The New Rights Agenda

The Urban League is the latest to take aim at removing economic barriers from the pursuit of the American Dream

players, not bystanders,” says Price.

Marcus Alexis, professor of economics, management and strategy at Northwestern University’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management, hopes the Urban League’s plan and those of other civil rights organizations will help keep retail and business loans flowing to the black community. For instance, “our civil rights organizations should be involved in the merger proceedings if banks plan to merge, so they won’t fail to make provisions to establish credit pools for African Americans,” he says.

Alexis, a member of the BE Board of Economists, also suggests that the Urban League make more effective use of the brokering abilities of the senior corporate executives who sit on its board of directors. “These executives should work on pilot programs and then make successful models available to other companies,” he says.

A more strategic, less direct approach appeals to franchise owners like Warren Thompson, president and chairman of Thompson Hospitality L.P. (No. 57 on the BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 list). “Whenever the 1989 lawsuit against Shoney’s is mentioned in the media in a historical context, it still hurts my business,” says Thompson, whose firm owns and operates s
everal Shoney’s and Bob’s Big Boy restaurants. “People can’t tell the difference between my stores and the white-owned stores.”

Thompson also applauds Rainbow/ PUSH’s plan to impact publicly traded companies as being a “surgical strategy” that affects a franchiser’s bottom line without harming black business. “If Jesse [Jackson] says to an analyst that African Americans are planning to boycott the XYZ company during, say, the Christmas holiday, just the threat of devaluation moves the company to protect its shareholders’ interests, whereas an actual boycott can result in loss of business that might impact black franchisees too,” he explains.

According to Price, the success of any economic rights agenda largely depends on whether an adequate amount of resources is m place to support it. Milt Little, who oversees a staff of 30, has four people with the day-to-day responsibility of implementing the National Urban League’s initiatives. Specific goals for the next 18 months include identifying three to five major partnerships with private employers to help move people into good jobs, locating capital for home and business ownership and helping the affiliates use the Internet to post jobs and swap success stories. “I won’t say how much it will cost to do all that we plan, but it won’t be done cheaply,” says Little.

An ambitious fund-raising campaign called “Welcome Back to the Urban League” is planned for later this year to raise donations to help underwrite the cost of the program. “Our objective also is to reach the largely untapped black middle class and encourage people to share resources, volunteer and become board members,” says M. Gasby Greely, the Urban League’s senior vice president of development and communications.

The real work, of course, will be done by the 1 15 affiliate Urban Leagues, many of whom have already developed innovative models that support the self-sufficiency agenda. For example, the Louisville, Kentucky, affiliate is part of

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