New president lays out plan for the future

New president lays out plan for the future
January 14
00:00 2016
Photo By Tevin Stinson
James Perry

By Tevin Stinson

The Chronicle

When James Perry relocated to the city last year from New Orleans, he decided he wanted to get involved with an organization that is making the lives of the less fortunate better.

“I knew I wanted to work with an organization that had a track record of improving the lives of those in the community who are suffering from poverty and other issues.” said Perry. “After doing my research I decided the Winston-Salem Urban League was the best place for me.

Last month following, a nationwide search, Perry was named president and chief executive of the organization that has been an advocate for social economic progress for over 50 years.

“The Urban League is organized with a foundation that makes it particularly important,” he said. “I like to think of it as the professional civil rights organization.”

Unlike the Urban League, which maintains a paid staff, most civil rights organizations do their work on a volunteer basis. Perry mentioned, “Although those organizations get incredible things done, they can only be as effective as the free time of their members allow.

“Equity and achievement are not things you can obtain in your spare time,” he continued. “That’s the thing that makes the Urban League unique. We actually pay people to make sure there is equity and the community is empowered.”

Before relocating to Winston-Salem last year, Perry served as chief executive of the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center for 10 years. During his tenure, he managed to lead the center through the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

During a recent sit-down with The Chronicle, Perry said the position he held in New Orleans fully prepared him for some of the issues he may face as president of the Urban League.

According to Perry, his new position requires a true leader who can bring people together, as well as someone who can make sure financial books are in order. Both characteristics Perry displayed during his tenure in Louisiana.

Although he hasn’t held the position for a full month, Perry already has a number of plans in place that he believes will allow the organization to reach more citizens in the area.

Perry mentioned although a number of seniors know about the services provided by the organization, many citizens between the ages of 20 and 40 need to be introduced to the many programs offered by the Urban League.

“One goal I have is to make sure the younger generations understand that the Urban League can deliver on their behalf,” Perry said.

While the nonprofit currently has a program designed to help high school students find summer jobs, in the coming months they will also offer a similar program for young adults looking for employment or who are looking to start their own businesses.

The newly appointed president has a plan to make up for less funding in the coming months as well.

Last month the Forsyth County United Way announced it will begin targeting its funding toward programs designed to tackle specific issues of health, education, financial stability and reducing poverty.

As a result, the Urban League is one of many local organizations that will receive less money from the non-profit, moving from about $430,000 to $100,000 for the 2016-17 period, for workforce development.  Perry said under his watch, the Urban League will engage in new activities designed to raise funds and allow the organization to be more self-sufficient.

“This is the direction the Urban League needs to go in no matter what happens with our funding,” he said. “nonprofit has to learn to be somewhat self-sufficient and not rely solely on funding from others.”

Perry said his wife, MSNBC host and Wake Forest University Professor Melissa Harris-Perry, fully backed his decision to step into his current role at the Urban League. He mentioned she allowed him space to pursue what makes him happy.

“My wife has been extremely supportive,” he said. “She knew it would take some time for me to get to know the community and figure out what I would enjoy.”

The couple has two daughters, ages 1 and 14.

When asked how he wants to be remembered by the people when his tenure as president is over, Perry said it isn’t about his own legacy, but the legacy of the organization.

“There are a lot of things I want to happen during my tenure,” he stated. “But, my main goal is to make this chapter of the Urban League the best in the nation.”


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