When I was in college my life felt like it was in constant motion between taking a full load of classes, internships, on campus jobs, my fraternity and other involvement. As a recent grad my day was over after about 5:30 PM – and it was a little weird. While I enjoyed the freedom to relax after work, I knew I needed to be doing something in my newfound free time to make a difference. When I learned that a chapter of the National Urban League Young Professionals was coming to Arkansas I knew this was my opportunity to get involved again and give back.
The National Urban League Young Professionals (NULYP) is a National Urban League volunteer auxiliary that targets young professionals ages 21-40 to empower their communities and change lives through the Urban League Movement. Our mission is to support the Urban League Movement through our volunteerism, philanthropy and membership development. When the state NULYP president asked me to lead marketing and communications for the chapter – I was both nervous and excited but it was a welcome challenge that I accepted.
Recently, I had the opportunity to take a crash course into the organization by attending the National Urban League conference in St. Louis, Missouri, with other members of the Arkansas leadership team. Spending four days surrounded by other young professionals with similar values taught me a lot but I’d like to share my top three takeaways from the conference:
- See the big picture.
When joining a national organization on a local level I think it’s very important to attend regional and national conferences to get the first-hand exposure to the organization’s goals, brand and mission. When first joining NULYP I only knew the basics of the organization from those who had been part of the organization before and what I read online. Being able to meet the national leadership, talk to more established chapters and learn best practices on how to run a chapter effectively were tremendous for my development in the organization and gave me a lot of information to bring back to make my chapter better. It’s like the agency-client relationship. We strive to know our clients better than anyone else. As a communicator, it is imperative that I attend our conferences and get to know the organization so that I know who we are, who we are speaking to and how to reach that audience.
- Privilege isn’t bad if used correctly.
As an African American male in America, I’m not the poster child for privilege, however, a big takeaway for me from the conference was that I am indeed very privileged and it’s up to me and other young professionals of color to recognize that and use it for good. A theme of the conference was to #SaveOurCities, which is a major reason the conference is hosted in cities that have been impacted by police brutality, riots and other race-related issues. As young professionals of color, members of the NULYP are privileged in that we are mostly college-educated and employed, which gives us the network, knowledge and resources to make a change. The work we are doing is not just to boost our individual resumes or make us part of some elite group but to use that privilege to empower others to seek education, become civic, political and community leaders and fight against injustices that often plague our own brothers and sisters.
- We must protect our progress.
The National Urban League has been around for nearly 107 years and the organization has helped the country make lots of progress – but as we can see by turning to any news channel or checking our social media feeds – there is still much progress to be made. In the 1980s and 1990s, the League recognized the need to prepare the next generation of leaders to become engaged in the movement and in 1999, the National Urban League Young Professionals became an official auxiliary group. One big re-enforcement that came from the conference was that the leaders of yesterday have trusted my generation to carry that torch and not just talk about all of their great accomplishments but to make sure those accomplishments aren’t reversed and that we are making accomplishments of our own and empowering the generations below us to do the same.
The entire conference was just the fuel that I needed to come back and effectively perform my role as the Marketing and Communications Chair for the state of Arkansas. My knowledge of the field combined with my newfound knowledge of the rich and vibrant history of the organization as well as the incredible networking I did with members across the country is going to help me to not only do the work that’s necessary but also tell the stories that often go untold. I can proudly say that I am a National Urban League Young Professional and I am empowered.
Editor’s Note: At Mitchell, we believe in encouraging each other to pursue our personal and professional passions. We are thrilled to shine a light on team members like DeShaun living Mitchell values and sharpening his skills as he pursues his passion for leadership and community. #AlwaysMitchell