The Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis has a rich history in the region, with roots that stretch back 95 years. For the past 28 years, the organization has been led by James Buford, who retired as CEO at the end of May.
Former alderman and City License Collector Michael McMillan became the new CEO of the Urban League last week. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh sat down with McMillan to discuss what's next for the organization.
Although McMillan is new to the role of CEO, he is not new to the Urban League. He has been a member since he was sixteen.
"Luckily for me, my late uncle Colonel Gates was chairman of the board under Whitney Young nationally," said McMillan. "When I was ten years old he was a mentor to me, and he told me I should become a member of the Urban League and the NAACP."
One of his first priorities, said McMillan, is to meet with everyone who has a stake in the Urban League as part of a listening tour. From there, the organization will finalize its five year strategic plan.
In addition to maintaining its mission as a social service agency dedicated to fulfilling the economic and educational needs of the community, the St. Louis Urban League will seek to maintain fiscal responsibility and increase outreach to young people and the elderly, said McMillan.
The agency offers programs ranging from Head Start to job preparation, foreclosure aid to home weatherization. Although the agency primarily serves African Americans, its services are available to anyone.
"We are always there to help anyone, regardless of their race, religion or creed," said McMillan, adding that the mission of the organization has been to improve civil rights. The Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis was founded in 1918, following the 1917 race riots in East St. Louis.
Among the other issues talked about were the high levels of unemployment among African Americans, especially in the inner city, and the school accreditation problems in North county and the city.
While discussing helping those schools regain accreditation and ensure all children have access to a good education, McMillan spoke of the need for unity throughout the region.
"I think that we as a region have to learn to grow. And the fact that any one area is in need means we are all in need, and that we are all in this together," said McMillan. "Because if we go out of town and we say we're from Florissant, people may not know where we are coming from, or where we are. But if we say we're from St. Louis, they know that. And so we are all in this together."
For more information about the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis, or to connect with one of the programs and services it offers, call 314-615-3600 or visit the agency's website.