Indianapolis Urban League still mission-focused 5 decades later

Leader Joe Slash talks with RTV6

INDIANAPOLIS - This Black History Month, RTV6 is recognizing several organizations with deep roots in our community.

For the Indianapolis Urban League , the focus remains on kids, but the challenges today look different than they did in the '60s when the organization first started.

Joe Slash, president and CEO of the Indianapolis Urban League, lived out integration first hand as a school-aged child in West Virginia.

"Graduated in '61 -- I was the last class in an all-black high school," Slash said. "West Virginia integrated much easier than Indiana did. They were still arguing about integration when I came here."

The fight for equal opportunities in the classroom might look different in 2014 than it did 50 years ago, but the mission remains the same.

"My dad, who was an educator, always said, 'If you don't catch them and instill the principles of learning in them by the time they're waist high, we're going to lose them.'"

At TC Howe High School, the kids are gearing up for college, and the Urban League's "Project Ready" is helping them get there, by helping with scholarship forms and organizing college visits.

A decade ago, Slash says, the league proved this kind of support dramatically increases graduation rates.

"That education gives them the groundwork to become successful and obtain the economic and social equality that is focused on in the mission of the Urban League movement," Slash said.

It's the backbone of the operation, and Slash hopes successful learning and working young adults will one day make the other programs offered by the Urban League unnecessary.

Slash said he believes in a conversation, and that's why the Urban League continues to be part of a monthly forum to talk about race relations.

"As people of color have become more affluent and moved out of the county, some of those social- economic issues have followed us outside the county into the suburban communities," he said.

Slash is tackling race issues today -- just like his predecessor, Sam Jones, did years ago.

"As much as we can (we) share the history of Sam Jones and the work he did with the Indianapolis Urban League and the community at large, he's still very much a part of this organization," Slash said.


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