Louisville Urban League Derby Gala Returns May 1
All photo credits belong to the Louisville Urban League.
As we sprint into Derby season, where there is a myriad of events to attend, the upcoming Louisville Urban League‘s Derby Gala stands out as a significant civic contributor and night of meaningful celebration. This year, the Official Kentucky Derby Festival event will be held Wednesday, May 1 at the Marriott downtown and is featuring 11-time Grammy winner, Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds.
The black-tie affair, sponsored by Brown-Forman, is the signature fundraiser for the Louisville Urban League and sure to deliver a memorable night of entertainment and intentional dialogue for guests. I first became acquainted with the league through a charity comedy event where their President and tour de force CEO, Sadiqa Reynolds, Esq. took center stage. She was as charming and hilarious as she was passionate about her work.
Since it’s founding in 1920, the Louisville Urban League has concentrated on creating a fair and equitable community for African Americans and other marginalized populations. However, contrary to some perceptions, the education, services and advocacy they provide are not exclusively beneficial to those demographics. Last year alone the Louisville Urban League’s Center for Workforce Development completed 384 job placements, creating more than $7M dollars in new wages earned at the average hourly rate of $15 an hour. KentuckianaWorks, the region’s workforce development board, partnered with the Louisville Urban League to create KentuckianaBuilds, a skilled-trades pipeline. Last year they awarded more than 60 graduation certificates, creating new skilled workers in our construction sector. In 2018, the Urban Seniors Jobs program provided 176 individuals, ages 55 and older, training and placement in a variety of community service positions. They also filed more than 1,000 expungement cases in Jefferson County through the Reily Reentry Project. The Project aims to help rebuild lives by motivating qualifying individuals to enroll in League programs and work on self-development. This reentry officially contributing members to society further improves our workforce. Job creation and increased employment rates boost our city’s economic vitality through shared and sustainable growth.
The Louisville Urban League is notably committed to supporting the whole person. In addition to workforce training, professional development, job placement, workshops and employment support they also provide housing placement and assistance, educational growth, health initiatives and advocacy programs. Their holistic approach has proven to create the types of changes that are replicable and sustainable. Did you know the Louisville Urban League is the oldest HUD-certified housing counseling agency in the Commonwealth of Kentucky? Affordable housing reduces stress, improves overall health, lowers risk of infectious disease and improves quality of life for both parents and children. It is also critical for the security of those with disabilities and the aging population. The League’s educational opportunities include programs for both children and adults.
In 2018, 643 high-school students participated in out-of-school programs through the League, with zero suspensions for 92 percent of participating youth. In Summer Reach, graduating students enjoyed college campus tours to UK, UofL, JCTS, NKU, Vanderbilt, Fisk, Sullivan and the University of Cincinnati. Summer Reach also provided 12 hours of ACT Prep coursework. KentuckianaWorks partnered again with the Louisville Urban League to provide 22 Summer Reach students access to the Google Applied Digital Skills training. The program prepared them with skill-sets needed in the classroom and on the job. Upon completion, they were ready for immediate, real-life application and received Chromebooks to further their education. A highlight from last year was the Parent Leadership Academy. Sixty-one parents and 101 children attended the Academy, made available through funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the National Center for Families Learning. The seven-week program was designed to use a dynamic approach to education, where parents learned skills and became more empowered and involved in their children’s education.
As the debates over health-care continue, non-profits like the Louisville Urban League work tirelessly to assist those at highest risk. The League spent $54.8k on client assistance last year, including health-driven initiatives and continuing support to those in need. The League’s community health program “It starts with me!” addresses multiple health issues including, but not limited to, substance-abuse, domestic-violence, nutrition, unemployment and chronic health issues. The program begins by assessing the health needs of individuals, then connecting them with a CHN (Community Health Navigator; or Health Worker) who provides the individual access to the appropriate programs, services and resources. Over 90 days, the CHN will be there for support and guidance until the program is completed and the person is discharged. In 2018, 126 people and their families participated in the program. On average, participants reported feeling healthier over four days more often in the first 30 days than before entering the program. Feeling healthier included feeling able to work, to care for one’s family and the ability to participate in routine daily activities.
As a business owner and community member for more than 30 years, I am deeply rooted in Louisville. This city’s success is a reflection of who I am and the values I hold. Growing up in St. Matthews and the East End I had the privilege of living in one of the healthiest, safest, most educated and manicured areas of our city. This is the Louisville I experienced but this is not reflective of our entire city’s narrative. In 2016, when Louisville’s venerable Muhammad Ali came home to rest I intentionally watched the international press. I was excited to see how our city and culture would be portrayed to the rest of the world.
However, as tourists and residents alike visited his childhood home in the West End of Louisville, many unflattering questions about our city were highlighted. I found myself questioning Louisville’s commitment to the people of our community who built and lifted up our most beloved and notorious son. Like all centuries-old cities in America, generational wealth and the residual effects of racism and Jim Crow still exist here. Insular neighborhoods and the cognitive dissonance surrounding uncomfortable subjects suppress our city’s overall progress and growth. The Louisville Urban League’s unrelenting fight for advocacy and equal representation is contributing to the development of a city where everyone has a seat at the table. With more than 24,000 visits last year, they are certainly making an impact. The League assisted 471 individuals in registering to vote in 2018 (of these 112 were graduating high school students). The only way we can narrow these gaps,
break barriers and build bridges is by giving every citizen a voice. I encourage all of you to take the time to listen to those who are speaking now and hope you will choose to continue to support the Louisville Urban League, renowned champions of social justice.
The League’s goal this year is to raise at least $65,000 to continue to fund their work. Tickets to the Gala will likely sell out once available but supporters can always donate to lul.org or text LUL to 243725. You can learn more about the incredible work they are doing in the realms of work-force development, social justice, education, health and housing in the Louisville Urban League 2018 annual report.
The Louisville Urban League wishes to thank the following contributing sponsors for this year’s Derby Gala: Bellarmine University, Korbel, Humana, PNC, Derby City Gaming, Atria, Stites & Harbison Attorneys at Law, Toyota, iHeart Media, WLKY, Muloy Real-Estate, Morgan-Stanley, Park Community Credit Union, Republic Bank, LG&E and KU Foundation, ASRC Rubber, Sonoma-Cutrer, Pepsi, First Financial Bank, and Butchertown Grocery.