Save Our Cities and Power the Digital Revolution

“Thank you for fighting for long-overdue reforms to the justice system. Thank you for helping people get good jobs and better education. Thank you for those missions in your chapters all across this country and throughout the history of the Urban League … A summer job could change the trajectory of somebody’s life, especially if that young person maybe hadn’t felt like somebody was paying attention to them or believing them. That’s what I saw my Urban League in Richmond do. The impact is an impact I’ve seen up close.” – U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, National Urban League Conference, 2016

The important work of the National Urban League and the Urban League Movement, to narrow the nation’s racial gaps in income, wealth and educational attainment, are being profoundly shaped by the global 21st Century digital revolution. The potential of the digital age to right the historical wrongs visited upon African Americans will be an empty one until our private, government and corporate sectors focus on minority ownership, workforce hiring, management positions and increased racial and gender representation in c-suites and on boards of directors.

That’s why the focus of the 2018 National Urban League Conference in Columbus, Ohio, is “Save Our Cities: Powering the Digital Revolution.” As it does each year, the Conference represents an unprecedented mobilization to influence public and corporate policy through grassroots political and social action.

Taking place August 1 through 4 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center, the nation’s largest civil rights and social justice conference attracts thousands of the nation’s most influential community leaders, together with top policy-makers, academicians, business leaders and artists for three days of dynamic dialogue, intellectual exchange and community service.

Honoring a long-standing tradition of the Conference, some of the nation’s top political leaders will attend, acknowledging the indispensable relationship between government and the civil rights and social justice community. U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown, Ohio gubernatorial candidates Richard Cordray and Mike DeWine, Congresswoman Joyce Beatty, former Ohio State Senator Nina Turner as well as other state and local representatives from around the country all recognize the urgency of transforming America’s cities.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Whitney M. Young Awards Gala.

Encapsulating the relationship between digital technology and social justice, our opening plenary is “Beyond the Hashtag: From Online Actrivism to Offline Change.” The creators of some of the most influential hashtags on social media discuss how they have led the way to offline change. Tarana Burke (#MeToo), April Reign (#OscarsSoWhite), Tamika D. Mallory (#WomensMarch) and Jocelyn R. Taylor (#LayerUpWithJRT) all have wielded powerful weapons when it comes to online activism.

Who better to discuss the influence of social media than Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg? She joins us for our opening luncheon.

The State of the Urban League Address, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. August 1 at First Church of God in Columbus, is my annual report on the progress and accomplishments of the Urban League Movement and serves as the official kick-off for the Conference.

The Google Arts & Culture Pop Up Lab makes its United States debut in the N.U.L. Experience Expo Hall. Inspired by the Lab in Paris, which travels around the world, this Pop Up Lab will showcase the Black History and Culture project, a collection of artifacts, art, documents and stories from cultural institutions across America honoring the legacy of Black Americans.

Also in the Expo for the first time is the Live, Love, Learn, Lifestyle Lounge, a robust space to engage with fashion and beauty brands.

The family-focused Back to School Community & Family Day on Saturday is expected to attract thousands of Columbus-area residents for informative and entertaining exhibits, sessions and school-supply giveaways.

TechConnect is where technology, racial justice and social change intersect. Speakers and presenters include rapper and singer Michael Bivens, former NFL player Dhani Jones, former NBA player Howard Wright and Cleveland Cavaliers announcer Ahmaad Crump. A Podcast Village features popular podcasters including The Black Girl, Ash Cash, Colby “Colb” Tyner and National Urban League’s K. Kim Atturbury.

Learn more at our Conference website and join us in Columbus. If you can’t be there in person, follow along on social media using the hashtag #SaveOurCities.

Marc Morial is President and CEO of the National Urban League.

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