2021 had had its share of both heartbreaks and triumphs, from sustaining the delivery of our standard programs within the continuing pandemic, speaking out against racial injustice, particularly in the case of Ronald Green, as well as responding in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida, which battered our community on the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. The Urban League of Louisiana remains at the forefront of our strategic mission to assist underserved communities in securing economic self-reliance, parity, power, and civil rights.
Hurricane Ida impacted us directly when it hit the state of Louisiana. The Urban League of Louisiana quickly sprang into action by designing three ways for our supporters and partners to join us in the recovery efforts.
- These efforts included hosting two Hurricane Ida Relief Giveaways that allowed us the opportunity to serve over 800 families impacted by Hurricane Ida with items such as tarps, water, diapers, non-perishable food items, clothing, toiletries, feminine products and cleaning supplies.
- The Urban League of Louisiana, in partnership with the Foundation for Louisiana, launched the Black Business Works Fund, an initiative to assist black-owned businesses impacted by Hurricane Ida. The initiative provides Black-owned businesses located in federally declared disaster areas the opportunity to apply for $2,500 micro-grants that can serve as a lifeline for businesses struggling to survive.
The pandemic continues to impact our country and specifically, the communities we serve. The Urban League of Louisiana remains steadfast in our commitment to keep citizens informed and safe.
- Beginning last year and continuing through July 2021, the Urban League of Louisiana held monthly mask giveaways while continuing to encourage everyone to MASK UP to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
- The Urban League of Louisiana also continued its commitment to health equity by continuously providing all the facts and information about COVID-19 and the vaccine designed to help citizens make the best decisions regarding their family.
Families from all throughout the state remain affected by the ongoing effects of the pandemic and the aftermath of Hurricane Ida. Our Center for Education & Youth Development held major events to provide support and relief to families in need.
- The Parent Information Center held its annual Schools Expo virtually due to the ongoing pandemic. Families were able to engage with representatives from early childhood programs, public, private, and Catholic schools in a convenient and efficient method.
- The Parent Information Center also held their annual Back To School Giveaway where they provided families with backpacks, school supply kits, new children’s coats, uniform vouchers, and amazing prizes!
Our Center for Workforce & Economic Development hosted many events and programs to help serve our communities during the pandemic and after the hurricane.
- The Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation partnered with Baton Rouge Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome and the City of Baton Rouge to meet the short-term financial needs of microenterprises and small businesses with the Resilient Restart EBR: Small Business Micro-grants Program. The program has provided one-time, micro-grants of $2,500 to small businesses in the East Baton Rouge Parish that have been impacted by COVID-19.
- The Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation also launched the Black Restaurant Accelerator Program (BRAP) to provide direct support and access to capital to Black-owned food service operators in Louisiana that have been negatively impacted by COVID-19.
- As well, the Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation, in collaboration with Mastercard, hosted its fourth Scale Up! Louisiana series for eligible small businesses in the Greater New Orleans area that provided early stage, women- and minority-owned firms with the education and resources needed for scalability and profitability.
The Office of Workforce Development held multiple Virtual Job Fairs throughout the year to continuously connect job seekers to essential industries.
- The job fairs included a statewide expo in partnership with the Louisiana Workforce Commission, Second Chance Virtual Career & Resource Expo for justice-involved/returning citizens, a special Job Fair in partnership with Walgreens, and the annual Career & Resource Expo. In total, the Office of Workforce Development served over 420 participants and connected over 150 job seekers to employment opportunities.
The Center for Policy and Social Justice implemented many critical strategies and featured initiatives in 2021 to secure parity & civil rights, increase equity, and improve quality of life for African American communities and other communities of color across Louisiana.
- In February, the Center for Policy and Social Justice, along with the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus, hosted the annual Empowerment and Policy Conference. The statewide convening designed to examine systems, influence policy decisions and enact changes that will positively impact the African American and other communities gave attendees the opportunity to hear from national and local experts, policy makers and community leaders on timely and important topics, connect with fellow residents statewide, and engage in conversations on issues that matter to them from the discussions held at the Listen and Learn sessions. The two-day conference featured over 120 speakers who offered powerful dialogue and conversation to over 700 attendees. The conference, along with the prior Listen and Learn sessions, provided a way for the Center for Policy and Social Justice to develop its expansive policy agenda for the 2021 Legislative Session.
- The SEE CHANGE Collective initiative launched in October to help close the racial wealth gap in the Greater New Orleans region. The initiative focuses on three pathways to wealth-building – homeownership, business ownership and entrepreneurship, and income and wages and Urban League of Louisiana has begun an extensive community engagement effort across the Greater New Orleans region to invite Louisianians to share their experiences, stories, and expertise in support of developing solutions.
- After an extensive effort to get everyone counted in the 2020 Census, the Center for Policy and Social Justice developed the Redistricting Louisiana campaign to make sure the voices of the communities we serve are represented equally by creating districts that have nearly the same number of people in it. The Urban League of Louisiana continues to provide ways that residents can get involved and have been participating in the Louisiana state legislature public hearings to offer suggestions and recommendations to the legislature.
- The Center for Policy and Social Justice continue to activate the Wake Up Geaux Vote statewide voter education and mobilization effort for every election cycle to register new voters, provide relevant election updates & information about real-time ballot initiatives and candidates, and to get people to the polls.
- To build forward to the 2022 Empowerment and Policy Conference and to help strategize its future advocacy and mobilization efforts, the Center for Policy and Social Justice conducted the annual statewide Listen and Learn Tour to engage with communities in honest dialogue about issues impacting their city.
- When Mr. Ronald Greene was brutally murdered by officers of the Louisiana State Police, it took 474 days for the department to launch an internal investigation. This was not acceptable. The Center for Policy and Social Justice took part in Justice for Ronald Green efforts including launching a petition that was signed by over 27,000 people from over 170 countries demanding justice in the face of police brutality. The petition was sent to U.S. Department of Justice Attorney General Merrick B. Garland, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards, and Louisiana State Superintendent of Police Colonel Lamar A. Davis. The Center for Policy and Social Justice also provided weekly updates to the community and utilized all resources on the Day of Advocating for Ronald Greene including participation in the national press conference and rally at the Louisiana State Capitol.
The Urban League of Louisiana continues to remain relevant in its mission of focusing programs to ensure quality education and access to information, employment, entrepreneurial & economic inclusion opportunities and utilizing our Centers of Excellence to provide essential services to the underserved communities.