Since its inception in 1919 , MUL has been working to help African Americans, and others needing assistance, "forge positive futures" and "build positive foundations for success" that will positively impact many lives for years to come. In many respects, some of these years were also historic ones. We celebrated the second term of our nation's first African American President, we commemorated the 150th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln's signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed African Americans from slavery and we commemorated the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his powerful "I Have a Dream" speech.
While we are proud of our past and present accomplishments, we cannot end the struggle for economic and social equality - because many disparities and gaps in education, employment, wealth and healthcare still exist in our community. As we reflect on the message in President Obama's second term inaugural speech, acknowledging that America's prosperity must rest upon the broad shoulders of a rising middle class, President Obama said, "We know that America thrives when every person can find independence and pride in their work, when the wages of honest labor liberate families from the brink of hardship."
Although the MUL is concerned about all of the issues that have an impact on African Americans, and other people of color, we have focused on programs and services that help people become more self-reliant. Education and employment are two important ways for people to improve the quality of their lives. In this regard, we will continue to work with youth and their families to get them to understand the value and importance of education. With an emphasis on college readiness, we will continue our Campaign for Academic Achievement to help our youth do well in school, graduate and go on to college or other post-secondary training. With the high levels of unemployment, especially among African American men, we will also continue to make a priority of helping people prepare for and find jobs that pay family-supporting wages.
In regard to economic development, we want to work on generating and creating wealth in the African American community. A number of strategies can, and should, be used to accomplish this goal. A Brandeis University Institute for Assets & Social Policy study shows that the "wealth gap" between black Americans and white Americans has nearly tripled and is getting wider. With those statistics in mind, MUL has also paid particular attention to helping entrepreneurs start businesses and create jobs. Because strong vibrant minority-owned businesses generate wealth, create jobs and stabilize our neighborhoods, we have worked in partnership with minority chambers of commerce and others to increase the number minority-owned businesses in our community.
MUL envisions a community where there is low unemployment, a low crime rate, a high graduation rate and a high level of homownership. Program by program, client by client, we continue to lay the groundwork for success at the Milwaukee Urban League. Through our wide variety of services and support of our many partner organizations, we've opened doors of opportunity for the diverse population we serve.
Therefore, as we reflect on the past, work on the present, and prepare for the future, with your continued help and support, we can make this vision a reality and truly forge positive futures for everyone in our community as we endeavor to "empower our community and change lives."