From left are Mayor Karen Bass, LAUL CEO Ambassador Michael A. Lawson, and Dr. Andrew T. Guzman, University of Southern California provost. (Courtesy photo)

After nearly 20 years, the Los Angeles Urban League (LAUL) reprised its role last week of holding in-depth discussions with distinguished Black experts and renowned dignitaries to give a report titled “The State of Black Los Angeles 2023.”

About 300 attendees turned out for the all-day event, which was held at USC’s Town and Gown, to hear panel discussions on education, multi-cultural collaboration, and reparations’ progress in Los Angeles.

Due to a strategic partnership with NBC4/KNBC, and Telemundo 52/KVEA, the history-making conference was streamed live on the network​s’ mobile apps and emceed by Melissa Magee, NBC4 meteorologist, and Alejandra Ortiz, Telemundo 52 news anchor.

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LAUL leaders said that this collaboration underscores their commitment to advancing equity, diversity, and inclusion in what they call a “historic collaboration” that brings together expertise in fields that have the power to influence new policies, practices, and multi-cultural alliances.

“This event was so important for a couple of reasons,” said Ambassador Michael A. Lawson, president and CEO of LAUL.  “We have to rebuild what was started by the people who came before us. We’re standing on their shoulders.  The State Black L.A. is not new, but the Urban League sort of fell behind holding this on an annual basis.

“I can’t say enough about how proud I am of this team that put this together. It is building the foundation to moving to the next level, the next step of where we need to be,” said Lawson.

From left are Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell, LAUL CEO Michael A. Lawson, and LAUL COO Cynthia Heard. (Courtesy photo)

The organization rallied the county’s most powerful dignitaries to speak.  First up was L.A. County Supervisor Holly Mitchell, who presented an overview of the county’s commitment to being a leader in tackling racism with data from the groundbreaking Anti-Racism, Diversity, and Inclusion Initiative (ARDI). The ARDI was created by the LA Board of Supervisors and is responsible for creating the “2022-2023 State of Black Los Angeles County” report that was distributed at the event.

(Left to Right): NBCUniversal and Telemundo President & General Manager Todd Mokhtari and LAUL COO Cynthia Heard. (Courtesy photo)

“I would certainly hope that no one would spend their time here today, hear these amazing presentations, read the county’s report, and not have a plan of action for yourself, your organization, and your business,” said the supervisor emphatically.

Similarly, Mayor Karen Bass bolstered the city’s progress on civil rights.  In 2020, L.A. City Council appointed Capri Maddox, Esq., as the executive director of the new Civil + Human Rights & Equity Department to spearhead innovative initiatives after George Floyd Jr.’s murder and the following social justice movement.

NBCUniversal and Telemundo President & General Manager Todd Mokhtari (Courtesy photo)
and LAUL COO Cynthia Heard. (Courtesy photo)

“It really took the movement around that time to elevate the issue of race and understand that racism isn’t just a matter of attitudes by individuals, but it is structural, and it is embedded in our system,” said Bass.

“During those years, the term ‘anti-Black’ was not commonly used.  So, there is a heightened awareness, but there is a profound backlash. Fortunately, not in our city and not in our state. But just think of the state of Florida that is essentially pushing for the erasure of our (Black) history, the changing of history books because [they] only want to tell the nice stories about the United States and George Washington’s cherry tree. But [they] don’t want to talk about the 350 human beings he owned.”

From left are David A. Ford, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network board member and SoCal Edison senior government relations manager; Albert Retana, Community Coalition president/CEO; Craig Robinson, NBCUniversal chief diversity officer; Dr. Tolu M. Wuraola, Esq., Consultant Magnitude & Bond Consulting founder/principal; and Capri Maddox, Esq., LA Civil Rights + Human Rights and Equity Department executive director. (Courtesy photo)

While LAUL members’ spirits ran high, the reality is that Black Angelinos are in a bad state, according to the “2022-2023 State of Black Los Angeles County.”  The report also noted that Black residents are falling behind in critical areas of concern such as education, health, home ownership, etc., but LAUL aims to inspire real change.

From left are Dr. Marcus Anthony Hunter, UCLA Department of African American Studies distinguished professor and chair; Khansa T. “KJ” Jones-Muhammad, vice chair of Los Angeles Reparations Advisory Commission; Kamilah Moore, LLM, Esq., chair of California Reparations Task Force; Dr. Anthony Samad, Mervyn Dymally African American Political and Economic Institute executive director; and Dr. Julianne Malveaux, retired dean of CSULA College of Ethnic Studies. (Courtesy photo)

“We hope the outcome (of the State of Black Los Angeles) will be continued conversations and focus on the things that are really going to impact change throughout the county. It’s really about outcomes,” said LAUL Board Chair Elliot Hinds, adding that the organization wants to be the catalyst for change.

From left are Dr. Walter Allen, UCLA School of Education distinguished professor; Dr. Laura McGowan-Robinson, Diversity in Leadership Institute founder/CEO; Veronica Melvin, MPP, LA Promise Fund president/CEO; Dr. Christopher Nellum, Education Trust-West executive director; and Dr. Pedro Noguera, dean of USC Rossier School of Education. (Courtesy photo)

Although Los Angeles has one of the largest Black populations in the nation, Latinos outnumber them.  LAUL Vice President and Chief Operation Office Cynthia Mitchell-Heard said the organization included a panel on multiculturalism to move the needle on collaboration.

“The Los Angeles Urban League is committed to serving the African American community,” said Mitchell-Heard. “But, more importantly, we must look at the demographics of Los Angeles. We would be remiss if we did not include [them in the] conversation. By just isolating and being homogeneous, what are we doing for the future of our community? Are we just closing the doors and saying we’ve got all the answers?” she said.

The recording of “State of Black Los Angeles” is still available following the live event on the @NBCLA and @Telemundo52 Facebook and YouTube pages.   The ARDI State of Black Los Angeles County can be found at 1141780_20230405StateofBlackLACompanionDocumentv7ARDInew.pdf