Cynthia Mitchell-Heard (Courtesy Image)

“So many pivotal moments in my life have informed my practice and my commitment to the community. But it was my parents who first instilled two major lessons: a strong belief in oneself and an even stronger sense of responsibility to my community. ‘Shoot for the moon and grab the stars while you ‘re up amongst them,’ said Cynthia Mitchell-Heard, president and CEO of the Los Angeles Urban League (LAUL) 

 Mitchell-Heard has over 30 years of experience in nonprofit executive leadership, philanthropy, government, management, and much more. The LAUL announced the appointment of Mitchell-Heard as its new president and CEO, effective January 1, 2024.   

The LAUL is one of the oldest, premier civil rights organizations in the United States, always at the forefront of great movements that bring about greater opportunity, equality, and equity, according to Mitchell-Heard. 

“It certainly is an honor to be named the first female president and CEO of the Los Angeles Urban League in almost 100 years; My hope is that by being the first woman to head this premier civil rights organization [I] will inspire young girls in our community to strive for excellence in their own lives,” said Mitchell-Heard.  

 In order to create generational change, the LAUL’s programs center on four pillars: Advocacy, Education, Entrepreneurship, and Workforce Development. They believe that every person should be given the opportunity to earn a living wage so that they can provide for their families and that advocating on behalf of them assists in building a more equitable L.A. County, according to Mitchell-Heard. 

 “My father and mother were my earliest influences. My father, who is a physician, provided health and wellness services to members of the Los Angeles community. But I also pay loving homage to the powerful women mentors who along with my father instilled in me everything I’d need to serve the community,” Mitchell-Heard said. 

 “My mother taught me that family and unconditional love is where it starts. And there is my Aunt Bernice Crouch who so perfectly demonstrated that presentation should always be impeccable and taught me to always be prepared.”  

 Mitchell-Heard is not only encouraged by her family, but also by the work of her staff and volunteers. She said they inspire her each day to do her best and one of her main objectives is also to empower the individuals she works with to be their very best, too.  

 She is committed to upholding the legacies of influential leaders like Katherine Barr, John Mack, and Ambassador Michael Lawson. With unwavering dedication, she said she is striving to build upon their accomplishments and lead the LAUL to new heights.  

Mitchell-Heard’s first four months leading the LAUL have been a whirlwind of productivity, community engagement, and creating new partnerships and program offerings.” Mitchell-Heard has been connecting and aligning with the LAUL’s existing, new, and potential partners to further their mutual investments in change-making programs, advocating on behalf of the community they serve, and spearheading their annual events. 

As the first Black woman in this position, her advice to other African American women is to embrace courage, be vigilant, be kind, and give back.  

“We must embrace everyone and pave the way for more of us to become the important pillars of American society and then globally. While building for tomorrow, we must honor our past. Know your truth, find your inspiration, your values. Never lose sight of your belief in yourself and your commitment to the community,” said Mitchell-Heard. 

“Find your mentors, your list of ‘legendary women;’ seek them out and learn from them. And always remember to shoot for the moon and grab the stars while you’re up amongst them,” she added. 

Mitchell Heard wanted to highlight the Intuit IDEAS Program, which provides support to 30 Black and minority-owned entrepreneurs across Los Angeles. It includes connecting business owners to Intuit experts, professional coaches, and counselors to support business compliance, back-office bookkeeping, tax prep, and marketing.  

The program aims to improve business efficiency, earnings, and capital readiness. Participants who successfully complete the 12-month program will receive a $10,000 grant to continue business growth, explained Mitchell-Heard.  

“I will continue to create avenues to economic and social empowerment for the communities we serve with the support of our partners, constituents, and stakeholders,” Mitchell-Heard said.   

“Ultimately, my goal is to wake up every day, shoulder to shoulder with them, our partners, and the community, fueled by a passionate dedication and resolve to build a brighter tomorrow for the next generation.”