Posted 2 years ago

Your vote DOES matter; start exercising it!!!

During election season, some people watch the debates, attend forums, track endorsements and follow the polls. Others show little to no interest in the races. If you fall in the latter category and think your vote doesn’t matter, then I would like to put something on your mind.

 Monday, January 23 marked 48 years since the 24th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution was ratified to abolish the poll tax, a fee charged to vote in a national election. But the poll tax was just one of many tactics used to create barriers to voting in the Jim Crow South. Literacy tests, intimidation, even violence, were used to keep Blacks from voting.

My grandfather, in fact, was denied the right to vote in Mississippi because he could not recite the Bill of Rights from memory. What’s more, this was still happening nearly a century after the 15th Amendment had been ratified in 1870 to prevent any state from denying a man the right to vote because of his race. Still, law-makers in states such as Mississippi, South Carolina and Louisiana, where Blacks were the clear majority at the time, found ways around the law.

 

 

 

 

Today, voting rights are under fresh new attacks. More than a dozen states have passed laws or issued executive orders to limit the types of identification accepted at the polls; to cut short the early voting period; to make it harder for ex-offenders to regain their voting rights, or to require proof of citizenship. Proposals are being considered in several other states that would require a photo ID.

 

 

 

 

Marian Wright Edelman, a lifelong advocate for the disenfranchised and president of the Children’s Defense Fund, described these new laws as the largest legislative effort to scale back voting rights in a century.

My question, therefore, to cynical voters is this: If your vote doesn’t matter, then why are some states trying to make it harder for people to exercise that right? These modern-day tactics may not rise to the level of Jim Crow, but they still raise serious questions.

Changes to accepted forms of ID, for instance, could negatively impact voter turnout, particularly for college students and nursing home residents. Interestingly enough, seniors and students were a huge voting bloc for President Obama in 2008. One has to question this growing trend to alter ID rules in states such as Texas, South Carolina and Florida that have a history of throwing up barriers to voting. Upon closer examination and informed by history, we should challenge laws that restrict our right to vote rather than enhance, encourage and create opportunities for citizens to exercise that right.

 

 

 

 

Thankfully, such blatant tactics have not been attempted in Illinois. But this growing national trend to make changes should underscore to all eligible voters the critical importance of protecting and exercising the right to vote, perhaps the most fundamental right to American citizenship behind the pursuit of happiness. Passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was a watershed moment in the Civil Rights Movement. We must not let it fall by the wayside.

 

 

 

 

If you are already a registered voter who participates in both the primary and general elections, then I’m preaching to the choir. So this message is for the congregants: If you are not registered to vote in the state of Illinois, there is still ample time to do so.

 

 

 

February 20 is the last day to register for the primary election on March 20. Registration for the general election on November 6 will take place between March 21 and October 6.

If you or someone you know is not registered to vote, I invite you to come to the Chicago Urban League to register. We have staff and volunteers available to register voters every weekday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

 

 

 

 

My grandfather, a proud citizen of the United States, was denied his constitutional right to vote solely because of the color of his skin. Do not waste the privilege you have been given. Let nothing or no one stand in your way. Register to vote. Be at the polls on March 20 and November 6.

 

 

 

 

This editorial was originally printed in the Chicago Defender Newspaper on January 26, 2012. Andrea L. Zopp is President and CEO of The Chicago Urban League.

Posted 2 years ago

A Moment To Reflect…

Photo Description: 1962 Jim Crow photo of three public bathrooms labeled—Ladies, Men, Colored.

Photo caption: You cannot know where you are going, until you know where you have been.

A past we must not forget. The Chicago Urban League staff reflect upon this photo, our history, and our future as we celebrate the legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Quotes from the CUL Team:

"My first thought is that it makes me sad. But then I’m thankful that I was not born at that time and thankful for those who gave up so much for me to get me where I am today." AF

"A man is not finished when he’s defeated; he’s finished when he quits. MLK never quit!" SM

"In the mist of progression we cannot neglect to remember the struggles from before." VD 

"God created all people equal but man tries to add value based on physical attributes, as African-Americans we need to stay true to our Creator and act accordingly and stay focused on the truth." RB

“As Dr. King pointed out, ‘All progress is precarious, and the solution of one problem brings us face to face with another problem.’ Even though the doors of opportunity have opened for many, there are still many, too many being left behind.” AZ

 ”The images of the past help me strive for excellence so that others will know that they have mattered for a long time.  My Mom used to say: ‘you matter, so that everyone else, that comes behind you will matter.’  That came from my mom, Zetta Mae Jameson-Miller, 1st Lt. US ARMY Nurse Corp.” LM 

Posted 2 years ago

Re-enrolling dropouts is one way to end the cycle of poverty, prison

By Andrea L. Zopp

Three years ago, Chicago Public Schools student Devonta Roebuck was a sophomore cutting class, hanging out with the wrong crowd and on academic probation. Figuring he would never get his grades up at Kenwood Academy, he dropped out but re-enrolled in an alternative school called Innovations, where he has thrived. Today, Devonta, 18, is a senior and plans to visit colleges in Wisconsin over the winter break to explore graphic design programs.

“I knew I wasn’t ready to give up on school,” he said.

Devonta is an example of what can happen when society doesn’t give up on students. By investing in his education today, taxpayers avoid the costs associated with not educating him later. Just by graduating from high school, Devonta will substantially reduce the likelihood of ever going to prison and increase his overall lifetime earnings by more than half. He is on course to becoming a contributor, not a drain on tax resources.

 Many people already know that Chicago has one of the highest dropout rates in the country, but when you think about the cost of not educating our students, it makes you question our values as a society. Why haven’t we gotten more serious about ensuring equal access to a quality education?

Research shows that our failure to invest in education now has a high price tag down the road. According to a new report by the Alternative Schools Network, 29 percent of Black male dropouts will end up in prison. It costs an estimated $50,000 a year to house someone in Cook County Jail. But incarceration rates decline substantially for Black males with higher levels of educational attainment, falling to 8 percent for high school graduates and 1 percent for those with an associate’s degree.

 

Adequately funding education today is a better use of tax dollars than paying to keep people locked up in the future. Imagine what we could do if we applied a fraction of those resources to improving failing schools and increasing community-wide efforts to re-enroll dropouts.

 

More than freedom is at stake. The economic prospects for high school dropouts aren’t just poor, they are unspeakable. The high school-to-careers pipeline ended with globalization and advances in technology. Today’s highly skilled jobs call for some college coursework, on-the-job training or industry certification. Therefore, dropouts are completely cut off from today’s middle-income skilled labor positions, and there are millions of them across the country. No parent in the world would wish such a future for their child.

In Chicago, 58 percent of dropouts earn incomes less than 200 percent of the poverty line. In 2009-2010, for instance, dropouts earned a mean of $13,400 compared to $21,700 for high school graduates and $32,800 for people with an associate’s degree, according to the report.

 

Reprinted from the December 28th edition of the Chicago Defender.

Posted 2 years ago

History is trying to tell you something--Happy 95th Anniversary Chicago Urban League

I have always been fascinated by history. Civil rights history, I believe, in particular, provides us with teaching moments we can apply to today’s struggles. I recently visited the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee, formerly the Loraine Hotel, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. I saw and read things there that made me think about my forefathers’ experiences in the Jim Crow South. In 1962, my grandfather, whose own father was born a slave, was denied the right to vote in Mississippi, because he was told he had to recite the Bill of Rights to the Constitution from memory.  Back then, the systematic denial of rights of citizenship for African Americans came cloaked in many forms, but was as obvious as the nose on your face. The same is true today, but some of us are missing it. History can be painful and it is natural for people to want to put it behind them. But when we turn a blind eye to our past, we put our future progress at risk.

In fact, we could even slide backwards.

It’s happening right now. Hard-won civil rights battles, such as the right to vote and the right to a quality public education, are coming under fresh attacks. While not at the level of Jim Crow, when informed by history, they give off the familiar stench of inequality.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was to have ensured African Americans equal access to the polls and that trickery such as my grandfather encountered would never happen again. Yet, today, across America, there are an increasing number of laws being passed that limit how and when people can be registered to vote, the kinds of identification that will be accepted and the times and places when people can vote. Florida eliminated voting on Sunday, a popular time among senior citizens. Other proposals seek to ban college IDs, nursing home residence badges and Medicare cards as accepted forms of identification. Informed by history, you might question laws that try to make it harder for people to vote rather than enhance, encourage and create opportunities to ensure that right.

The landmark Brown vs. the Board of Education decision outlawed legalized segregation. Today, parents who enroll their children in better-performing schools outside their districts are being brought up on criminal charges. You may have heard about a new crime called “educational theft.” In one well publicized case in Ohio, a mother was convicted on felony charges and served time in jail for enrolling her child in a better school outside her district, rather than the under-performing school nearest her home. In another case, a homeless woman was arrested and charged with a crime for enrolling her son in a school that was not near the homeless shelter where they lived. Both women are African American.

In what world can you become a convicted felon for trying to get a better education for your children? The policies that have sustained separate and unequal schools long after the Supreme Court struck them down in 1957 are, of course, the real crime.

They might not look the same as the legalized segregation of the past, with state troopers blocking access to school doors.

But informed by history, you might view these laws as steps backward.

History has been on my mind a lot lately as the Chicago Urban League turns 95 years old next month. Some people think that means the organization is ‘old’ and has outlived its usefulness. Thank goodness that is not true. The promises of the Civil Rights Movement have not been fully realized. Whether you believe that progress for African Americans has slowed or slipped, it is clear that the Chicago Urban League’s work to ensure African Americans have equal access to opportunity is as important now as it was in 1916.

History whispers clues to us that guides our steps as we move toward a future where our schools are pipelines to empowerment, not prison; where Black business owners can participate fully in government and private sector investments; where the right to vote is truly unencumbered; and where Black boys graduating from high school and college is expected, not exceptional. At the Chicago Urban League, our history is our strength. That’s true for all of us.

Andrea L. Zopp is President and CEO of the Chicago Urban League as printed in The Chicago Defender Newspaper November 23, 2011

Posted 2 years ago

Chicago Urban League Celebrates its 95th Anniversary--How far we’ve come; how far yet to go

Founded in 1916 at the height of the Great Migration and well before the Civil Rights Movement, the Chicago Urban League has stood the test of time through its programming, collaborations, research and advocacy. Through challenges and triumphs the Chicago Urban League remains relevant, engaged and a vital resource for Chicago’s African American community and to the city of Chicago as a whole. The Chicago Urban League’s first organizers, a group of community, civic, and business notables, set out with one main mission in mind: to create an organization to bring about social and economic justice to Chicago’s African American population.

The Chicago Urban League continues to build on the legacy of its founders by being a leader in building strong, sustainable communities and creating opportunities with the power to transform people’s lives.

However, as our president and CEO Andrea Zopp reflects on this rich history in a recent column in the Chicago Defender Newspaper, she acknowledges that although we have come far and achieved much, there is still work to be done. Click here to read the column http://www.chicagodefender.com/article-12012-how-far-wersve-come-how-far-yet-to-go.html

Posted 2 years ago

For those of you who missed the first segment of our three part series: Four Years—College or Prison: Fight For Education College Tour—Check out this post and let us know what you think. Stay tuned for part two shortly. Thank you.

Posted 2 years ago

We hope you enjoy this montage of testimonials from the people we serve. The editing is raw but the message is clear.

Our Passion Our Purpose: The Chicago Urban League In Action

(Source: thechicagourbanleague.org)

Posted 2 years ago

New Video BLog by the Chicago Urban League President and CEO Andrea Zopp. We call it A to Z from Andy Zopp. Enjoy!

Posted 2 years ago
Posted 2 years ago
For more than 94 years, the Chicago Urban League has been at the forefront of the civil rights movement working tirelessly to empower and advance African Americans. The Chicago Urban League is an affiliate of the National Urban League, the nation’s oldest and largest community-based movement devoted to empowering African Americans to enter the economic and social mainstream. Founded in 1916 by an interracial group of community leaders, the Urban League was formed to help rural African Americans migrating from the south adjust to northern urban living.  As one of the major civil rights organizations in Chicago, and one of the 98 affiliates of the National Urban League, the Chicago Urban League is committed to  support and advocate for economic, educational, and social equality for African Americans. During the 1960s, the Urban League’s work joined with the national civil rights agenda and other organizations to produce a period of great economic, electoral, and political gains. For nearly a century, the Urban League’s efforts have always reflected a dual commitment to civil rights and economic development.  Our advocacy work provides a foundation for our programs that help to bring families to the economic mainstream, with education being a key component. We believe that access to a quality education is central to preparing individuals to become lifelong learners and to be competitive and successful in the global economy. Today, under the leadership of the new President and Chief Executive Officer, Andrea L. Zopp, the Urban League continues to support and advocate for education reform and the economic equality for African Americans by building strong, stable communities.

For more than 94 years, the Chicago Urban League has been at the forefront of the civil rights movement working tirelessly to empower and advance African Americans. The Chicago Urban League is an affiliate of the National Urban League, the nation’s oldest and largest community-based movement devoted to empowering African Americans to enter the economic and social mainstream. Founded in 1916 by an interracial group of community leaders, the Urban League was formed to help rural African Americans migrating from the south adjust to northern urban living.  As one of the major civil rights organizations in Chicago, and one of the 98 affiliates of the National Urban League, the Chicago Urban League is committed to  support and advocate for economic, educational, and social equality for African Americans. During the 1960s, the Urban League’s work joined with the national civil rights agenda and other organizations to produce a period of great economic, electoral, and political gains. For nearly a century, the Urban League’s efforts have always reflected a dual commitment to civil rights and economic development.  Our advocacy work provides a foundation for our programs that help to bring families to the economic mainstream, with education being a key component. We believe that access to a quality education is central to preparing individuals to become lifelong learners and to be competitive and successful in the global economy. Today, under the leadership of the new President and Chief Executive Officer, Andrea L. Zopp, the Urban League continues to support and advocate for education reform and the economic equality for African Americans by building strong, stable communities.