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Last Sunday, I attended Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church, affectionately known as the “Ship.” I was feeling particularly exhausted that day and even a little weary. But then, I walked into church. These folks were on “10!” The

The Black church has always been my foundation. Growing up in Memphis, my family was actively involved in the Church of God in Christ. We attended my grandfather’s church, Homeland, my uncle’s church Bethel Temple, as well as Temple of Deliverance, where the late Bishop G.E. Patterson was pastor. And now my youngest brother pastors his own church, Holy Covenant.

At church, not only were we inspired by the power of God, we were plugged into the political, social and economic power of the Black community. I never lost sight of the power of the Black church and its role in helping to shape and transform communities. I have often been reminded of that power since taking the helm at the Chicago Urban League.

The Black church has helped to keep families together, supported those less fortunate and created programs to help our boys and girls stay on the right track. Faith is a powerful tool for change, but faith, alone, is not enough. The bible says that "Faith without works is dead." My pastor, Rev. Sen. James Meeks (D-15th), took that passage a step further when he said, “Faith without a program is not going to get you where you need to go.”

Meeks’ wise words have consistently resonated with me, most recently after the Urban League’s recent poll with the Nielsen Company found that African Americans in Chicago are hopeful about their economic futures but lack clear pathways to success. Then finally, it dawned on us at the Chicago Urban League that “faith” is a universal language spoken throughout Chicago’s Black community, a city with some of the largest Black church congregations and most influential Black clergy in the world.

To the Black community, the church is the backbone, the belly, the brains and the brawn behind many of the life-altering, life-saving, coalition-building initiatives that serve our community each and every day.

As a civil rights organization still striving for the betterment of Black people, it was clear to me that the Urban League had to join forces with the faith community, to meet the faithful where they worship and to bring with us the programs that will help them get where they need to go.

Partnering with the faith community also gives the Urban League the opportunity to rebuild and reinforce our relationship with our constituency, to inform the community that, yes, we are still in the struggle with you, we’re delighted to serve you and, together, we will help you draw your own roadmap to success. So, last month, I announced our Partners in Faith initiative.

Partners in Faith is a series of church-based programs and special events focused on parental engagement, mentoring and economic empowerment. Our six pilot churches have agreed to host Urban League Sundays events at which their members can join the Chicago Urban League for free. By doing so, congregants will be eligible to receive three complimentary training sessions in our Entrepreneurship Center or in one of our workforce or career development workshops.

The response has been overwhelming. In just three Urban League Sundays, more than 5,000 congregants signed up to join the Urban League. I have to admit, I was as excited as I was overwhelmed by the response. Our outreach efforts prove that African Americans are as hungry for knowledge as they are hopeful about their futures.

They want to economically empower themselves, they want to strengthen their families, and they want alternatives to simply watching their men and boys being failed time and time again by the system. Now that the Chicago Urban League is in the churches, we intend to stay plugged into the power. We’ve already been to Salem Baptist Church of Chicago, Apostolic Church of God, and Fellowship.

The next Urban League Sunday will be held on March 16 at New Covenant Missionary Baptist Church. On March 30, we will worship at New Mt. Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church. And on April 13, we will be at Trinity United Church of Christ. If you’re a member of either of these churches and attend on Urban League Sunday, I encourage you to sign up for your free membership. Let’s connect to the source of our power and build bridges to success for our community. I’ll see you in church!

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