To the Rescue: National Urban League Bringing Empowerment Fair to Dallas

by June 5, 2009

DALLAS (NNPA) – They don’t pretend to be superheroes. Yet the National Urban League, in conjunction with the Urban League of Greater Dallas and North Central Texas, are determined to come to the rescue for possibly thousands of North Texas residents that have been disproportionately slammed to the ground from the evils of the nation’s economic crisis and severe recession. The Urban League’s super weapon is The Economic Empowerment and Restore Our Homes “Rescue Fair”. It is set for this Saturday June 13, at the Dallas Convention Center, with hopes of helping put a dent into the high rate of unemployment, home foreclosures and health disparities effecting North Texas’ urban communities.

Between 3,000 and 5,000 people are expected to attend. All of the services will be free.

National Urban League president Marc Morial will come to Dallas and team with Greater Dallas affiliate president Dr. Beverly Mitchell Brooks with a super-strengthened agenda of providing North Texans with the necessary tools and information to become victorious over their battles of job loss, losing their homes and health disparities, which have escalated in rampant numbers in the area.

“Dallas is just a very important market. The need is there,” Morial told The Dallas Weekly in a telephone interview. “This is the Urban League’s way of connecting and helping people to help themselves.”
The Urban League’s legion of sidekicks includes several corporations, government agencies and community organizations as partners to the comprehensive rescue fair.

“The tour is our big tent. We want to provide as many services to people as we possibly can,” Morial said. “Our focus is economic empowerment, economic self-sufficiency and economic self-determination. We believe that helping people connect to services that we and other agencies in the community provide is an excellent way to try and help people in these very difficult economic times.”

Brooks stated: “We’re not going to be able to help everybody, but what we can do is make sure that they’ve seen a counselor and are going in the right direction. We will be following up to make sure whatever plan we’re putting together for them, they’ll be able to follow that plan and work through.

“We are the brokers between you and those you could not get on the phone at that 1-800 number,” Brooks emphasized. “They’re dialing 1-800 and nobody answers.”

The Urban League, long known as champions for providing job referral and training resources primarily for African-Americans and people of color, saw the need to add housing and health to their repertoire after reviewing statistics revealed in The State of Black America, an annual report published by the national office.

“After the housing debacle, we added “Restore our Homes.” People were not only losing jobs, they actually were losing their homes,” Dr. Brooks said. “The banks were not responding. People had been brought into bad deals through predatory lending. The lenders were not available so people were literally losing everything to foreclosure.

“These are the two biggest issues that face our community today and they go hand in hand. We’re working to deal with them both at the same time. Too often we try to address one leg of a three-legged stool. You get one leg fixed and the stool still falls down.”

Morial adds, “The State of Black America and its findings guide our work every year; it is really the under gird of the economic empowerment tour and our rescue fairs … It’s a baseline needs assessment of the conditions facing Black America and helps us shape our strategies and policies. This is the way that we bring our services to people.”

Brooks added the Urban League’s annual report helps both the national office and her North Texas affiliates to be solutions-driven.

“You cannot continue to print the State of Black America and not come up with solutions,” Brooks said. “Everybody knows the issues. Until you provide solutions, it’s just another document that you will put on the shelf and will gather dust.”

One thing both Morial and Brooks can guarantee, in the area of employment: the more than 60 companies that will be at the Rescue Fair, will actually have jobs available, a matter that has been a strong point of contention with many other job fairs.

“We’re very focused on making sure that the employers that come, in fact, do have jobs,” Morial said. “We push back hard against people who want to come just as though it was a beauty pageant. Our career fairs are serious.”

“The employers must have jobs,” Brooks said. “You cannot come out there and window dress, not in these unsettling times.”

However, an attendee still might not be qualified and prepared to obtain employment. The Rescue Fair will help that person address those issues as well.

Workshops will be offered to educate attendees on how to gain a competitive edge over other job seekers, with interviewing tips and professional development. Instruction on how to access job leads, along with getting their resumes reviewed and improved will be in session.

While absolutely saving a resident from losing their home cannot be guaranteed, the Rescue Fair looks to, at least, hook residents up with the right agency or representative to begin a plan to address their housing needs, whether its first time homebuyership or foreclosure prevention. Brooks said that all of the financial institutions at the Fair will be required to bring actual servicers, lenders and bonafide decision makers. Citi, Well Fargo, Chase , Bank of America, HUD, Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac are among the financial institutions that will be present.

“I need them to walk away knowing that somebody actually cared enough to try and help,” Brooks said. “We want to furnish them with a plan that they need to follow and have somebody they can keep in touch with. If the lenders and servicers are able to do something right there, we know that’s one level. You’re then leaving now with steps to follow up so that you can complete the process with your lender. Sometimes it’s just knowing.”

The Rescue Fair’s Health component will have classes that will promote healthy lifestyles, while offering testing for high blood pressure, glucose level, prostate for men, bone density for women, quick swab-testing for HIV/AIDS and others.

All attendees will receive a package of information going into the fair, which will be color coded to efficiently guide attendees to the right section, sending them to the type of counseling they will need, in order to avoid long lines as much as possible.

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