By MARC H. MORIAL
National Urban League
“Confronting recent systemic racism with tangible and productive steps is absolutely essential. We will not relent in our work. We will redouble our efforts to be catalysts for the urgent and sustainable change that our society and communities so desperately need. I’m so proud of everyone across our league and others who have taken a stand using their voices and platforms to continue to shine the spotlight on things that must change. By listening and working and understanding with our players, we built the foundation for tangible change through our Inspire Change initiative.”
–NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell
A Philadelphia woman whose careful journey to homeownership was almost derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic. A Chicago man emerging from 18 years in prison with almost no hope of finding employment.
These are just two Americans whose lives were transformed as a result of a unique partnership between the National Urban League and the National Football League.
The partnership is part Inspire Change, the NFL’s social justice initiative, which is investing $250 million over the next ten years in projects and organizations like the National Urban League to combat systemic racism and support the battle against injustices faced by African Americans.
The NFL’s support allows for the expansion of counseling services to assist homeowners and renters find and maintain affordable, accessible housing, and our urban reentry efforts that help the thousands leaving the criminal justice system find employment and successfully re-establish themselves in society.
The National Urban League’s Comprehensive Housing Counseling provides a range of services that makes housing options more accessible and sustainable for African American and other minority renters, homeowners and the homeless.
Stephanie Edgecombe, a senior citizen and frontline worker, enrolled in the Philadelphia Urban League’s pre-purchase counseling program in June of 2019. Her hope was to become a homeowner within a year. With the help of her housing counselor, she was able to address several credit issues, increase her savings and properly manage her household budget.
The path seemed cleared until the pandemic hit.
The Philadelphia Urban League was able to connect her with programs offering financial assistance for first-time homebuyers, including the City of Philadelphia’s Philly First Home Grant, as well as a $5,000 NFL-backed grant toward her down payment. She was able to close on her new home at the end of September.
For many Americans, re-entering the workforce after a period of incarceration can be challenging. This hits communities of color, who are disproportionately represented in the prison system, particularly hard. The National Urban League, which has served formerly incarcerated adults for more than 50 years, created the Urban Reentry Jobs Program to address this inequity.
For Sedgwick Johnson, life after being incarcerated for 18 years was like entering a new world. Getting back on his feet meant finding work and stability.
The Chicago Urban League was committed to helping him get a fresh start. A Workforce Development team member enrolled Sedgwick in the NFL Social Justice Initiative project that provides soft skills coaching, digital and financial literacy, vocational training, supportive services and job search assistance.
Now certified in forklift safety and operation certification, he was able to secure a stable, full-time job with Amazon.
Since the launch of this partnership last fall, the NFL has funded five Urban League affiliates to help families impacted by COVID-19 get back on their feet. The partnership has already created 10 new homeowners with the help of down payment assistance, and we look forward to changing many more lives.
The NFL and the NUL are committed to empowering communities struggling to overcome the economic challenge of the COVID-19 crisis, and the history of systemic disenfranchisement to individuals who need and deserve opportunities to move toward equality.
Marc H. Morial, former mayor of New Orleans, is president and CEO of the National Urban League. He can be reached through https://nul.org.