Family and jobs are top priorities for Urban League in '85. Efforts to help young black fathers will highlight next week's meeting
Boston — The National Urban League, opening its 75th-anniversary convention Sunday in Washington, will again focus its attention on the black family. ``The National Urban League is encouraging its affiliates to concentrate on what they can do to strengthen the black family in their communities,'' says league president John E. Jacob.
``Employment is our second priority, because we know that financial problems are the root cause of the disintegration of so many black families,'' he adds.
The spotlight first focused squarely on the black family during a May 1984 ``summit'' meeting at Fisk University in Nashville, called by the National Urban League and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). At last year's convention, the Urban League relayed findings from the summit to 3,000 of its delegates from across the country.
As a result, the national league this year has initiated a new program, ``the male responsibility campaign,'' to help meet the problem of teen-age pregnancy, Mr. Jacob says. During the 1980s, he says, more than half the nation's black babies have been born to unwed, teen mothers.
``We all concentrate on the plight of the teen-age mother, but we rarely concern ourselves with the teen father,'' Jacob says. ``Our project is designed to teach young black males [about] family and job responsibilities.''
Edward Pitts, a staff member of the National Urban League headquarters in New York City, has been named to head up the male responsibility campaign. He will help local leagues set up programs in their own communities.
The league will also take steps to expand its efforts on another front -- preparing black people to enter the job market, Jacob says.
The national convention will continue to host its job fair, started two years ago, which pairs job seekers with potential employers. But, says Jacob, ``this program is limited in scope. It misses the mass of blacks who often are untrained and unqualified for the sophisticated job market of today. We want to call the widespread unemployment of blacks, especially young people, to the attention of the nation.''
The Washington conveners will help the league devise a strategy for expanding its employment services, which have long been directed at well-trained blacks, to include blacks who lack education and credentials, Jacob says.
This year's convention also continues an Urban League tradition -- a meeting in the nation's capital the year after a presidential election to assess the political policies of the new administration.
``Of course, we'll take a close look at the Reagan administration during the first six months of its second term,'' Jacob says. ``Two Cabinet members and one potential presidential candidate will address our convention.''
US Sen. Robert Dole (R) of Kansas, whose name has been mentioned as a possible presidential candidate in '88, will speak during the business session Monday morning. Secretary of Health and Human Services Margaret M. Heckler is scheduled to speak Tuesday morning, and Secretary of Labor William E. Brock, Tuesday afternoon.
For the Democrats, US Rep. William H. Gray III of Pennsylvania, chairman of the House Budget Committee, will address the general session Monday afternoon. Rep. Mickey Leland (D) of Texas, chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, is to speak at Monday's luncheon, and Georgia state Sen. Julian Bond, who will moderate a discussion on major black issues, will speak Tuesday evening.
Jacob, who opens the convention Sunday evening with a keynote address, says he will add two topics ``that disturb me.'' They are a ``resurgence of racism in America and the status of black leadership,'' he says.
Special events this year include a forum on South Africa at 7 p.m. Tuesday. It will be led by two leaders of anti-apartheid campaigns -- Randall Robinson, executive director of TransAfrica, and the Rev. Allan Boesak, president of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches in Capetown.
In addition, AFL-CIO president Lane Kirkland and General Motors president Richard Munro will speak at a business-labor luncheon Tuesday.
Profs. Glenn C. Loury of Harvard and Bernard Anderson of Princeton will wrap up the conference Wednesday in a forum about key topics of conference workshops -- racism, black leadership, community mobilization to help the black family, unemployment, teen-age pregnancy, and the juvenile justice system and black youth.