Urban League of Greater Chattanooga: Empowering People of Color and Striving for Social Equality
The Urban League of Greater Chattanooga became a part of the community 40 years ago as an economic development-focused organization that helps people of color, women, and other disadvantaged persons achieve economic self-reliance, parody, power, and civil rights.
According to Candy Johnson, President and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Chattanooga, the organization has three empowerment centers they offer to residents. The first is the Center for Education, Workforce, and Family Empowerment. In this program, the Urban League has after-school and youth development programs and the family prosperity imitative that will help 100 families out of poverty. Next, is the Center for Economic and Black Business Success. This program is designed to not only support African American business owners, but all minorities, and all of those who are facing challenges and barriers to owning and accelerating growth within their business. Johnson says the Urban League has two signature programs, one for businesses just starting out and the other with a little more experience. The final empowerment center is the Center for Equity and Inclusive Leadership. This center engages and empowers diverse community members to promote a shared understanding of racial, social, and economic equity. Under this center they have two more programs, the first being the Inclusion by Design Executive Leadership Development Program. Through this program, the non-profit works to help women of all races gain the knowledge, skills, and networks to thrive in an executive role. To date, there are 58 alumni from the program, as well as a 58% success rate of those who have been promoted into senior-level leadership roles within their companies and also executive roles. The program lasts around nine months, and several local corporations participate. The young professionals are also part of this empowerment center. The goal here is for those 21 to 40 to gain leadership experience, no matter their nationality. At the end of the day, Johnson says they hope Young Professional members grow as leaders in the community, but also understand what it means to be civically involved give back, and the importance of voting and exercising your right to vote.
As the midterms approach, the Urban League will play a role in getting the community out to vote through the Young Professionals program. Individuals will phone bank, door knock, and campaign. However, the Urban League does not promote or endorse a specific candidate or party as they remain nonpartisan. Their goal is to make sure community members know who is on the ballot and to actually get out and vote. Johnson says through the years they have held candidate forums and will continue to do so to gain new voters.
In 2022 the Urban League of Greater Chattanooga released a detailed report on the State of Black Chattanooga to inform the community where there are gaps, and allow employers to use data gathered to help those who are being impacted. Local leaders, including Mayor Tim Kelly, have also used the report to help guide his initiatives for the communities of color, this comes as the report states Black Chattanoogans only receive 60% equality compared to white people in the community. Johnson says at the end of the day they ultimately want to promote and achieve racial, social, and economic equity.
The Urban League of Greater Chattanooga also cares about the health of those in the community, they have created a pre-diabetes prevention program that uses the curriculum of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The goal of the program is to help provide a healthy lifestyle for people of color and women.
If you'd like to volunteer with the Urban League, Johnson says they are always looking for professional guest speakers, those who would like to serve in their quality youth mentorship program for elementary and high schoolers, as well as volunteers for their Income Tax Program. In this program, volunteers will help those in the Chattanooga-Hamilton County area. Volunteers will complete 9,000 to 10,000 tax returns, so the Urban League says they are always searching for retired CPAs, those in the finance industry, or people who just like to do taxes. There are also opportunities to volunteer with big companies such as EPB, TVA, BlueCross, and Unum.
You can check out the Urban League of Greater Chattanooga on Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, all linked below, or check out their website linked here.
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