National Urban League President and CEO Marc Morial visited St. Louis on Friday, March 3 to make two big announcements ‒ the organization’s annual conference will be held in St. Louis in July, and the local Urban League achieved a five-star rating on the national group’s rigorous assessment.
The two title sponsors of the upcoming conference, to be held from July 26 to 29, are Centene and World Wide Technology.
David Steward, co-founder and chairman of the board at World Wide Technology, said he was once a “son” of the Urban League, and now his business is valued at $9.4 billion ‒ making it the largest African-American business in the country. Being a title sponsor of the conference and major supporter of the Urban League are important to him, he said.
“Thank you, Urban League,” Steward said. “This is an investment back into the next generation.”
Michael Neidorff, president and CEO of Centene and the chairman of National Urban League’s Board of Trustees, said that while the country continues to make progress since the Great Depression, the wealth gap and inequalities in income and housing have remained for African Americans.
“I personally believe there is no other organization to better bridge the gap to where we are and where we want to be,” Neidorff said.
The Urban league has also been critical in bringing together the public and private sectors, and Ferguson is a great example of this, he said. Centene built a new $35 million service center in Ferguson and now provides hundreds of jobs, internships, mentoring for students in the surrounding area, as well as an early childhood center.
Neidorff encouraged other companies to join as conference sponsors, exhibitors, part of the career fair and “help us to create a conference that is unmatched,” he said.
Morial said that “Save Our Cities” conference will have a dynamic career fair, a day for small businesses, a young professionals summit and a lineup of serious plenary discussions.
“There’s tremendous energy, there’s tremendous creativity and growth here, but there are also the depressing challenges of an urban community ‒ the poverty, the challenges between the police and the community,” Morial said.
“Our conference celebrates all that is good while discussing and working on all the challenges that not only St. Louis faces but every major American city. Thus the title of our conference ‘Save Our Cities.’”
The national conference was last held in St. Louis in 2007, when the organization gave Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama a platform to speak during the presidential primary campaign.
“Laying that foundation 10 years ago made it easy to accept this committee’s invitation to return to St. Louis,” Morial said at the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis’ office.
The national organization also felt it was important to hold the conference in a region that is facing “important challenges,” which are not unlike the 80 communities where the group has a presence, Morial said.
“I’m proud of this community,” Morial said. “The Urban League affiliate has put a stake in the ground in Ferguson to bring a new facility, a program and a new way to address the challenges that the community faces.”
Morial was referring to the new job training center that is being built at the site where the QuikTrip gas station, at 9420 W. Florissant Ave., was burned down during the Ferguson unrest. Once completed, the center will become the home for the Save Our Sons program, providing job training and placement services for African Americans and other young men residing in Ferguson and surrounding North County communities.
Morial also gave Michael McMillan, president and CEO of the local Urban League, a certificate for achieving the five-star rating on the national group’s assessment. Morial called it an “intensive and intrusive evaluation” that reviews all elements of the affiliates’ operations. This is the third time the local affiliate has received the highest rating.
McMillian said that last year’s conference, which was held in Baltimore, had 21,000 attendees.
McMillan earned laughs and applause when he said, “We will not be outdone by Baltimore.”
To get involved in the 2017 Urban League conference in St. Louis, call Tom Bailey, vice president of Development for the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis, at 314-615-3611.