Marc Morial has been traveling the country as the president and CEO of the National Urban League, fighting to enhance and better the lives of Black people, as well as those surviving in underserved communities and struggling with injustice on a day-to-day basis.
During his visit to Los Angeles, Morial took time out of a very busy schedule to talk one-on-one with The Los Angeles Sentinel to discuss the NFL, the state of the nation and the variety of initiatives that the Urban League is bringing forward to better serve our community.
Morial visited and networked in Los Angeles as part of NFL Week but is not shy about addressing the many issues facing the NFL, and in particular, the recent lawsuit filed by former Miami Dolphins Head Coach Brian Flores. “When the Brian Flores matter first arose, our coalition of legacy civil rights organizations, including myself as the president of the Urban League, Rev. Al Sharpton of the National Action Network, Derrick Johnson from the National NAACP Office, Melanie Campbell, who leads the Black Women’s Round Table, and Dr. Barbara William-Skinner, who runs the African American and Black Clergy Alliance, immediately called out the need for meaningful change and demanded a meeting with Roger Goodell.
That meeting recently took place during Super Bowl Week and we made it absolutely clear that the NFL must change, and that lip service and fast feet and rhetoric around the lack of Black coaches and Black owners in the National Football League is UNACCEPTABLE in 21st Century America.”
Morial said that as a football fan, he believes that there was no reason for Brian Flores to have been fired from the Dolphins and that his dismissal undercuts the very intent that the Rooney Rule was put in place to do. Morial was emphatic about his view of the Flores issue, but more importantly, it appears many teams are now conducting “sham or charade” interviews where they have previously made a decision on hiring a head coach, and are only going through the perfunctory motions of interviewing a Black or a person of color in order to check a box in fulfilling the requirement of the Rooney Rule.
While the NFL’s hiring inequality is a serious issue that the Urban League is leading the fight for inclusion on, under Morial’s leadership, the organization is doing so much more, both here in Los Angeles and throughout the country. Morial says that it is important that we first and foremost remember the mission of the Urban League which is now 112 years strong. “We do our work through a network of 92 affiliates throughout the country including here in Los Angeles,” said Morial.
Collectively the Urban League and their 92 affiliates provide direct services to over 2,000,000 people a year. Across the nation, hundreds of thousands of people find work or obtain skills to become gainfully employed through the work of the Urban League and its 92 affiliates. Morial points out that tens of thousands of people are also provided with assistance to find a pathway to homeownership and hundreds of thousands rely on the Urban League to help provide resources to make their lives and communities better and stronger.
When asked about the organization’s role for the people, Morial stated, “On the advocacy front, we’re working on social and economic justice. Whether it’s police misconduct in Minnesota, whether it is the issue of economic justice concerning including fair pay, minimum wage increases, or Black businesses participating in the stimulus bill. Whether it is African Americans being appointed to the Supreme Court, to the federal reserve board, or to the cabinets.”
Morial says making corporate America’s boards of Directors or their C-Suites more diversified and ending digital redlining is key to financial equality. “We have a significant focus on the issues that impact our community. And we think that what we are fighting for what is in the best interest of Black America, but we are fighting for the best interest of everyone. Because as Black America goes, so goes the nation.”
Marc Morial says “Post George Floyd murder, there has been a reckoning, we have to keep that fire alive, that fire to social commitment.” Morial has now been the president of the organization for almost 18 years. Prior to becoming the president of the Urban League, Morial was the Mayor of New Orleans. He was an extremely popular mayor whose time ended, not because his popularity waned, but because of the City’s term limits. Many believe Morial would have remained the mayor. Morial’s leadership qualities, however, have not been forsaken, as he transitioned from his role as mayor to the leader of one of the nation’s most influential civil rights organizations.
Under his leadership, the Urban League is now five times larger than they were when Morial stepped into the leadership role. He says that the League’s endowments have also grown significantly. “The number of people we serve has surged and we now have an entire new generation in many communities of local leaders who are dynamic; more young people than ever, more women involved in “The League” than ever.
One of the initiatives Morial and the Urban League are extremely proud of is their Young Professional Auxiliary League, “which now has over 10,000 members across the country. This group is powerful. This is the central piece of the future for the Urban League,” Morial said.
Morial says it’s important to share that the Urban League is one of many historic civil rights organizations throughout the nation. “We all do important work throughout the country. We, at the Urban League, partner with a variety of organizations to uplift our communities.” He speaks of the Signiant alliances he has formed with the NNPA (The Black Press of America), the National Action Network, and the NAACP. ‘The Urban League works across cultural lines and collaborates with Latino organizations like Unido U.S. and LULAC; we work with our Asian American organizations; we work with business and labor organizations when we can. We are trying to forge ahead but also build coalitions in order to bring about change,” said Morial.
Morial believes that there are two central issues that the community must unite to address. The first he says is “There is an absolute assault on democracy. January 6th, Charlottesville [VA], voter suppression in Georgia, Texas, and many other states. Voter ID laws, racial gerrymandering, efforts to overturn elections with violence. Democracy is something we are going to all have to fight to protect.”
The second issue Morial wants the community to focus on is the racial wealth gap. Morial says this is the largest barrier and quite candidly said that such a wealth gap has not materially changed since the civil rights days. “The differential in ownership between Black and White Americans, the differential in income between Black Americans and White Americans remains stubborn, persistent, and is an issue that needs a lot more work.”
As president of the National Urban League, Morial is particularly complimentary of the work done here in Los Angeles by now Los Angeles Urban League President Michael Lawson. “Michael stepped in at a challenging time in the history of the Los Angeles Urban League. Michael didn’t need this position; the truth is, we needed him. He is a former partner at the law offices of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, and is a distinguished lawyer, distinguished ambassador (Obama Administration), and distinguished civic leader. He didn’t need this job but he stepped up and took on the mantel of leadership out of a dedication to the Urban League, and more importantly, out of service and dedication to this community. He has done a remarkable job of helping stabilize and sustain the Los Angeles Urban League to drive us into the future,” Morial said. We all owe a debt of gratitude to Michael and his lovely wife Mattie for sacrificing the personal time out of a dedication to our community.
“It was the late, great John Mack when I first became president of the Urban League who got me to understand the power of having a dynamic local leader, and Michael certainly has demonstrated the ability to be that dynamic leader here in Los Angeles.
Marc Morial has now been the president of the Urban League for 18 years, much longer than he was the mayor of New Orleans. So, when asked that between being the head of a national civil rights organization or the mayor of New Orleans, which job was more challenging, Morial immediately responded. “There is no job like being the mayor of a major urban city. You don’t know if your phone will ring at 3:00 a.m. and there is a raging fire where some of your citizens have been killed. You may find yourself dealing with a weather emergency like Katrina. There is no tougher job than running a major city like New Orleans.”
Morial says he has never regretted a single day in his role as Mayor of New Orleans and says like any job, there were tough days, but no regrets. He also says that being the mayor of New Orleans prepared him for the job of running the Urban League, and that while being president of the Urban League also has its challenges, he loves the work he is doing and is confident that “because of the work the ‘League’ is doing across the nation, we are on a path towards a better tomorrow.”