Reflections on the National Urban League’s Path to Power – Part V

Mary Lou McDowell and Delores Truss,Volunteer Leaguers of the Chicago Urban League

Mary Lou McDowell and Delores Truss, Volunteer Leaguers of the Chicago Urban League. (Photo: Shelia Hester-Whorton)

Chicago, IL–(ENEWSPF)– In this final article reflecting the National Urban League’s Path to Power, we will highlight conference presenters the McDonald’s Corporation and Centene, provide alarming statistics about the state of health in the African American community, and look at the future of the National Urban League as it begins to prepare for its Centennial year.

With over 14,000 locations over the country and headquarters in Oak Brook, Illinois, McDonald’s Corporation is the world’s largest chain of hamburger fast food restaurants.

In his written welcome to guests of the conference, Don Thompson, President of McDonalds USA, wrote, “I am convinced that collectively we can identify the solutions needed to continue the mission of the National Urban League in our global community.”

McDonald’s has imparted its commitment to diversity and community within the corporate culture. With 40% of minority-owned franchises, Black Enterprises magazine lists McDonald’s among the top 40 companies for diversity. Of its 1.6 million employees around the world, there are 647,000 in the United States of which 62% are women, and 55% are minorities.

The McDonald’s Corporation has exemplified their commitment towards environmental leadership by effectively managing electric energy, by conserving natural resources through recycling and reusing materials, and by addressing water management issues within the restaurants. In 1990 the company established a Global Environmental Commitment and formed an alliance with the Environmental Defense Fund. During the 1990’s McDonald’s eliminated 300 millions pounds of product packaging by redesigning items and reducing materials used.

In an effort to reduce energy usage by 25% in its restaurants, the company opened a prototype restaurant earlier this year in Chicago, with the intention of using the model in its other restaurants throughout the world. The restaurant was designed to save energy by incorporating old and new ideas such as installing some partitions and tabletops made of recycled goods, managing storm water, and using skylights for more natural lighting. McDonald’s has been recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for its continuous efforts.

In his written greetings to conference attendees, Centene Corporation Chairman & CEO, Michael F. Neidorff stated “At Centene, our focus is simple: People. Commitment. Results. Like the Urban League, we are committed to “Equalizing Life Changes for All People.”

Established in 1984 as a single health plan, the Centene Corporation is now a leading multi-line healthcare enterprise that provides programs and related services to individuals receiving benefits under Medicaid. Centene’s core philosophy is that quality healthcare is best delivered locally. This form of approach enables the provision of assessable, high quality and culturally sensitive healthcare services. Centene also offers a full range of healthcare solutions for the increasing number of uninsured Americans, and contract with other healthcare and commercial organizations to provide various specialty services.

The Centene Foundation for Quality Healthcare was established as a Section 501(c) (3), private foundation dedicated to improving the quality of healthcare in the United States. Its mission is to “improve the quality and access to healthcare for low-income individuals and families.” The Foundation provides grant funding to 501(c) (3) public charities in States where the Corporation has health plans or significant business interest. The Corporation currently has interest and health plans in Indiana, Missouri, Ohio, New Jersey, Georgia, Texas, Wisconsin, South Carolina, and Florida. Celtic Insurance, a Chicago-based subsidiary of Centene, has been helping individuals with their health and insurance solutions since 1978.

McDonald’s and Centene Corporations both played pivotal roles in the success of the conference, including the career fair and expo which consisted of nearly 100 companies, exhibitors, and volunteers.

The Conference held workshops, seminars, and plenary sessions, that addressed and provided a vast of information about the overall social, economic, and medical health of American communities.

In 2003 the National Urban League increased its’ focus on health issues, education, and prevention. The National Urban League’s State of Black America 2004 reported that African Americans are impacted by higher rates of obesity, substance abuse, HIV/AIDS and diabetes. The report also indicates that African American communities are more susceptible to and less likely to recover from certain illnesses than other groups and that there is an alarming lack of affordable healthcare available to assist them in doing so.

To address these disparities, the National Urban League has worked with the Center for Disease Control, National Institutes of Health, and other healthcare and community agencies to address diabetes, cancer, depression and Alzheimer’s. The League established two initiatives, The “Lift Every Voice Diabetes Education Program” targets the prevention and treatment of diabetes; and the “National African-American Wellness Initiative” promotes proper nutrition, physical fitness, healthcare and prevention of disease through a new website which launched in 2004.

According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), African Americans have the highest death rate and shortest survival of any racial and ethnic group in the United States for most cancers. The causes of these inequalities may reflect social and economic disparities more than biologic differences associated with race. Among these are inequalities in work, wealth, income, education, housing and overall standard of living, barriers to high-quality health care, and racial discrimination.

Leading Causes of Death among African Americans and Whites, 2005

All ages

No. of Deaths (%)

Death Rate*

Causes of death



African American


Heart diseases














Cerebrovascular diseases







Accidents (unintentional injuries)





















All Causes







*Rates are per 100,000 and age adjusted to the 2000 US population
Source: National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2008

ACS protections indicate that in 2009 alone, more the 150,000 African Americans will be diagnosed with cancer, and more than 63,000 African Americans will die.
Historically, African American men and women have a higher incidence of lung, prostate, and breast cancers than White men and women.

At the opening of this year’s conference, National Urban League President & CEO Marc Morial stated “We must leave our narrow confines of civil rights for African Americans and speak for all America.” Morial concluded his speech by stating that “As we prepare for our centennial, our next century cannot be about the past, but about the future.”

As the League approaches its centennial year, its vision and mission are consistent with the League’s 2025 Empowerment Goals and call to action. To ensure its mission, the National Urban League established a five-point approach to provide economic empowerment, educational opportunities, and the guarantee of civil rights.

They are:

  • Education and Youth Empowerment – Ensures the education of all children by providing access to early childhood literacy, aftercare programs and college scholarships;
  • Economic Empowerment – Invests in the financial literacy and employability of adults through job training, homeownership and entrepreneurship;
  • Health and Quality of Life Empowerment – Promotes community wellness through a focus on prevention, including fitness, healthy eating and access to affordable healthcare;
  • Civic Engagement and Leadership Empowerment – Encourages all people to take an active role to improve quality of life through participation in community service projects and public policy initiatives;
  • Civil Rights and Racial Justice Empowerment – Guarantees equal participation in all facets of American society through proactive public policies and community-based programs.

This series of articles would not be complete without acknowledging Courtney Hill and the MarketM team, for the excellent marketing, advertising, and media logistics, and the many hardworking volunteers, including the Leaguers of the Chicago Urban League, who have worked to support the mission of the Chicago Urban League for fifty-five years. This year the Leaguers sold “Another Cookbook- for Goodness Sake” – the 44th President Obama Edition, which proceeds continue to help to support the Chicago Urban League’s programs.

Sources: National Urban League Conference 2009 and website, McDonalds website, Centene website, American Cancer Society

The National Urban League was established 99 years ago with the mission to enable African Americans to secure economic self reliance, parity, power and civil rights. The National Urban League was originally named the Committee on Urban Conditions Among Negroes, and established on September 29th, 1910 in New York City. For more information about the National Urban League visit www. For 92 years the Chicago Urban League has been a leader in promoting sustainable change in the African American community through education, advocacy, research, and civic engagement in the Chicago land area .For more information about the Chicago Urban League Conference visit www.changeyoucansee.com.

Author’s Note

Shelia Hester-WhortonThis series was written to provide valuable information about the National Urban League and its services to Enews Park Forest readers. It is my desire that my south suburban counterparts, small business owners, and the community in general, be aware of the options available to assist them in their own “Path to Power” and to provide the residents of our communities with information that may effectively enhance their personal lives.

The Chicago Urban League services extend outside of the City of Chicago and are accessible to our south suburban communities. The entrepreneurial and small business development classes are very cost effective, and presented by experts in the field. Business development classes are held on Tuesday and Thursday evenings at a cost of $20.00. However participants may pay $150.00 and attend all available classes for a year from the day your register and pay in full. For more information about the classes offered through the Chicago Urban League and other services provided, visit their website at www.changeyoucansee.com.

Next year the National Urban League will celebrate its centennial year in Washington, D.C. It is my intention to attend the conference and once again, bring back valuable information to our readers.