Let the celebration begin, and the work continue.
That was the feel of the Houston Area Urban League’s (HAUL) “Advancing Equity Luncheon” on June 15 held at the Hilton Houston Post Oak—pride in past accomplishments, but a realization there’s much more work to be done to improve the economic realities of the Greater Houston area’s 1.18 million Blacks and hundreds of thousands of others who benefit from HAUL’s various programs.
The luncheon also served as the official launch of HAUL’s signature forward-facing initiative: Launch 55.
“Launch 55 will be a very intentional discussion about the future of our city and its workforce as it relates to housing, education, jobs, the future of all the important things that we have to talk about, especially kind of honing in on our energy industry, our IT industry, and our healthcare industry,” said HAUL president Judson Robinson III. “We know those are big job opportunities here in our city, and we’ve got to make sure our people are prepared for those opportunities.”
Robinson then laid out HAUL’s process for achieving the desired outcomes.
“We do that by being a lot more intentional, by working with the people who are looking for the jobs, looking for the opportunity to help case manage them from high school to career, ensuring that they’ve got opportunities while in college, when they come out of college during the summer, and then of course, helping to place them once they’ve completed their education. And then ensuring that they’re getting involved in their communities through civic engagement, be at the Urban League or other young professional-oriented organizations, and they’re helping to strengthen our communities and our families. That’s what Launch 55.”
The luncheon also played host to an “Advancing Equity in the Community Panel” featuring Sylvia Brooks, HAUL’s first female president and CEO who retired after several years of service; Julie Sudduth, regional president of PNC Bank; and Robinson.
Robinson also participated in the “Launching 55 Years of Service Panel” along with Kimberly Blasingame, director of talent acquisition and DE&I, CenterPoint Energy; Eric Goodie, senior vice president, HAUL; James Harris, senior director of diversity & inclusion and supplier diversity, H-E-B; and Alex Obregon, vice president of finance, Comcast.
Both sessions were moderated by CEO and founder of Caldwell Consulting Services, Myra Caldwell.
HAUL also celebrated some of its recent big wins, including one of its teen members of Project Ready Nulite, Prince Kryon Huff, securing $2 million in college scholarship funding.
Huff, a recent graduate of South Early College High School, where he earned his diploma and an associate’s degree, will be headed to Abilene Christian University this fall.
“My grandfather, he was also a part of the Urban League, but part of the Indianapolis Urban League,” said Huff. “So, he got me introduced to the Houston Urban League, and I fell in love with it. They taught me how to be a leader, how to follow and how to grow as a young man in this world.”
Longtime HAUL member Felicia Jackson was in attendance and excited about recruiting other Houstonians to join.
“One of the reasons we should be a part of this organization or be affiliated with the organization is all the things that they do to really help individuals to reach their next destination in life,” said Jackson, an alumna of Washington University (St. Louis) and Missouri City’s own Willowridge High School. “So, whatever that destination is, whether it’s pertaining to housing, jobs, education, youth programs, social justice or health, we hear HAUL help you get to that next level to your goal.”
Robinson touted the National Urban League Conference that will take place in Houston July 26-29, while also reiterating the work before HAUL via its Launch 55 initiative.
“This will be a process of five years of looking to enhance and strengthen not only the work that we do, but again, being a lot more intentional about some of the work that we have to do. We have over 577,000 jobs that are open right now, jobs of the future that are coming online. We have retirements taking place. We have this merging unemployment gap if, in fact, we don’t make sure that people are job trained for the skill sets they’ll need for the jobs of tomorrow. So, we have a lot of work to do.”