Urban League Conference in Baltimore tackles police shootings

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— Marc Morial shook his head in disbelief. A hung jury. An acquittal. Still another acquittal and eventually the announcement by Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby that charges against the remaining officers in the death of Freddie Gray would be dismissed.

“The dismissal of these charges, coupled with the recent wave of violence that has taken so many lives in recent weeks, demonstrates how the nation continues to grapple with issues of racial hostility and injustice,” said Morial, the president and CEO of the National Urban League which kicked off its annual conference on Wednesday,

August 3, 2016 at the Baltimore Conference Center.

The conference, which has the theme “Save our Cities,” has scheduled what Morial called empowering sessions and workshops where political, business and entertainment leaders address topics like the economy, health and justice.

A career and networking fair promises to introduce candidates to potential employment while a young professionals summit will highlight the intricacies of launching one’s own business and provide strategies for sustainable wealth.

Among the many topics included in the conference are, “State of Education in Black America,” “No Judgment: No Shame: A Dialogue Shifting the Black Sexual Paradigm,” “The Color of Money: Culture, Family and Finances,” “Juvenile Justice Examining the Criminalization of Youth,” and “Baltimore Rising: Making Change in the Aftermath.”

Gray’s death in police custody last year thrust Baltimore onto the national stage, making it a symbol of what happens when communities feel left out of the American Dream, according to Morial.

“The focus of our conference is to forge a path toward eliminating inequality in income and wealth, academic achievement and opportunity, criminal justice and voting rights,” he said.

Speakers at the four-day event will include Congressman Elijah Cummings, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, White House Advisor Valerie B. Jarrett, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards, BET Chair and CEO Debra Lee, and U.S. Education Secretary John B. King, Jr.

Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, whom Morial said are emerging from one of the most racially charged primary campaigns in recent history, have been invited to address the Conference.

Questionnaires addressing issues of social and economic opportunity and inequality were distributed to all major-party candidates and all major-party candidates were invited to participate in a civil rights briefing from nine major civil rights organization.

“Clinton and Bernie Sanders each attended the briefings and participated in a substantive discussion of their civil rights and social justice agendas,” Morial said.

Also a part of the conference is the Presidential Plenary, a long-standing tradition of the conference, which acknowledges the indispensable relationship between the nation’s highest office and its leading civil rights and social justice community, Morial said.

The State of the Urban League

Address scheduled for 7 p.m. on August 3 at New Shiloh Baptist Church served as Morial’s annual report on the progress and accomplishments of the Urban League movement and as the official kick-off for the conference.

“As we convene in Baltimore to deliberate solutions to the economic and social challenges our cities are facing, it’s vital that those contending for the highest office in the land be part of that conversation,” he said.