Need for the Advocacy Program
Many individuals and organizations in the community are unaware of the status of African-Americans and other persons in our community, and of how they are inequitably impacted by various public policies, practices and issues in areas such as education, employment, and criminal justice. This often results in prejudice, discrimination and other misunderstandings, which may lead to hostility and conflict between members of the various groups.
Even when individuals and organizations in the community are aware of racial and other inequities, and would like to see them eliminated, they are often unaware of what steps could be taken to bring about the desired changes.
The purpose of the Urban League’s Advocacy Program is to intervene in the “business as usual” of local institutions when necessary to remove barriers that prevent African Americans and others from attaining their full human potential and from participating fully in all aspects of community life.
Our Advocacy Program provides aggressive leadership to deal with ongoing cultural and institutional racism. This includes assessing the impact of both public and private sector issues, policies and practices on the minority community, providing input and assistance in developing more equitable institutions, and holding community leaders, agencies and organizations accountable for their policies, decisions and actions. It may also entail collecting and presenting information on the barriers which prevent members of the ethnic minority groups from attaining their full human potential and from participating fully in all aspects of community life.
The impact of this program is attainment of more equitable participation and results by African Americans and others in the areas of literacy, academic achievement, employment, income, home ownership, net worth, welfare participation, incarceration, life expectancy, voter participation, etc.
Through this program, a part-time Fort Wayne Urban League (FWUL) staff person gathers, organizes and publishes information to the community-at-large concerning the status of African-Americans and other persons in our community, and how they are inequitably impacted by various public policies, practices and issues in areas such as education, employment, and criminal justice. They also share information on possible strategies for remedying the identified inequities.
As a result of increased community understanding of the causes, conditions and possible remedies of racial and other inequities in our community, individuals as well as public and private organizations are better able to take action to eliminate them, should they choose to do so.
The community at large has increased opportunities for exposure to the viewpoints, concerns and experiences of African-Americans and other low-income and minority persons. Greater exposure to differing experiences and points of view may help increase the understanding and reduce the levels of prejudice, discrimination, hostility and conflict among the various groups.
This program coordinated the publication of the State of Black Fort Wayne (SoBFW), is overseeing it’s distribution throughout the community, and working through the Advocacy Committee to organize community forums to share and discuss the content of the document;
Advocacy staff also follows legislative and other issues that impact our constituency and drafts agency analyses and position statements. These are published in the local news media and sent to appropriate officials in order to inform the public of our constituency’s concerns and viewpoints.
Another component of our Advocacy Program is the Campaign for African-American Achievement (CAAA). One of CAAA’s successes has been effective collaboration with Fort Wayne Community Schools. As a result of these collaborative efforts, we were able mail directly to over 1,200 eligible middle and high school students application forms for our NAS (National Achievers Society). Our Achievement Matters message has been incorporated in various FWCS publications. This message has also been displayed at school buildings in support of the Campaign’s National Achievement Month activities.
Some of the Campaign strategies and training models to increase parent participation have been included in the school improvement plans at Fairfield Elementary School. The Campaign has provided parent workshops/trainings, and works with school staff and parents to increase parent participation. We have presented information about Early Literacy, Effective Communication and Parental Involvement to Fairfield parents. These presentations were translated into both Spanish and Burmese.
Each year the Campaign holds National Achievers Society (NAS) Induction Ceremonies for middle and high school students of color who have maintained a 2.7 or higher GPA. Our NAS induction ceremonies are our best example of community and partner support. We have benefited from the involvement of the Fort Wayne Philharmonic, State Farm Insurance, and Turner Chapel AME as sponsors for our induction ceremony. All of our taskforce members help plan and coordinate these events. The commitment from these supporters has allowed us to provide high quality programs to showcase and reward these students for their academic achievement. The Philharmonic has assisted with some of the expenses for the use of the Embassy. This has helped us to use our funds in other areas to enhance our program.
Many local National Achievers Society Members have been the recipients of National Urban League Scholarships in the amount of $10,000.00 per award. Others have received the Sharon Huff Scholarship in the amount of $500, Verizon scholarships for $5,000, a General Motors scholarship for $2,500, and the Anheuser Bush Urban Scholarships which award students $2,500 per year for four years, a total of $10,000.
We have received funding from United Way, National Urban League, State Farm Insurance and other sources to maintain Advocacy service provision. We also use memberships and other agency-generated funds to partially support our advocacy efforts.