Introducing Judy Reese Morse: President and CEO of The Urban League of Louisiana
For eight decades The National Urban League have been on the frontlines fighting the righteous fight for justice and equality for African-Americans. Its local affiliate the Urban League of Louisiana, has had a long and storied history of great leadership. And now a new name can now be added to this list as they’ve recently named Judy Reese Morse, its President and CEO.
Coming from a family dedicated to service, she is the daughter of Freedom Rider and Local Civil Rights Icon Claude Reese. She comes to the Urban League with a career of more than two decades of service to others. Before joining the Urban League of Louisiana, Morse served for eight years in city government in three roles: Deputy Mayor/Chief of Staff, Deputy Mayor/Citywide Initiatives and Deputy Mayor/Chief Administrative Officer from 2010 to 2018. Prior to joining city government, Morse worked at the state level as Chief of Staff in the Office of the Lieutenant Governor from 2004 to 2010. She’s also spent over a decade working in Washington DC before returning to Louisiana.
“It is an honor to serve as President and CEO of the Urban League of Louisiana. I have had a lot of great professional experiences in my career, but this is very special,” says Morse of her new post. “I am grateful to be chosen and excited to be working with our teams in New Orleans and in Baton Rouge. I look forward to working with our many partners, but most importantly the people who benefit from the services and programs of the Urban League in Louisiana.”
Centers of Excellence
In her role as President and CEO, Morse leads and oversees the work of three Centers of Excellence focused on the core mission of the Urban League of Louisiana: equity, social justice and advocacy, economic and workforce development and education and youth development. “The work this organization does is very impactful, and I plan to build on that.”
Continuing she says speaking of their dedication to uplifting the community, “We work with partners in workforce development to create opportunities that are sustainable, so our residents can take care of their families.”
Speaking of their upcoming job fair Morse says, “We are having an event at the Hilton Riverside on Sept. 26, 2018 from 10AM to 4PM where individuals can come out and meet with prospective employers. But this is only one of many events we have throughout the year. We are making a long-term investment in attempting to empower our people.”
Civil Rights Legacy and the Fight for Equity and Equality
Judy Reese Morse grew with a freedom fighter inside her home and has carried on this legacy, not with sit-ins but advocating for access to opportunities that foster equity and equality.
“Claude Reese is my father and I love him dearly beyond whatever I can say in words,” she states with pride and admiration. “Both as a daughter and an individual for the sacrifices he made for African-Americans in this city and in this state. He often said, ‘Until all of us are saved, none of us are saved.’ He would say it all the time and it stuck with me and it forces you to think about others.”
Continuing speaking of her father and his influence on her she says, “My father, Claude Reese was a Civil Rights Freedom Rider and Member of the New Orleans Branch of Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). He did several freedom rides and sit-ins at lunch counters in the fight for desegregation. Growing up with my father I definitely understand the struggle for Civil Rights and how important it was and more importantly how important it still is today.”
Speaking about today’s Civil Rights Movement she says, “Today Civil Rights is about equity. I learned a lot about this when I worked in city government, the work I have done with national organizations that worked around issues of equity.”
Talking about a solution-based approach, Morse says, “Much of this speaks to the issues of fairness and justice. With the solutions lying in how the government, business and not-for-profit sector can work together taking a look at the disparities that exist and address them by working towards equity that will lead to equality. This would mean everyone can start out in the same place, and from there we can have an opportunity to build the future where more of our people can prosper.”
Partnerships and Empowerment
The National Urban League and its affiliate, the Urban League of Louisiana is an organization that has its fingers on the pulse of the issues that affect the African-American community and has recently expanded its reach to others in need. This is work that cannot be done without its many partners and people in the community who join the organization.
A fact not lost on Judy Reese Morse when asked how can people help the Urban League of Louisiana in its mission, “We are a membership organization, having people join is always a good strong start. There are 3 ways people can help in the mission. For a nominal amount they can join the Young Professionals, they can join the Guild if they are over 40, or if they had some experience and want to put some of that to use to advocate for the various issues we work on.”
Noting that anyone can become a member and that in December they will hold a public meeting and are inviting people from the community to hear what the Urban League of Louisiana are working on for 2019.
She says that working with partners in the community is also a way to learn how the organization can fine tune its focus on issues that impact the community. “We take the opportunity talking with our members to listen and learn. This creates channels so that we are engaging and amplifying their voice and contribute to the narrative.”
Continuing she says speaking optimistically about the future of the city and state, “We have the potential to make our city and state a greater place with more opportunities. We have an amazing culture. We need to build a city and state where people are coming from other places and want to live here, or if they are from here want to stay, or if they leave they want to return. I see something very exciting and dynamic, a time where everybody in the state know prosperity can be an option for everyone. And this goes beyond your race or geography that you have a chance to be prosperous. I think the future is very exciting.”
Passing the Torch of Leadership: The Sky is the Limit for the Urban League of Louisiana and its Mission of Creating Equity and Fighting for Justice
Judy Reese Morse is inheriting an Urban League of Louisiana that’s been built up and reaching new height under its prior President and CEO Erika McConduit. In addition, Judy Reese Morse has been in constant contact with Nation Urban League President, Marc Morial, who is also the former Mayor of New Orleans. These amicable relationships are something that will help the Urban League of Louisiana reach new plateaus in its mission according to its new President.
“Urban League has benefitted from great leadership from Erika for 5 years,” giving praise to the work of McConduit. Continuing she says, “I tell you what she’s done everyone should be very proud of. She left the organization financially sound. She also left it with a stronger brand and partners with a focus on education and that was needed after Hurricane Katrina. She created many new initiatives and brought in new corporate sponsors. She’s left the organization of very solid footing.”
Speaking of NUL President Marc Morial she says, “We also benefit from having the National President that understands the city because this is not only his home, but he was the mayor for 8 years. I have had many conversations with him and he has pledged his full support of my leadership and things I want to bring to the Urban League of Louisiana. I feel we are in a very special place at a very special time and our organization and it has a lot to build on and with all the talented people we have as well as our Board of Directors. With all these pieces in place I believe the sky is the limit for what we can do.”