and Queens Public Library President & CEO Dennis Walcott. During 2020, NYUL will present 100 stories recounting its 100-year history and its future promise through print, broadcast, and social media.

“By presenting ‘New York Urban League: 100 Stories of Black New York,’ our hope was that the audience would understand the power and promise of storytelling, and why this medium was selected for the NYUL Centennial,” said Arva Rice, President & CEO of the New York Urban League. “And to get people excited about 100 stories and hearing the next 98,” she added.

"We were honored to host the New York Urban League at the New-York Historical Society as they premiered the first of their '100 Stories of Black New York'," said Dr. Louise Mirrer, president and CEO of New-York Historical. "The New York Urban League has played an important role in the city's history, and we salute all that they have done and continue to do to empower African Americans in our community."

Special Installation: “The New York Urban League at 100” – January 31 - May 17, 2020

This year marks the centennial of the New York Urban League, a local affiliate of the National Urban League, whose mission is to enable African-Americans and other underserved ethnic communities to secure a first-class education, economic self-reliance, and equal respect of their Civil Rights through programs, services, and advocacy. Among the objects on display in this special installation is a school desk from DeWitt Clinton High School and images depicting the NYUL Football Classic and the Whitney M. Young Scholars. Through events like the Football Classic, the Annual Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) College Fair, and the Young Men’s and Young Women’s Empowerment Days, NYUL has helped challenge New Yorkers to find humanity, connect and help each other, and gain access to equal opportunity.

Panelist Bios

Marc H. Morial, President, National Urban League

As President of the National Urban League since 2003, Marc H. Morial has been the primary catalyst for an era of change. His skilled leadership has expanded the League’s work around an Empowerment agenda, which is redefining civil rights in the 21st century with a renewed emphasis on closing the economic gaps between Whites and Blacks as well as rich and poor Americans. The former Mayor of New Orleans, Morial was elected in 1994 and served two terms leading the city into a 1990’s renaissance of international prominence. During his tenure, New Orleans won the All-American City Award in 1996 for the first time in 50 years, as well as the prestigious City Livability Award. He serves as an Executive Committee member of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights.

Arva R. Rice, President & CEO, New York Urban League

Arva Rice is a passionate community leader who has dedicated herself to creating pathways to success for young people with a focus on girls and women. Arva currently serves as President & CEO of the New York Urban League. The New York Urban League is leading the way underserved African-Americans are educated, employed and empowered across the 5 boroughs. For the past 100 years, we’ve inspired, influenced and ignited over 1 million black people to achieve their highest aspirations. Arva is a member of the Women’s Forum, Greater New York Chapter of The Links Incorporated, a Commissioner for the NYC Equal Employment Practices Commission and Trustee at First Corinthians Baptist Church. Arva is a 2013-2014 Annie Casey Fellow, a national fellowship for government and nonprofit leaders focused on supporting innovation solutions for children. Arva graduated from Northwestern University. She currently lives in Harlem.

Wes Moore, CEO, Robin Hood

Wes Moore is the CEO of Robin Hood, the largest poverty-fighting nonprofit in New York City and a leader across the country. He is a bestselling author, combat veteran, and social entrepreneur. Wes’ first book, “The Other Wes Moore” was an overnight New York Times bestseller and captured the fine line between success and failure in our communities and in ourselves.

David Ushery, Anchor/Host, NBC

One of the region’s best-known and most-respected newscasters, David Ushery serves as the co-anchor for NBC 4 New York’s 11 AM and 5 PM weekday newscasts. The winner of a National Emmy® and an Edward R. Murrow Award for NBC 4’s team coverage of Superstorm Sandy, Ushery was recently awarded a local New York Emmy® for his profile on 9/11 responder Michael Dorian, who was diagnosed with cancer and later fought a challenging battle to secure health benefits. He also conducted one of the last televised interviews with NYPD Detective Luis Alvarez, one of the key leaders who helped secure the renewal of the federal Victim’s Compensation Fund. Known for his passion for volunteerism and tireless service to the local community, Ushery is the recipient of honorary degrees from St. John’s University (2014), St. Francis College (2018) and Fordham University (2019). He has long supported the work of the New York Urban League, frequently hosting our students at 30 Rock where he has offered his time and experience to our next generation of leaders.

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