James Clark

James Clark was appointed vice president of Public Safety and executive director of the Neighborhood Alliance for the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis, Inc. He will head a newly created Division of Public Safety and Community Response.

“During this tumultuous time in our history, we felt that our most challenged communities are going to need increased support with food, shelter and public safety to weather the coronavirus crisis and its aftermath,” Michael P. McMillan, president and C.E.O. of the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis, Inc., said in a statement.

The Community Response part of the position will get the first look, McMillan told The American. “With the pandemic, our focus has to be on basic needs – food, toiletries, diapers, utility assistance – and James will be out there leading the way,” McMillan said. “Literally knowing and working with James for 32 years, I know the extent of his grass-roots network, his relationships with churches and schools. He will provide excellent ways to distribute to those in need working in our most challenged neighborhoods.”

The Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis is the largest affiliate of the National Urban League with 250 employees, 15 locations and a budget of over $20 million. It serves 100,000 residents in St. Louis, St. Louis County and St. Clair County, Illinois with 50 different programs in the areas of Economic Opportunity, Community Empowerment, Educational Excellence, Civil Rights and Advocacy. But those 50 programs will take a back seat to the provision of more basic needs and services as the pandemic undermines the economy.

“Once we get out of the pandemic,” McMillan said, “then James can go back to his public safety focus.” For years, Clark has helped to organize and lead a series of proactive public safety programs as vice president of Community Outreach at Better Family Life, Inc. Clark told The American that his transition from BFL to the Urban League “will take place over time.”

“Really, he will be working with us both for a couple of months until some of his contractual obligations conclude,” McMillan said, “then he will become a full-time Urban League employee only.”

Clark said the Urban League’s new Division of Public Safety and Community Response will organize the community and bring resources to “the neighborhoods that need it the most.”

Residents will first receive health evaluations, more access to food, school supplies, clothing and employment services. Then they will intensify the Urban League’s efforts in at-risk communities to increase neighborhood safety through a Gun Violence De-Escalation Program, the Neighborhood Alliance Model, the Federation of Block Units and Operation Clean Sweep.

“James Clark and Michael McMillan have worked together for over 30 years,” Kathy Osborn, president and CEO of the Regional Business Council and longtime Urban League community partner, said in a statement. “I applaud them for coming together to improve public safety and help to make sure our neighborhoods are safe and the residents get the services they need.”

McMillan and Clark said the Urban League will also collaborate with a variety of other nonprofits, churches, community leaders and civic organizations to provide comprehensive care and services to the most vulnerable populations in the region.

Clark said, “We need a surge, an intense, aggressive, boots on the ground effort, to change the course of St. Louis, then America.”

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