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The Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh Supports Pittsburgh’s Black Community



Members of the Black Male and Black Female Development Leadership Institute (BMDLI and BFDLI) students met with Mayor Gainey-Gainey and BMDLI-BFDLI.
Members of the Black Male and Black Female Development Leadership Institute (BMDLI and BFDLI) students met with Mayor Gainey-Gainey and BMDLI-BFDLI.

The Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh is one of 92 affiliates of the National Urban League, a civil rights and urban advocacy organization founded in 1910 originally to help Black people transition from a post-slavery, agrarian life to a modern, industrial life in cities.


Carlos T. Carter, MBA
Carlos T. Carter, MBA

The Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh was established in 1918, and its mission is to enable African Americans and other marginalized communities to secure economic self-reliance, parity and power, and civil rights. The nonprofit helps over 20,000 local people annually. We spoke with Carlos T. Carter, MBA, President & CEO of the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh about the work that they are accomplishing in our area.


North Hills Monthly (NHM): Why is ‘self-reliance’ and ‘empowerment’ a key principle as it relates to your mission?


Carlos Carter (Carter): Self-reliance and empowerment are important because people need to be in a position to thrive, to create a life that is meaningful and have agency for their lives. We want people to make decisions for themselves, so that is what I see as empowerment: having agency, being able to take the reins and achieve dreams.


NHM: The Urban League helps provide resources in various areas of life, from housing to economics to leadership and more so that people can indeed thrive. What are some ways that your organization provides resources to help with housing?


Carter: With our rental assistance program, we are helping single moms and dads and others, if they hit a point where they need additional assistance to secure or maintain housing. We also help with foreclosure prevention. More proactively, we work with partners like Howard Hanna to hold workshops to help people be prepared for home ownership. We take people on housing tours and provide down payment assistance. We are not just helping people in emergencies but are actively preparing them for homeownership and empowering them to do that.



Volunteers prepare for the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh’s Annual Thanksgiving distribution.
Volunteers prepare for the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh’s Annual Thanksgiving distribution.

NHM: What are some programs under the heading of economic reliance?


Carter: We help remove barriers. Some people don’t have bootstraps to pull up; everyone needs help being able to level the playing field so they can succeed. With the Opportunity Broker Program, the goal is to move the underemployed and unemployed to economic self-sufficiency by meeting people where they are and connecting them with resources. For example, we had a young man working two jobs with two young kids, so we helped connect them to food and transportation while he went to a trade institution, so now he has the wages to support his family.


NHM: What does the Urban League do for youth and teens?


Carter: We have both a Black Male Leadership Development Institute and a Black Female Leadership Development Institute. They empower our young people to be changemakers in the community, to give them a sense of purpose and self-esteem. For example, we work with Slippery Rock, and they give the kids an immersive experience in the summer for a week. We connect them to powerful leaders, to STEM and STEAM, to mental health and arts. They have a community service project where they have to help solve a need. They’re building on strengths to be great leaders.


NHM: In what ways do you assist with food insecurity?


Carter: We have four emergency food pantries, including one Downtown and other locations. We did something huge before Thanksgiving: we fed 900 families. We bused people in from Beaver County and a few other counties. Families came in and received vegetables, dry goods and a $15 gift card from Giant Eagle. UPMC was there to provide resources, such as health screenings, as well as glasses and dental care from other providers. It was very exciting and empowering to deal with the holistic person.


NHM: What are the Family Support Centers?


Carter: They are there to empower and support the whole family, whether they need diapers, food, job opportunities, clothes, or getting to doctor appointments. For example, we helped a single mom experiencing domestic violence with rental assistance. We connect them to what they need, in or outside the Urban League. We navigate life with people and walk alongside them so they can realize their full potential.



Winford Craig leads a group of students from the Urban Tech Jobs program to visit All Lines Technology, where students were asked to submit their resumes after completing their course.
Winford Craig leads a group of students from the Urban Tech Jobs program to visit All Lines Technology, where students were asked to submit their resumes after completing their course.

NHM: Can you tell us more about the annual Ronald H. Brown Leadership Awards Gala that will be held on February 16?


Carter: It is our biggest fundraising event; we celebrate and highlight the mission of the Urban League and honor outstanding local leaders. The awards gala is named after Ronald H. Brown who, in 1992, was chosen by President Bill Clinton to be his Secretary of Commerce. He was the first African American to hold that title. Brown made it his mission to generate jobs and provide opportunities for ordinary Americans. This year’s honorees are Derrick Tillman, Leah Lizarondo, Carmen Anderson, and Alexandra Jones.


NHM: How do you measure the success of the organization?


Carter: For us, it’s seeing people’s needs met, seeing people in life sustaining jobs, seeing people owning homes and maintaining home ownership, seeing young people succeed and go to college or post-secondary education or creating policy change and creating more equity, seeing Black people on parity with white people­­—disparities are vast, and we are working to close the gap. Really, we want to see Black people thrive in the region.


NHM: What are your goals for the Urban League as it moves into the next year, and even beyond?


Carter: I really want us to continue to innovate how we serve. We’re on the cutting edge of services and technology where we can create greater impacts. We want to be more focused. More Black people are moving into economic self-sufficiency; at the end of the day, we want to see Black folks thrive in our region. To do that, we have to build the infrastructure and bring on the right staff, but I think we need to have a strong team and a strategic focus on getting resources. Building up an individual donor base is critical for us. The need is too great, as is the disparity for people of color in our region. There is a lot of work to do. We want to be positioned to help more people in a more meaningful way so they can have jobs and so they don’t have to worry about making ends meet.


NHM: What is the main takeaway you’d like readers to understand about the Urban League after reading this article?


Carter: The Urban League fights for you. It’s here to help you navigate life so you can realize your full potential. We’re going to support you, fight for you, and help you thrive. We’re helping to meet people where they are and walk alongside them so they can thrive. Our job isn’t necessarily to be the light but to remove the shade so other people’s light can shine brightly.


Visit https://ulpgh.org for more information.

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