Indianapolis Urban League

IUL Statement on the 50th Anniversary of the Assassinations of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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It is hard to believe that 50 years has passed since the slaying of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis, Tennessee. Every year on the anniversary or his assassination, we are filled with a sense of loss, pride, and hope. We look back on Dr. King’s many achievements; organizing the Montgomery Bus Boycott, leading the march from Selma to Montgomery, his immortal “I Have a Dream” speech, and his lasting ability to inspire and mobilize generations of oppressed peoples to non-violent action. While we take a look back to commemorate the passing of perhaps the greatest leader in the American Civil Rights Movement, we are reminded that we must also continue to move forward and act.
Since 1965, the mission of the Indianapolis Urban League (IUL) has been to “assist African-Americans, other minorities and disadvantaged individuals to achieve social and economic equality.”
The Indianapolis Urban League actualizes this mission through a five-point empowerment strategy:
1)   Education and Youth Empowerment;
2)   Economic Empowerment;
3)   Health and Quality of Life Empowerment;
4)   Civic Engagement and Leadership Empowerment; and
5)   Civil Rights and Racial Justice Empowerment.
This empowerment agenda is as relevant today as it was 50 years ago and, over the years, IUL has adapted its programs to meet the evolving needs of the Indianapolis community. We are committed to empowering the disadvantaged in our community through advocacy and programs that equip our clients, students, and community to become self-sufficient and to achieve an improved quality of life.
We recognize, as did Dr. King in his letter From a Birmingham Jail, that “whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly”. This message in mind, we strive to improve the well-being of all who desire to improve themselves with hopes of influencing progress in the Indianapolis community-at-large.
In 2018, IUL recognizes that there are persistent gaps in equity in education, economics, health, civic engagement, and civil rights—gaps that can and must be overcome with the full effort of our community by taking maximum advantage of our existing resources.
In education, we must take advantage of all opportunities to cultivate excellence in our primary and secondary educational systems, further our education beyond high school, and engage in lifelong learning. Poor graduation rates and low educational attainment can no longer be accepted or excused. Poorly funded and/or under-performing schools, regardless of type should, no longer be tolerated. They must receive the assistance and resources necessary to provide a quality education to each and every child. According to the 2015 Poverty and Inequality Report published by Stanford University, Indianapolis is in the bottom 10 of upward mobility rates in the United States and is ranked 46th of 50 metro areas studied. Education is the only straight pathway to eventually improving our city’s low social mobility rates.
In economics, we must be fully prepared to competitively enter the workforce and to thrive. Ascend Indiana projects that by 2020, over 200,000 jobs in Central Indiana will go unfilled because of our untrained workforce. We must take full advantage of the various technical training and certification programs available in our community to prepare for the existing, unfilled jobs in Indianapolis. Free and subsidized training programs are being offered by the Indianapolis Urban League, a Center for Working Families (CWF), alongside other CWF’s and community partners who have immediate access to jobs through employer partnerships. These organizations recognize that it is imperative to get training and get a career or a job for economic self-sufficiency.
In health, we have to engage in healthy behaviors and choices that promote vitality by lessening the occurrence of preventable chronic diseases through an emphasis on healthy eating habits, daily physical activity, and sustainable stress management. According to,  Indianapolis ranks 38th in the country for overall health, and Hoosier minorities hold the bottom spots in every category. The Indianapolis Urban League and our community partners are committed to bridge access to existing affordable health insurance programs, help community members utilize discounted or free preventive healthcare services, and educate and arm the community with knowledge and resources for healthy eating habits, exercise and management of chronic stress factors.
In civic engagement, we must embrace our freedom by full participation as citizens and voters, as well as through active community service and leadership development. Our vote, our voice and our engagement truly matters. If it did not matter, others would not be pursuing and implementing legislation, policies, and procedures to limit or eliminate the ability of some to vote.
In civil rights and racial justice we must actively work to eradicate all barriers to equal participation in all aspects of American society, whether political, economic, social, educational or cultural.
50 years after Dr. King’s assassination we must all acknowledge: He had the Dream, WE must take the responsibility to achieve it.
Tony Mason
President & CEO
Indianapolis Urban League