In the past few years I’ve used this platform to talk about the strength of our community and how we can leverage our economic and political power to make an impact in Chicago. There is no greater way to demonstrate our political power than by exercising our right to vote. November 4th is fast approaching and the time is now to make a decision about who you want to represent you.
At the Chicago Urban League we believe it is important for voters to be engaged and informed about who and what is on the ballot. Over the years, we’ve held numerous candidate forums and presented opportunities for the community to meet with elected officials. Most recently, we co-hosted a gubernatorial debate at the DuSable Museum of African American History in partnership with the Business Leadership Council, CBS 2 Chicago and WVON.
Governor Pat Quinn and challenger Bruce Rauner made their case to the Black community on where they stand on the issues we care about. They did this because they know our vote matters and that they need us on Election Day. If you missed the debate, you can view it on the CBS 2 website. It’s a great way to get informed about both candidates. Then be sure to vote on Election Day.
This election will put people in office that will have a direct influence on laws and policies that impact your family and your community. We owe it to ourselves, our children and our communities to get to the polls. And if you’re an early voter like me, you can go to the polls now through November 2. Early voting sites also accept onsite voter registration, so you can register up to two days before Election Day.
We must be civically engaged. Engagement inspires movement – a movement that matters. Since 1916, the Chicago Urban League has engaged with people to help them find jobs, start businesses and buy homes. And we’ve given students the motivation they need to stay in school and go to college. We do it in partnership with Chicago’s civic, business, not-for-profit and faith leaders who share our belief that meaningful change occurs when we work together in the spirit of true collaboration.
Next month, we will look back on our accomplishments and thank our partners at two special events. On November 14th, National Urban League President and CEO Marc H. Morial will join us for a special announcement about our efforts in workforce development, entrepreneurship and education. We’ve helped raise the bar for success among Urban Leagues around the country and President Morial is coming to Chicago to acknowledge our work.
Then on November 15th, actress and singer Vanessa Williams headlines the 53rd Golden Fellowship Dinner at Hilton Chicago. More than 1,600 of Chicago’s business, political and philanthropic leaders will gather as we honor legendary opera singer Jessye Norman and a Chicago legend, Clyde Ross, with the Edwin C. “Bill” Berry Civil Rights Award. Mr. Ross was an architect of the Contract Buyers League that fought back against redlining and unscrupulous housing contracts in North Lawndale. Our gala co-chairs are Cheryl Pearson-McNeil of Nielsen and Stephen Thomas of Comcast. They are working hard to make this one of our most successful events ever.
The theme of this year’s gala is “Opportunity, Community, Impact: A Movement that Matters.” To us, people matter. Chicago is full of very capable, competent individuals who merely haven’t had a chance to explore and fulfill their potential. When people show up at our offices on South Michigan Avenue, we focus on their possibilities and help them see what we see in them: A bright future.
In the past year, we placed 469 adults in permanent, unsubsidized jobs, and employed 300 youths over the summer. We were on the front lines helping Chicago residents beat back foreclosure. In fiscal year 2014, we provided mortgage counseling to 500 people and helped many families stay in their homes.
Our Entrepreneurship Center helped minority small businesses obtain $3 million in financing, and our engagement with budding entrepreneurs helped create 135 new businesses. Those business owners are more likely to hire from the community, which benefits all of Chicago.
While I’m happy to report these numbers, we don’t rest on them. There is more work to be done. Our movement continues and is sustained through events like the Golden Fellowship Dinner. Our movement is also kept strong when you make voting a priority. Our movement matters, but it would not exist without you. Be sure to make your voice heard on Election Day. And if you are able, join us at the Golden Fellowship Dinner.
Andrea L. Zopp is President and CEO of the Chicago Urban League. For more information about the Golden Fellowship Dinner visit www.TheChicagoUrbanLeague.org.