Message From Our President

Message From Our President

Houston Area Urban League: Empowering Communities and Changing Lives for 50 Years

  • by HAUL
  • Tuesday, June 12, 2018

President John F. Kennedy once said a rising tide lifts all boats to emphasize the ideal that we all can benefit from economic development. However, as President and CEO of the Houston Area Urban League, I have learned that while we may all be on this ship together, we are not all afforded the same access to opportunity. We must work hard and be ever-vigilant in closing this gap so that all communities can thrive. When we help marginalized families own homes, provide workforce training that leads to livable wages, support literacy reading circles for disadvantaged youths and embrace entrepreneurial opportunities for small business owners, then and only then do we fulfill our national promise of shared prosperity – and lift all boats.

This has been the model for our work here at the Houston Area Urban League, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this June. This was the vision of local civil rights pioneers Gerald Hines, Dan Arnold, Louis Sklar, Quentin Mease and other business and civic leaders who in 1968 realized our city was stronger together. It was at that time that our founders turned to the Urban League as a model to help Houston address the disparities of the poor and underserved. Since then, the Houston Area Urban League has been a strong, dedicated voice for the poor and disadvantaged, empowering them with economic development opportunities, leadership skills, community service programs and a steadfast commitment to developing our youth.

Through strategic partnerships, we are thankful for the programs that have created jobs, affordable housing opportunities, small business education efforts and advocacy for civil rights. Thousands upon thousands of people in the African American and other underserved communities have benefited from these efforts, affording them self-sufficiency, sustainability and the opportunity to prosper and be competitive in the economy.

Our mission is not complete. It is time to broaden our goals for economic justice and equitable inclusion. We must ensure that all Americans have a stake in economic opportunity and a chance to achieve the American Dream. But we face mounting challenges to these goals.

Despite our city’s diverse and robust economy, research shows that the rising tide is not lifting all boats. Several recent studies have revealed the challenges we face with equality as a city and a nation. For example, one notes that the average median income for African American and Hispanic Households is $38,555 and $46, 882, respectively, compared to a white median household income of $63,155.

The wealth gap is expected to widen if current trends continue. With our nation becoming a “majority minority” country by 2044, and the racial wealth divide accelerating, the economic conditions of African American and Latino households will have an increasingly adverse impact on the economy at large because the majority of households will not have enough wealth to be part of the middle class.

This is not acceptable. We are a country built on the idea of opportunity for all, regardless of where you come from or what you look like. Being born in an impoverished neighborhood, attending a failing school, or living with the daily plagues of crime and poverty should not predetermine one’s life.

As part of our far-reaching efforts to empower communities and change lives, the Urban League launched its Opportunity Matters campaign to evoke the shared belief that each person can and should receive a fair chance to achieve his or her full potential, enjoy economic stability and have a voice in the decisions that affect them.

We remain dedicated to removing the barriers to access and advocating for new laws and policies that eliminate structural inequities that promote racial inequality. As we move into the next 50 years, it is our duty to have the foresight to cultivate programs that prepare our stakeholders for all types of economic opportunities – in the digital revolution and beyond.

We, of course, depend on the community and our corporate partnerships to make these wonderful things happen. We will continue to need your help and support to fulfill our mission.

We also want to hear from those whose lives we helped change. If you have benefited from the Urban League, please share your inspiring story with us as some already have done at I also invite you to join Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner (honorary gala chair), our board of directors, community leaders and others in celebrating our past accomplishments and igniting the next 50 years of service at the 2018 Equal Opportunity Day Gala!

Much like our founders in 1968, we steadfastly believe that everyone in our society should have the chance to move upward in economic, educational and civil status, no matter where they started out. It takes work, it takes conviction and it takes a willingness to value others as equals to ensure that all boats will rise, carrying with them the individuals and families who deserve the opportunity to thrive and prosper.

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The mission of the Houston Area Urban League is to enable African Americans and other minorities to secure economic self-reliance, parity, power and civil rights.

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