On a perfect Friday afternoon in Los Angeles, friends, partners, sponsors, staff and passersby converge on Leimert Park Village at All Chill Hip-Hop Ice Cream to celebrate the 100th birthday of the Los Angeles Urban League on the date of the founding exactly 100 years later. June 18, 1921 is a significant day in the Los Angeles Urban League 100 years history. On this day 100 years ago, the Tuskegee Industrial Welfare League merged with the National Urban League and created the Los Angeles Urban League.
The LAUL tents and music from KJLH and DJ DeVoux were the perfect draw to help participants locate the community birthday celebration and ice cream social held at the new Black and woman-owned, All Chill Hip Hop Ice Cream shop on 43rd Place, in Leimert Park Plaza. Upon arrival, every guest received a Centennial Swag Bag with a ticket to get free ice cream. Guests also received lots of goodies from AIDS Healthcare Foundation who came in force along with their CEO, Michael Weinstein, who has been an instrumental partner to the current leadership team. There was dancing in the streets and a fun photo booth where guests stood on a stage platform and created a personalized LAUL branded video.
However, the highlight of the afternoon was the reconnecting and gathering of staff, supporters, LAUL Guild members, LAUL Young Professionals, beloved former staff, program participants and the community at large who have not been able to convene in person for 15 months. It felt like a family reunion.
As Stevie Wonder’s Happy Birthday song played the crowd sang, danced and cheered until the Centennial Committee Chair and Board Member Candace Rohr opened the program by thanking the staff, consultants and community for making this celebration possible. She also recounted how they kicked off the Centennial in service to essential workers at MLK Community Hospital and at vaccination sites through their Centennial Surprise and Delight activities and events. Next there was the Black History Month livestream chronicling 100 Years of Black Los Angeles and discussion around current events with Rev. James Lawson and highlight advocacy in media and entertainment with Sandra Evers Manly and Pamela Bakewell.
President and CEO Michael Lawson began his remarks, “Happy Juneteenth! Although it’s our birthday, we’re here to celebrate and thank all of you.” He thanked the Centennial Co-Chairs Baron Davis, Gregory Annenberg and Dina Leeds. Next, he acknowledged Centennial Presenting Sponsor CIT for making this event possible and named all of the Centennial partners who have contributed to supporting all of the Centennial events and the organization. COO Brian Williams thanked and introduced the staff and consults and several were meeting each other for the first time in person. There was a surprise gift presentation to staff member Bonnie Thomas-Jeter for her 30-year anniversary at the LA Urban League. She also worked for the National Urban League for six years. She received a beautiful plaque and spa day. Bonnie was shocked that she was on the planning committee but didn’t know about the surprise. Bonnie thanked everyone and told a heartwarming story about beloved CEO John Mack and how he congratulated employees for milestone anniversaries acknowledging them as marathoners once the hit the 20-year mark. I exclaimed with joy “We did it! We actually pulled off the surprise for Bonnie who knows everything there is to know about the LA Urban League,” As the Centennial Consultant, I then closed the program by announcing the upcoming Centennial events including the Celebrity Golf Tournament, Centennial Nights Cocktail Reception, and the Centennial Gala. These events in addition to the release of the State of Black Los Angeles Report will be occurring throughout 2022, and more information is available at LAUL.org/Centennial. I extended the invitation to text “LAUL100” to “44321” to give, and introduced the new LAUL Young Professionals President Ashley McCullough who addressed the crowd inviting the new generation of leaders ages 21-40 to join.
Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas’ office ensured that the Urban League had special accommodations and outdoor space to celebrate in the midst of the weekend’s Juneteenth event planning and set up.
It was a beautiful day in the newly renovated Leimert Park Village to have a party with a purpose celebrating the community who has sustained a legacy Black nonprofit organization in Los Angeles for 100 years.