On Saturday, excellence of all kinds filled the ballroom of the Marriott St. Louis. The Urban League celebrated 100 years of hard work, activism, and community outreach with their centennial gala.
The ceremonious event began with pre-recorded messages from National Urban League Board Chair, Michael Neidorff, and National Urban League CEO, Marc Morial, speaking about the organization and giving their congratulatory wishes.
Following the video messages was Urban League Metropolitan St. Louis President, Michael McMillian. During his speech, McMillian expressed his appreciation and immense gratitude for those who came out.
“I want to thank each and every one of you for making this the largest Urban League banquet we have ever had. More than 1,350 people came out to share this special evening with us,” McMillian said.
Those in attendance were given a glimpse into the work the Urban League has contributed to the community thus far. Video presentations of St. Louis residents who have been helped by the organization through financial, career and community assistance were played. Guests were able to see first-hand the impact of Save Our Sons and Save Our Sisters, two of the organization’s programs that have made an impact on so many lives.
Fast-forwarding to the main attraction, the Urban League gave us a peek into the future. The highlight of the night was the little stars from their Head Start Choir. The children sang “What the World Needs Now” by Burt Bacharach and “I Can” by Nas. To say they stole the night would be an understatement.
To keep with the momentum and spirit of excellence, the crowd was graced with some star power. Introduced as the only person to win an Oscar, Emmy, Tony, and an Academy Award, actress and keynote speaker Viola Davis graced the stage.
Davis gave a riveting speech about the importance and role the Urban League has played in moving the African American culture forward. She wowed the crowd with her unapologetic content as she spoke of her past and present-day struggles with not just being a black woman in Hollywood, but a being black woman in America.
“Black women are wired for struggle. We’re constantly reminded of the stereotypes society has placed on us. We are dehumanized day after day. We’re imperfect, but we’re worthy of everything life has to offer us,” Davis said.
Once she concluded her speech, President McMillian presented her with a Lifetime Achievement Award on behalf of the Urban League.
Closing out the star-studded event was Grammy award-winning R&B singer Eric Benet. Benet had the ladies in the crowd swooning as he gave a full concert mixed with some of his new and classic songs.
A person would be remised to say the Urban League has not affected change throughout the St. Louis region. The organization has been instrumental in influencing, stabilizing, and changing the community. For 100 years, they have contributed to changing the narrative of the urban culture in a positive way. The future can only get better.