Statement from the Board of Directors of the Urban Affairs Coalition

Date: 
July 14, 2016

 

 

 

The events of the past few weeks - Orlando, the killings of Alton Brown and Philando Castile, the killing of five police officers in Dallas - have been difficult for many of us to understand.

As an organization that is committed to the belief that we get more done together than we do apart, these have been very painful weeks. We looked into the faces of hate and violence without rose-colored glasses. As we saw the mass shooting of 49 people in a gay night club, African-American men killed at the hands of police and police killed by the hands of hate, many of us are questioning our assumptions and feel that our deeply held beliefs are being tested.

As we try to process all that we've witnessed, it is critical to seek perspective.  In fact, one cannot help but recall that similar events led to the founding of the Urban Affairs Coalition.
 

 

It was 1964. 

 

Two police officers, one white and one black, approached a woman on Columbia Avenue - now called Cecil B. Moore Avenue.  There was a confrontation.  Rumors spread that a white police officer had beaten a pregnant African-American woman to death.  Years of pent up frustration and rage from generations of oppression and marginalization swelled and erupted into violence.  Looting and lawlessness ensued, resulting in the Columbia Avenue Riots.  

It begs the question: is this where we are headed?  Or do we look to 1968 in Philadelphia?  

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the agitator and peacemaker, the man who said that "hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that,” was assassinated in Memphis in the spring of 1968. It felt as if the country would fall apart. Yet, in response, Philadelphia's civic, grassroots and business leaders came together as a community. These leaders said, "We cannot relive 1964; we have to create a different path."

Out of that spirit, the Urban Coalition was born. We have worked in every neighborhood and with people of all walks of life to take on entrenched problems as well as emerging ones for nearly a half century. While we have made progress, too many continue to languish in inequity, exclusion and poverty. 

 

Today, we ask, “Is there a way out of this madness of racial oppression, social isolation, and class warfare in America?” 

A year before he was killed, Dr. King famously asked a similar question, "Where do we go from here: chaos or community?” 

How will we answer these questions? 

Our founders found an answer. They chose community and it is on this path that we must continue.