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Posted at 9:06 AM ET, 07/29/2010

Urban League kicks off convention in D.C.

By Washington Post editors

The National Urban League, which is turning 100 this year, kicked off its annual conference Wednesday evening at First Baptist Church of Glenarden with an address on the state of the Urban League from its president and chief executive Marc Morial.
President Obama is scheduled to address delegates Thursday morning at the D.C. Convention Center.

The conference began with an emotional tribute to the organizations founders and with a look toward the future. Among those in attendance were Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D), Prince George's County Executive Jack Johnson (D) and civil rights activist Jesse Jackson.

"This is really a story about an odd couple." Morial said of founders Ruth Standish Baldwin, a white woman, and Bruce Haynes, a black man, who came together in New York 1910 to form the organization.

Haynes' grandson said it took courage for his grandfather to stand alongside Baldwin to create the organization.

"This was the height of of segregation. This was the height of lynchings in America," said Bruce Haynes III. "And during that period from 1910 to 1912 there were race riots across America."

Deborah Baldwin, granddaughter of Ruth Baldwin, said her grandmother "was doing things in the 1900s that women just didn't do and she was part of a much larger movement because people were anxious for change."

The League was founded to foster black economic equality, Morial said, and that issue remains a central focus.

"Let the word go forth that we are not only relevant but we are here to stay," Morial said.

Bus loads of delegates were ferried to Upper Marlboro for the Wednesday night kickoff where they were treated to a special reading by poet Maya Angelou and rapper Common.

"What a perfect fit. This has never been counterfeit. This is about love. This is about struggle. This is about us getting to the next place," said Common as he sat on stage next to Angelou.

-- Hamil R. Harris

By Washington Post editors  | July 29, 2010; 9:06 AM ET
Categories:  DC, Maryland  
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