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Published: Friday, 3/19/2004

National leader seeks bigger role for Urban League

A former president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors said last night in Toledo that he wants the National Urban League to become one of, if not the top nonprofit organization in the country in the next five to 10 years.

Marc Morial, who took over the helm of the National Urban League less than a year ago, was the keynote speaker at the seventh annual Greater Toledo Urban League banquet at the Wyndham Hotel.

The banquet is the Toledo affiliate's only fund-raiser. Proceeds are used to support various local programs, including job placement and helping young adults gain work skills.

Mr. Morial became the eighth president and chief executive officer of the National Urban League in April, replacing Hugh B. Price.

In an interview before his speech last night, Mr. Morial said the country must prepare for a shift in its demographics where people of color will make up the majority of the United States' residents.

"In 2050, non-Hispanic whites will make up 50 percent of the population," Mr. Morial said. "People of color will make up the other 50 percent. We can't have 50 percent of the population to not be fully developed and taking part in the country.

"Right now, unemployment for African-Americans is in the double-digits, and we're in a crisis with our young people ages 18 to 24. In New York and Chicago, half of the young black males are not attending school and not working.''

Mr. Morial said he wants to improve the league's influence in the areas of education, jobs, and civil rights.

He said one of his highest priorities will be to help draw bi-partisan support for a new civil rights bill by U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy (D., Mass.). Mr. Morial said the bill will help strengthen civil rights legislation that he believes has been watered down by the U.S. Supreme Court.

"When the Civil Rights Act [of 1964] was passed, it was passed with bipartisan support," Mr. Morial said. "The thing that concerns me the most about civil rights and affirmative action is that it has become so partisan.

"Political conservatives attack affirmative action because it makes for a good wedge issue to divide people. Affirmative action was designed to ensure access and make up for years of discrimination. People of goodwill around the country must start talking about affirmative action."

State Rep. Edna Brown (D., Toledo) was honored with the Toledo affiliate's Charles H. Penn, Jr., Humanitarian Award.

Mrs. Brown, one of the Toledo affiliate's founding members, won three terms on Toledo City Council before being appointed to the state legislature in 2002 when Jack Ford became Toledo's mayor. She then won a full, two-year term later that year.

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