Tony Mason

We look back to move forward. We look down to step up. We measure success based on the past, the present, and accordingly with the pressing obstacles seen and hidden within African American communities. Today’s headlines, at times, are not much different from the headlines of past decades fighting for freedom, equality and racial justice, issues of years ago. 

Yet under the headlines, there is opportunity born from the hope of equality of economics, employment, education, health, housing, criminal justice and civic participation that Urban Leaguers call “the movement.”

Even as much progress has been made in social and economic advancement, the interests of far too many groups and issues are left behind and perilously ignored. In 2019, we find ourselves at a tipping point as indifference to these goals has often been replaced by outright hostility and opposition.

Common sense efforts to achieve, promote and sustain political, economic and social equality, and to advance and enhance civil rights equality, have been and are being rebuffed from the Supreme Court of the United States, U.S. Congress, the president of the United States and the Indiana Legislature on issues as basic and fundamental as voting rights, redistricting, civil rights law enforcement and protection from bias motivated crimes. 

The Indianapolis Urban League’s (IUL) Advocacy Services concentrates on lobbying for and against legislation that would benefit or adversely impact the IUL’s clients and constituents. In 2019 the IUL joined coalitions to strengthen the community voice. 

United with the coalitions, we successfully defeated legislative attempts to lower the age at which a juvenile could be sentenced as an adult for attempted murder from the current age of 14 to age 12. We also were successful in helping to defeat predatory lending legislation, which would have opened up Indiana to lenders offering very high interest rates to low and fixed income borrowers. The legislation would have allowed lenders to charge above the 72% felony loan sharking rate now in existence by allowing a two-week payday loan with up to 391% interest.

The IUL also lobbied, unsuccessfully, with a coalition of more than 700 groups, for a clear and comprehensive law that would have made bias crimes an aggravating factor in sentencing for all vulnerable groups of hate crimes.

Getting to equality is still unattained. The support of our community is imperative if we are to march forward against political winds and social forces committed to moving us backward rather than forward. 

The IUL’s Annual Equal Opportunity Day focuses on getting our clients, constituents and the issues advocated for and supported by the IUL to and beyond the point of equality. So we gather, as a community, to celebrate our successes, thank our supporters and highlight the achievement of our clients in the midst of daunting obstacles to success and self-sufficiency. 

On Equal Opportunity Day, June 11 we will celebrate diversity plus inclusion with more than 900 youth, business leaders, rising and established community leaders, and IUL supporters at the Marriott Downtown Indianapolis for morning workshops and to uplift honorees at the awards luncheon.

Emmy Award-winning television anchor Andrea Morehead will emcee the awards luncheon and keynote speaker Jeff Henderson will inspire all with his emotional journey of redemption from the streets to prison to stove, sharing real-life strategies to help you achieve your dreams, no matter your stage of life. He is the creator of Food Network’s reality series, “The Chef Jeff Project,” host of “Family Style with Chef Jeff,” star of the nationally syndicated series, “Flip My Food with Chef Jeff,” and best-selling author of two books.  

This year’s workshops are: “Undoing Racism” presented by Child Advocates, “Civil Rights Complaint Filing Process Session” presented by The Indiana Civil Rights Commission, “Uncovering Implicit Bias and Understanding Cultural Differences” presented by Peace Learning Center, “Ending HIV Stigma” presented by Art Jackson and Tatyana Moaton, and The Exchange Millennials’ Forum: “Teach Hustle Inspire: How to Spark Engagement and Motivation in Urban and Culturally Diverse Schools” presented by Shawn Woodly, Ph.D. For Equal Opportunity Day workshops and table information, call 317-693-7603. 


Tony Mason is president and CEO of Indianapolis Urban League.


The Urban League movement, founded in 1910, remains the nation’s oldest and largest community-based movement devoted to empowering African-Americans to enter the economic and social mainstream. In the fall of 1965, more than 50 years ago, at a time of great racial division and oppression in our country, the Indianapolis Urban League (IUL) affiliate office opened on Meridian Street helping African-Americans and other minority citizens adapt to new and changing opportunities, responsibilities and roles as equal citizens in Indianapolis and Central Indiana.  In 2002, the IUL moved to Indiana Avenue opening the Sam H. Jones Center.

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