NY Urban League President Discusses How to Conquer Violence In Urban Communities

Arva Rice, President and CEO of New York Urban League, discusses the tragic shooting in Chicago that occurred hours after Pres. Obama left Chicago to discuss violence.
Arva Rice

by Maria Lloyd

Today I had the honor and pleasure of speaking with Arva Rice, the President and CEO of the New York Urban League. Rice, a graduate of Northwestern University, is no stranger to the urban community. Aside from living right outside of Chicago while attending Northwestern, she has dedicated close to twenty years of her life in the non-profit sector.

Rice discussed the fatal shooting that occurred just hours after President Obama addressed a packed auditorium in Chicago to discuss violence. The victim’s sister had attended President Obama’s address to Chicago residents just moments before the teenaged girl was tragically shot and killed. Mainstream media seems to narrowly focus on discussing the violence, but seldom offer any programs/initiatives that provide solutions to ending it.

Over the past few years, Rice has pushed the NY Urban League to work alongside community leaders and other organizations to address the issue of gun violence in the city. Our conversation is transcribed below:

Maria: Who are you and what do you do? 

Arva: Well you did a very good job of letting folks know who I am already, but I am Arva Rice, President and CEO of the New York Urban League. The New York Urban League is a 93-year-old Civil Rights organization that has been dedicated to providing education and employment to African-American New Yorkers for 93 years.

Maria: What are your thoughts about this tragedy?

Arva: I think that it really underscores how comprehensive that the issue is and how the fact that it’s not just about one savior, but it really is about the community coming together. As you mentioned, this woman’s sister was attending that event and then she comes back home and her sister has been shot in this incident. So I think that it is very much about gun control and gun violence.

…The African American community has had all kinds of struggles with our mayor but the one place and space that we stand very firmly behind him and think that he’s had a terrific leadership role is in the work that he has done organizing mayors against guns. But I think that it’s not only about taking guns out of the hands of young people, but it’s about what are you putting in their hands. The fact is that young people don’t have as many summer youth employment opportunities. There aren’t as many gyms that are open doing midnight basketball. There’s not as many opportunities for leadership. And because of that that is why we’ve had such an escalation of violence. Violence isn’t operating in a vacuum. It’s in fact a more comprehensive issue and problem and so we really need to support mentorship. We need to promote opportunities for leadership, as well as apprenticeships within our communities if we’re really going to address this issue.

Maria: What has the NY Urban League done to tackle this issue?

Arva: Sure. There’s some things that we’ve done that have been specifically focused on the issue and then there’s go to the larger issue, as I mentioned, comprehensive support for young people. We organized a conference and forum that we had looking at the issue and idea of violence here in the community — brought a number of different individuals including our police commissioner, our district attorney, as well as the head of our school’s department together to talk about this issue. The conference was organized, we did a whole one day session and out of it came a Harlem Youth Council that we created. And it was made up of the members of not only our organization, but also some of the other non-profit organizations. And the young people came together and talked about the issue of violence andalso… in collaboration and conjunction with the Schomburg Center.

That was a specific initiative that we did working with young people. And more comprehensively, we’re about education, so we provide young people with the tools, and support, and the money to get to college and through college. Because like I said, it’s more than just guns. It’s a grouping of people who feel like they don’t have the inspiration and support in order to reach their full potential, so they don’t value life the way they should and could. And so we’re providing them with the comprehensive support that they need to be successful.  

Maria: How can we keep in contact with you and get involved with the NY Urban League?

Arva: We have a Twitter. People can follow me personally @ArvaRice. We have a Twitter account which is @NYUrbanLeague. We also are on Facebook. We encourage people to become a member of New York Urban League, which they can do at www.nyul.org. And we also have a very vibrant young professionals group which is made up of individuals between the ages of 22-40 who are looking to build their professional and career networks and also give back to their communities. So, the young professionals is a terrific group to be involved in.

Closing remarks from Arva: Like I said, we are very excited about the work that we’re doing with the Urban League and we encourage folks to access us either on Facebook, Twitter, or give us a call.

Maria Lloyd (@WritingsByMaria) is the Business Manager for the Your Black World Network and Dr. Boyce Watkins. She is a graduate of Clark Atlanta University and an advocate of dismantling the prison industrial complex, increasing entrepreneurship, reforming education, and eradicating poverty. 



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  1. During the late 80’s – 90’s when crack cocaine had plaugued it’s way thru just about every AA community., It was the soup lines, the shelters, the education & employment groups that restored some people back a stable- like lifestyle.. That’s after most people hit rockbottom is when people considered other options… And that’s talking young adults 20’s & 30’s., Reckless street culture like a cancer has to be surgically removed again, LYRICALLY, VISUALLY & SOCIALLY..




  2. Some of the comments are really disappointing. The notion that civil rights organizations are no longer needed is as puzzling to me as people that stated that racism ended with the election of President Obama. So many of our communities are filled with people in need of the support, programming, and resources that orgs like the New York Urban League provide for the community almost daily. Annual HBCU fair serving thousands of students, the Technology Center offering FREE education courses to community residents as well as access to computers and the internet, over $20 million dollars in scholarships, placing students with mentors, parent and student education on financial aid, and the list goes on and on. No organization is perfect and everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I’m proud to have had the chance to volunteer with the New York Urban League and their young professionals affiliate. I have been able to lend my time, energy and talents to supporting some amazing students who have received scholarships that have helped them thrive in college and also to raise money that goes DIRECTLY to students. I also know several people that received scholarships and have returned to volunteer because they believe in the work that the league does.

    The NYUL office is in the heart of the community and committed to advocacy for the underrepresented and underserved. The league has a record of service that speaks for itself, and Ms. Rice has built a career based on a passion for serving people that make her ideal to lead the organization.

  3. The New York Urban League focuses on employment and education. I personally have spent many Saturdays volunteering my time providing adult education for those who need to improve their Microsoft Office skills and each one of those people were very grateful for the knowledge, patience and time spent. I’ve witnesses many students who show promise and a commitment to community service receive scholarships. A true testament is a young professionals who years ago received a scholarship and last year brought young people in his life to a college fair hosted by NYUL. One of those young people got accepted to college on the spot. The New York Urban League and other direct service organizations are both necessary and relevant to advocate for parity. So until all underrepresented populations have the same opportunities as the 2 young ladies in the White House, these organizations are necessary. As far as I know there are people that are unemployed and underemployed as well as not educated enough to compete in today’s economy. The NYUL helps to address those issues.

  4. I have to disagree with the comments prior. I have dedicated much of my life to the nonprofit sector. Not all organizations work how one would hope, but many are on the ground trying to fill in the gaps in ways that the government cannot. The NYUL (and therefore National Urban League) is an organization with which my family owes a lot. My uncle started his career courtesy of the League. My father was a active volunteer with the League my entire childhood which has led me to join the ranks now that I’m an adult. We are on the ground providing educational opportunities for the community in various capacities, whether its in the classroom, the HBCU Fair, the mentorship program or just in the school supplies given to those in need. The League helps build skills and provide training for individuals; they advocate on behalf of the community. Their finger is very much on the pulse of the community and in a climate where nonprofits are under attack, they do this out of passion and respect for those they/we serve. The thanks we get from families when their kids receive mentors, the thank you’s we get when we provide health services, the thank you’s we get every time we are in the community is why we exist. One organization can not fix all the problems and with the economic/political climate being what it is everyone’s hands are often tied (from Obama down) but they are seriously trying to and are succeeding in having an impact in the communities they serve. I look forward to continuing my support of this movement.

  5. The Urban league is a joke!-Come from behind closed doors where your’re only concerned about watching each other’s backs and ,salaries develop a CLEAR CUT plan to help bring back TRUST , UNITY and good ENERGY to our lost neighborhoods if your really care. PEACE!!!!

  6. The Urban league is a joke!-Come from behind closed doors where your’re only concerned about watching each other’s backs and ,salaries develop a CLEAR CUT plan to help bring back TRUST , UNITY and good ENERGY to our lost neighborhoods if your really care. PEACW!!!

  7. These non profits are a joke!! Have you ever seen some of their salaries? That’s where the money goes. All they will do is meet, have a conference or two, have one or two programs, job done. Oh yeah and the programs will be so poorly run, it might as well be non existent