National Urban League 21 Pillars Tour stops at Chicago State University

National Urban League President Marc Morial was joined Chicago Urban League President and CEO Karen Freeman-Wilson and Chicago State University President for the National Urban League 21 Pillars Heartland Tour at Chicago State University. Photos provided by Quinton Arthur
National Urban League President Marc Morial was joined Chicago Urban League President and CEO Karen Freeman-Wilson and Chicago State University President for the National Urban League 21 Pillars Heartland Tour at Chicago State University. Photos provided by Quinton Arthur

 National Urban League 21 Pillars Tour stops at Chicago State University

By Tia Carol Jones

Students from middle school and high school listened attentively as the National Urban League President Marc Morial talked to them in the gym at Chicago State University. His comments had been preceded by Chicago Urban League President and CEO Karen Freeman-Wilson and Chicago State University President Zaldwaynaka (“Z”) Scott, Esq.


On Thursday, April 28th, the National Urban League’s 21 Pillars Heartland Tour visited Chicago State University. The tour’s goal is to transform the criminal justice system with the aim to make it more equitable.


There were 250 students in attendance from Urban Prep Bronzeville, Urban Prep Engelwood, Epic Academy, Lawndale Elementary Community Academy, Little Black Pearl Arts Academy High School, Jesse White Learning Academy and Barack H. Obama Learning Academy.


The National Urban League released its 21 Pillars for Redefining Public Safety and Restoring Community Trust a year ago. The goal was to create a framework for criminal justice advocacy, with a holistic approach to public safety, as well as a way to restore trust between communities and law enforcement, while creating a path forward for meaningful change. The 21 Pillars centered around themes of: Collaborating with communities to re-envision public safety, accountability, changing divisive policing policies, requiring transparency, reporting and data collection, and improving hiring standards and training.


The 21 Pillars Heartland Tour began in September 2021 in Columbus, Ohio. It also has stopped in Kansas City, Mo., and Louisville, Kentucky.


Morial believes more should be done to connect, uplift and engage young people in the Black community. It was important to him to make a connection with the tour and to continue those connections made through the Urban League’s youth programs. Morial believes a healthy relationship between law enforcement and the community leads to a better community. A contentious relationship can be destructive.


“We all want to be safe, we all want to be protected, we all want effective policing, but we don’t want the police to operate like an occupying force, where people feel like they can’t trust the criminals and they can’t trust the police. That’s why building trust and confidence is so important,” he said. “It can be done in Chicago. It requires a strong commitment and it requires accountability. Officers that cross the line, have to be disciplined. If the union contract is in the way, the union contract has to get out of the way. There should be no sacred cows, there should be no sacrosanct, old school mentalities to get in the way of what we have to do.”


In her message to the students, Scott encouraged them to open their minds and be open to learning something new. She acknowledged the importance of those students being exposed to being on a college campus. Freeman-Wilson described the students in attendance as the present and the future and said it was necessary to involve them in discussion about community-police relations.


Morial encouraged the students to go to college and to register to vote when they turn 18. He also encouraged them to use their voice to speak up about matters in the community, their neighborhoods their dreams, and how to make the City of Chicago better.


“God gave everybody talent and ability. Brains, artistic ability, athletic ability, creative ability, organizational ability. God gave everybody talent. But talent doesn’t develop itself, talent has to be developed. One reason we go to school is to develop our talent, like watering plants, like feeding, it is essential that we develop our talent. Never ever underestimate your talent. Never ever cheat yourself by not developing your talent,” he told the attendees, adding that he saw greatness, power, beauty and ability in them. “So, all I ask is that you never ever cheat yourself by not giving everything you have to everything you are.”

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