EDITORIAL: National Urban League event tees up important conversations

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In a few days, some of the nation’s most important African American leaders—in business, politics, entertainment and philanthropy—will descend on Indianapolis for the National Urban League Conference.

The event—scheduled for July 24-27 at the Indiana Convention Center—will feature speeches from a number of presidential candidates, including former Vice President Joe Biden, U.S. Sens. Cory Booker and Kamala Harris, and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

Certainly, those appearances will get plenty of attention—and they should. Black voters are expected to make up about 20% of the Democratic primary electorate in 2020. And issues involving race have emerged as significant themes in the campaigns. So conversations candidates have with voters at this gathering are an important to the political process.

But while those speeches will grab headlines, they are but a small part of a four-day event expected to draw more than 20,000 people. Attendees will participate in forums about dozens of issues, from business to health care to public policy.

They will hear from leaders at top companies, including Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, BP, Eli Lilly and Co., JPMorgan Chase, Nike, Target and more. There will be sessions with representatives of leading not-for-profits, including The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, Lumina Foundation, National Black Justice Coalition, AIDS Healthcare Foundation, and the National Fair Housing Alliance.

There will be events for attendees interested in technology and entrepreneurship; sessions with practical advice about finance and personal branding; and forums that tackle some of our biggest societal questions, sessions with titles like “Tackling Racial Disparities in Health Care,” “#StandAgainstHate: Moving from Dialogue to Action,” and “Equality, Inclusion and Corporate America’s Moral Challenge.”

IBJ is thrilled to welcome the conference and its attendees to the city, and we urge central Indiana residents to take advantage of the incredible opportunities the event will offer.

But the important issues that will be discussed at the conference shouldn’t fade away when the final session is over. These conversations should be ongoing across our community—and certainly not just among African American residents.

In Indianapolis, we are fortunate to have groups interested in such dialogue. The National Urban League Conference is here this year in part because its local chapter is a strong one. The national president, Marc Morial, told the Indianapolis Recorder that the group picked the city over “stiff competition” because it had confidence in the local leadership.

Meanwhile, the Central Indiana Community Foundation has pledged to spend more time and money on issues affecting racial equality and poverty. The Indy Chamber is advocating for “inclusive growth” policies that close the gap between those growing economically in the city and those falling further behind. And IUPUI is refocusing a number of its programs to address a more urban constituency and tackle social-justice issues.

Let’s look to the conference to inject even more energy into these efforts—and make sure we keep the momentum going after the attendees have gone home.•

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