entrepreneurship empowerment camp
The urban league i know
By Jerome Robinson
I remember in my early twenties seeing the Memphis Urban League for the first time. I had no idea what it was or what it was about. It was there in my thirties, it was still there in my forties, and now I am fifty-one and I got a call to work on something for the Memphis Urban League. I had no idea how to get started. I knew nothing about them. I googled them and I still didn’t learn much. I got to meet the board of directors and the executive director and while they all seemed like really nice people, I still could not figure out who they really were. Several race related issues hit the news and I expected to see someone from the Urban League in the news taking a stand, but that didn’t happen. People around me talked and would give their opinions of what the Urban League was doing or in most cases not doing. I sat down one day with executive director Tonja Sesley-Baymon and in my overly transparent way, I shared way to much of my personal story with her. Tonja had a wall up around her, she seemed a little disconnected. So I was starting to ask myself, who really is the Memphis Urban League and what do they do?
The JustMyMemphis Fun Crew started working on a new website for the organization and we shot some short videos to help promote them. I was not there for the shoot, so while watching an interview of Tonja Sesley-Baymon I saw something I had not seen before. Her “Why” showed up. She had lost her brother. He needed help, he wanted help, but ultimately he did not find the help he was looking for and as a result Tonja lost a brother, the community lost the gifts this young man was yet to share, and our city lost another piece of its soul. But for Tonja, his lost would create a power that lives on today not just in her but in the Memphis Urban League. For me, this was the moment I learned who and what the Urban League was all about. So I went to work, looking for for stories to share about the work being done. I had not seen the impact yet but now every time I step in their office I feel it. There is a spirit of growth and development of those without voices, without hopes, and without directions.
Young entrepreneruship empowerment camp
This was the Urban League I know. The work they do is changing lives, but almost no one could see that. Not because it wasn’t being done. But because our city, our communities, our world is so focused on the negative. We are focused on talking about what isn’t getting done and as a result we miss the positive stuff happening right in front of us. The young people that came to the Youth Entrepreneurship Empowerment Camp are talented young people but without the hope and polish and promise given to youth of other communities. But at the Memphis Urban League these youth got coaching, training, styling, and then put in the spotlight. The goal was to show them just a little of what is possible. Give them a spark and allow it to blaze up into an amazing future. This is the Memphis Urban League I know. This is the organization that has been serving our city for 75 years. I hope all of Memphis will look around and find ways to help support organizations like the Urban League.
At JustMyMemphis, the Fun Crew started asking this question one night over drinks, Whats Your Story? Once I decided to ask that question of the Memphis Urban League, I realized that while we were not paying attention this organization was at the work of helping individuals and communities reach their full potential. This is what a #BeAmazing organization looks like and I am so proud I get to help them in at least a small way!
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