Derby season is Louisville’s time to shine, and Louisville Urban League (LUL) is ready to celebrate while mindful of all the work remaining. The 2023 “Love Renaissance” Louisville Urban League Derby Gala is an official Kentucky Derby Festival event that will take place at the Norton Healthcare Sports & Learning Center on Wednesday, May 3. The Derby Gala is the League’s premier annual fundraiser “supporting our critical and essential good work,” says LUL Interim President & CEO Lyndon Pryor.

According to Pryor, “Derby is the quintessential time for our city. So much life is breathed into the city.” The LUL Derby Gala is “a full concert experience” featuring R&B acts Joe, Dru Hill, and Stokley. Superior Maintenance Company is the event’s multi-year presenting sponsor.    

After serving as LUL’s Chief Engagement Officer, Lyndon Pryor recently became Interim President and CEO on March 20, 2023. “Transitions are a challenge for every organization. You need people in the building ready to face challenges head-on. Thankfully we have phenomenal, brilliant, educated individuals willing to do the work to support and advocate for Black people and marginalized populations to thrive. That work has not stopped; it has not paused. My intentions are that we live up to our values and maximize their potential to create change.”

Pryor highlights some of LUL’s current initiatives and regular programming supporting the pillars of A Path Forward for Louisville:

  • JOBS - “We are building out and strengthening an atmosphere to support Black Business. The main obstacles to entrepreneurship are capital, technological assistance, and support. Our Center for Entrepreneurship works with organizations such as AMPED Russell Technology Business Incubator to identify partners willing to offer services.” LUL’s Center for Workforce Development (CWD) assists with employment searches, career changes, and job training. CWD partners with programs such as the KentuckianaWorks Kentuckiana Builds program to equip workers with trade skills and employer contacts. LUL has more new partnerships on the horizon. “Our doors are open every day for folks in need of a job.”
  • JUSTICE - “Whether it be in Frankfort, in Washington, or with Metro Council, our policy team is actively working on systemic change.” Advocacy and initiatives include stopping police violence, the Reily Reentry Project Expungement Services, and get-out-the-vote efforts.
  • EDUCATION - “There is a significant opportunity gap in public education. We provide intensive tutoring services to JCPS (Jefferson County Public Schools) because we recognize that not every child can get caught up during the course of the school day.” LUL funds the 1500 spots available free of charge to JCPS students.
  • HEALTH - LUL’s wellness initiatives find resources and solutions to address disparities in chronic health conditions, nutrition, mental health, addiction, and additional social factors. 
  • HOUSING - “We are working with non-profit and for-profit housing developers to create thousands of affordable homes and units for all of Louisville, not only in the West End but everywhere in the city. We should not be relegating people to one place.” In addition, LUL offers certified financial education programs to support homeowners and renters.

Another major asset the League has brought to the community is the Norton Healthcare Sports & Learning Center on the LUL Sports and Learning Campus. “It has been an incredible success,” Pryor says. “We transformed 24 acres of contaminated land with the belief and understanding that this would be an economic driver for businesses already built in the West End and those still on the way. We are incredibly proud and excited to have hosted three USA Track & Field Championships, the SEC Track & Field Championship, a national cheerleading championship, and entertainment wrestling.” The facilities also host dozens of community programs, such as the Kentucky Derby Festival’s Block Party, board meetings, and retreats.

Pryor says LUL is “committed to making the entire community better.” The quote “Do good work for Black people.” hangs in his office and often appears behind him on video calls. “I take a point of privilege to explain the work we do. It’s not a sentiment of exclusion. We work on behalf of those most marginalized and furthest from the best possible outcomes because doing good work does great work for the entire city of Louisville. We cannot be great if any community is locked out or left behind.”

Pryor encourages all Louisvillians to join the movement and become a member of the Louisville Urban League. Sign up to volunteer with LUL to canvass neighborhoods, knock on doors, or give rides to turn out the vote in the upcoming election. He also encourages everyone to look at A Path Forward for Louisville (apathforward4lou.org) and figure out where you fit in and how you can help. In the aftermath of the shootings of Breonna Taylor and David McAtee in 2020, Pryor helped lead the initiative, endorsed by then-President & CEO of LUL Sadiqa Reynolds and dozens of other Black leaders in Louisville to map out solutions for systemic change in addressing racial disparities.

With the rush of Derby at hand, Pryor sees how easy it is to become distracted from the serious issues that persist. “We have a tendency to forget or ignore what is actually happening in the city. The scathing DOJ report on the LMPD is still very much a reality, with much that still needs to be done. LUL is an outspoken advocate for change in those areas. We must do right by our citizens. We’re going to have fun, but we can’t allow time or festivities to let us forget those who deserve to be protected and served and housed at affordable rates.”

Visit lul.org for more information. Follow @LouisvilleUrbanLeague on Facebook, @Louisville_ul on Instagram, and @LouisvilleUL on Twitter.

Posted on 2023-04-01 by Dawn Anderson