It is extremely important that we extend a helping hand to our fellow man. As community service takes center stage in the lives of many, a rich history of civil rights still marches on. Young Professionals advocate and President of the NULYP, Brandi Richard introduces us to the National Urban League and the Executive Board team that has her back. Welcome to The Movement.
TPM: Describe the National Urban League of Young Professionals (NULYP) movement and what it offers young professionals.
BR: NULYP is an auxiliary of the National Urban League (NUL) and it provides young professionals with an opportunity to get engaged in the mission of the NUL and its 97 affiliates across the nation. Within those affiliates there are young professional chapters where YPs are able to get involved in community service. YPs are also able to develop as leaders. In each chapter there is a leadership structure. They are able to run for offices or showcase their talents by leading a committee, working on specific tasks, and community development. Each chapter is a little different in what it offers, but all are training grounds where individuals may sharpen skills in a friendly environment. Many become better leaders and take those skills back into the work place or their chosen profession. NULYP offers young professionals the ability to grow in a local chapter, with opportunities to develop their fundraising ability.
Who is the President of the NUL and what is his vision for the YP chapters?
Marc Morial is an amazing supporter of the National Urban League Young Professionals. He makes it very clear that he’s interested in the expansion and growth of young professionals so we can support more of the work of the NUL affiliates across the country. It’s important that we become leaders in our individual professions so that we are able to give back to the NUL in the future and be examples of what that training really produces. President Morial provides exceptionally strong backing to our organization.
The NUL is one of the nation’s oldest civil rights organizations, why would you say the NUL is still relevant in 2012?
That’s a very interesting question. This question has been tossed around quite a bit. If you look at where we are as a people, many of the issues and problems we faced during the civil rights movement are problems we continue to face today. Have we gotten better? Have we created solutions to move us forward? The answer is emphatically, yes. But, we still have work to do, so yes the NUL is still relevant.
As an organization we are uniquely positioned to address the challenges in three ways. First, through Marc’s leadership, we have our fingers on the pulse of urban America. And now the urban demographic we serve is more than African Americans, it’s Latinos, and other people, regardless of color, who need our assistance. Bottom line, Urban League affiliates across the country are serving everyone with a model created to address African American urban issues. And the solutions we provide are working to empower communities and change lives.
Second, we provide public policy support. We research and provide policy recommendations on education, entrepreneurship, health and quality of life and other areas of our agenda. Our recommendations are used by legislators including President Barack Obama’s jobs agenda which included about 3 of our recommendations from last year from our jobs plan. From a policy perspective, we do our homework to understand exactly what’s going on in the community and communicate that information to the people who can affect change.
Finally, from a grassroots perspective, we’ve engaged a new empowerment movement with our web presence. Iamempowered.com allows the public to really get involved in the issues we face. It provides them an education on why we’re still relevant and why the work that we do is still extremely important. We provide information on all of our programs ranging from BEEP which prepares students at HBCUs for success in corporate roles to standard programs at our affiliates. We’re actually creating grassroots advocates across the country.
What are the characteristics of a typical young professionals member?
We have a couple of things that we put together as an executive board, which I affectionately call the “Talented Ten.” Young professionals, at their core, are skilled in their profession and masters of their talent. They respond to the cause and create engagement by using current technology. They impact others with energy and passion. They are prepared for work and life with a vision for the future. They are improving their health and fitness each day. They are guarding and increasing the civil rights standards of their ancestors. And, they are expanding on the opportunity to build wealth for themselves and for their community.
Statistically, 70% of our membership is female, 30% is male. 97% of them have a Bachelor’s degree. Many have gone to graduate school. Most of our members, me included, are aligned with the National Urban League’s five point empowerment agenda and have incorporated them into our lives. We’ve incorporated health and fitness into our lives. And as we learn about entrepreneurship and the importance of starting more businesses in our community, we have more members starting businesses. The typical young professional is starting to look more like what the National Urban League is promoting across the country, which is good.
Some people may assume that membership to the NUL is only for the talented tenth. Would you say that’s a true statement or is the movement for any and everyone?
No, it’s definitely not a true statement. I would say that, we are one of the few organizations where you can jump right in and get involved. You are not limited by where you came from, or what school you went to. You are limited by your desire to achieve. I am a prime example of that. When I started out in the Urban League of Greater Dallas Young Professionals, 97% of this group of YPs had bachelor’s degrees, and I didn’t have one. Although it wasn’t an issue for me or the people I was leading, it was imperative that I get one. Not because someone told me I needed to get one, but just because being engaged with all these people and understanding the importance of education, you can’t lead in a space that you don’t believe in. So, during my time as President, I finished by bachelor’s degree, as a single parent, and with all the responsibility that comes with being the President of an YP chapter. There are a lot of gifted people in our organization and if you had said I would be National President of over 50 chapters, based on where I was when I started 5 years ago, I would have laughed. But if I can do it, anyone can.
Wow, that’s inspirational; we didn’t know that about you.
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