Civil Rights Leader Marc Morial Visits London



By Loren J Williams

Loren J Williams is one of our newest interns from New York University. She will be helping with our campaign and research work. A few weeks ago she attended a high profile event that the US Embassy. Here she is giving her thoughts about the event . We wish her a great stay in London and a positive experience with OBV.

Simon Woolley

On Wednesday, February 22, 2017, the U.S. Embassy in London hosted a global webinar featuring keynote speaker Marc Morial. Morial is an American political and civic leader, the current president of the National Urban League and was mayor of New Orleans from 1994 to 2002. The conversation which focused on the importance of non-violent protests included political and civil rights leader from Uganda, the United States and the UK.

Morial opened by giving a timeline of events leading up to the establishment of Black History Month in the US (celebrated throughout the month of February). He focused on the growth of the celebration both in length and recognition. The event grew out of “Negro History Week,” a movement spearheaded by historian Carter G. Woodson in 1915. Since 1976, every U.S. president has officially designated the month of February as Black History Month.

Of the questions answered, one that stood out asked about the feasibility of connecting Black and African history months globally in order to unify diasporised people and share cross-cultural narratives.

During the live web chat, Morial mentioned the US constitution several times, and the ability to use the court system as an agent of change as somewhat unique in the fight for civil rights. This key difference between America and other countries made it challenging to offer formal advice or critique of social movements and protests in other countries, Morial said.

Morial concluded by describing the three greatest success of the Civil Rights Movement in the US:

First, the movement had clear demands. He described the approaches to various protests nationally, citing the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott as a specific action against city ordinances that had a clear desired outcome. Second, there was a moral rather than political message. The way that many civil rights leaders presented their “radical” ideas was not partisan. Rather, there was a push to help local and national politicians understand the inherent harm and evil of Jim Crow era policies. Third, the movement was focused on an end goal of results rather than on raising awareness. He noted that although both are of extreme importance, the latter is able to give social movements clear objectives and the long-term focus they need to accomplish meaningful goals.

Marc Morial ran for and won a seat in the Louisiana State Senate in Baton Rouge in 1991. Strongly liberal in his politics, Morial supported reproductive rights for women and opposed the death penalty. Morial served two terms as mayor of New Orleans from 1994-2002. His tenure marked the third time in the city's history that an African-American held the top post.

Morial moved on in 2003 to become president and CEO of the National Urban League.

Loren J Williams