Through Aug. 6 The National Urban League is holding its annual conference in Baltimore. This year’s theme is, “Save Our Cities: Education, Jobs + Justice.”


From left: Julie Lenzer, director of entrepreneurship at the Economic Development Administration, Congressman Chris Van Hollen, Nikita Haysbert, daughter of Raymond V. Haysbert Sr., Marc H. Morial,, National Urban League president and CEO and J. Howard Henderson president and CEO, Greater Baltimore Urban League cut the ribbon at the opening of the Raymond V. Haysbert Sr. Entrepreneurship Center in Baltimore. (Photo by Kamau High)

National Urban League President and CEO Marc H. Morial said in a statement, “’Save Our Cities: Education, Jobs + Justice,’ the theme of the 2016 National Urban League Conference campaign represents an unprecedented mobilization to influence public policy through grassroots political action.”

Leading up to the convention, The Greater Baltimore Urban League opened the Raymond V. Haysbert Sr. Entrepreneurship Center at its headquarters. Congressman Chris Van Hollen and Nikita Haysbert, Raymond’s daughter, were among those in attendance.

Howard Henderson, president and CEO, Greater Baltimore Urban League, said in a statement, “The Greater Baltimore Urban League is excited to serve as the local host for the 2016 annual conference. The 2016 conference will provide unparalleled opportunities for local Baltimore community members, business leaders and our youth to engage with leaders throughout the country.”

The four-day event at the Baltimore Convention Center  will feature panels, sessions and workshops presented by political, business, and entertainment leaders and influencers on topics including education, business, the economy, health, and justice.  The N.U.L. Experience Hall, which is free and open to the public, will include exhibits, entertainment, a Volunteer Zone, Health Zone and chances to win exciting prizes.

The Presidential Plenary, which will take place n Aug 4., is a long-standing tradition of the Conference, acknowledging the indispensable relationship between the nation’s highest office and its leading civil rights and social justice community, according to Morial.

“As we convene in Baltimore to deliberate solutions to the economic and social challenges our cities are facing, it’s vital that those contending for the highest office in the land be part of that conversation,” Morial said.

Presidential Candidates Hillary Rodham Clinton and Donald J. Trump, emerging from one of the most racially-charged primary campaigns in recent history, have been invited to address the Conference. Trump declined while Senator Tim Kaine(Va.), Clinton’s vice presidential running mate, will address the convention.

New to the convention experience this year is the family-focused Community Day on Aug. 6, which is expected to attract thousands of Baltimore-area residents for informative and entertaining exhibits and workshop sessions. Another new component to the convention this year will be Wells Fargo’s Neighborhood Renovation Program,  a small business renovation contest (full disclosure: this reporter was one of the judges on the panel). The Conference also will also present a Career & Networking Fair, a One-Day Entrepreneur Summit and a Young Professionals Summit.

Speakers at this year’s conference include U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King, Jr., Congressman Elijah Cummings (D) Md., BET Chair and CEO Debra Lee, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards, Senior White House Adviser Valerie Jarrett, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Former Baltimore Mayor and University of Baltimore President Kurt Schmoke, Baltimore Gas & Electric CEO Calvin G. Butler Jr. and Attorneys William H. “Billy” Murphy and Benjamin Crump, representing the families of Freddie Gray and Trayvon Martin.

“As a leading corporate citizen, we and our parent company, Exelon, focus on building communities where we serve our customers and where our employees live. BGE has been part of the Baltimore fabric for 200 years. As a conference co-chair and sponsor, I invite everyone to join us to build a brighter future together and develop solutions that move Baltimore forward,” Butler said in a statement.