Urban League of Greater Madison Celebrates 50 Years by Staying True to Its Mission


    This fall, the Urban League of Greater Madison has been a busy place. In keeping with the celebration of its 50th anniversary, Urban League has been hosting or participating in one event after another around the community.

    For the past 50 years, the Urban League of Greater Madison has been a staple of the community, helping people from all backgrounds learn skilled trades, gain employment that provides life-sustaining salaries and gaining access to education. Urban League’s portfolio of service to the community is as diverse as the community it has served.

    The reach and impact Urban League has had around Madison is hard to put into words but was on display fully last month at a gala event celebrating the 50 years Urban League has rolled up it’s sleeves with members of the community.

    Over 800 people showed up at the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center for the official fifty year celebration. National Urban League President Marc H. Morial was in attendance at the event where several generations of people who either participated with or benefited from the work of Urban League filled the Terrace.

    Dr. Ruben Anthony, the CEO of Urban League of Greater Madison, said the event represented the vision of all nine of the presidents Urban League has had because the organization has never strayed from its original vision.

    “That special priority would be given to programs in the areas of job development, employment, education, youth incentives and housing,” Dr. Anthony tells Madison365, mentioning the tenants Urban League was built on. “Each president has basically done these programs, more or less.”

    Ed Lee accepts his 2018 Whitney M. Young, Jr. Award.
    [Photo by Hedi Rudd]

    During the 50th Anniversary celebration, the 2018 Whitney M. Young Jr. awards were presented to Edward G. Lee and Betty Banks for their work in the community. The Whitney M. Young, Jr. Award is given by boards of directors of Urban League affiliates across the country in memory of the great civil rights leader and former head of the National Urban League. Young was one of America’s most charismatic, courageous and influential civil rights pioneers who worked tirelessly to gain access for African Americans to good jobs, education, housing, health care and social services.

    Also at the event, the 2018 Urban League President’s Awards were presented to Derek Johnson,
    the President’s Grassroots Hero Award was presented to Sheray Wallace, Bridgett Willey received the President’s Community Collaborator Award.

    Betty Banks accepts the 2018 Whitney M. Young Jr. award.
    (Photo by Hedi Rudd)

    But in true keeping with the blue collar nature and grassroots sensibilities of Urban League, Dr. Anthony is focused on the next 50 years, not just a celebration of the past.

    Urban League is currently in the midst of one of its most ambitious goals, to try to bring 1,500 jobs helping 1,500 families.

    “We will continue to be involved in this work,” Dr. Anthony said, “but we will do more with career advancements for young professionals and more to help expunge records of ex-offenders who are having a difficult time finding housing and jobs. We will also continue to grow partnerships to carry out our work.”

    2018 has been one of Urban League’s most successful and influential years. ULGM has broken ground on an employment center on Madison’s west side and worked with Madison College to host a college scholarship day that helped students gain access to higher education. During the most important mid-term election in decades, Urban League helped provide transportation to people to polling stations and this week will help the Construction Worker Diversity Alliance give people information about how to pursue living wage apprenticeships.

    For an organization whose motto is “forward ever, backwards never,” Urban League has shown a perfect balance in celebrating it’s past while working hard to help hundreds of families of color around Madison move forward.