By Jeffrey L. Boney, NNPA Newswire Contributor
When it comes to voting, it is often said that “every vote counts” and that adage really rang true for Houston native Ray B. Shackelford, as he was recently elected as the 10th National President of the National Urban League Young Professionals (NULYP) by a narrow ONE vote margin at the National Urban League (NUL) Annual Convention in Indianapolis. Again, every vote counts!
NULYP is a National Urban League volunteer auxiliary that targets young professionals from the ages of 21 to 40, who seek to empower their communities and change lives through the Urban League Movement. NULYP’s mission is to support the Urban League Movement through volunteerism, philanthropy and membership development.
Since its inception, NULYP has worked to support their Affiliates and to develop a leadership pipeline for the NUL. Over the years, the NULYP’s role has expanded to a point where they have provided leadership in every space, while helping to bridge generational gaps and solve problems that have plagued the African American community for decades.
Shackelford was elected to serve as the new leader of NULYP, which was ironically unveiled at the NUL Annual Conference in Houston back in 1999.
Fast forward to 2019, and we find a Houstonian at the helm of the very organization that was launched in his home city of Houston exactly twenty years ago.
“This all still seems surreal,” said Shackelford. “I am humbled and thankful for this awesome responsibility.”
It is also fitting that Shackelford will be at the helm of leading the organization, as the NUL Annual Conference will be returning to his hometown of Houston in 2020.
Shackelford was born and raised in Houston’s Third Ward, where he spent his entire childhood attending Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church. After graduating from Lamar High School, he left Houston to attend Morehouse College, where he graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Administration, concentrating in Finance.
Upon returning to Houston, Shackelford became a member of the Houston Area Urban League for Young Professionals (HAULYP) and was eventually elected to serve as its President.
As President, he steered HAULYP to an intense focus on service programming and connecting with the community. His impact in that role led to him being named as the National President of the Year. Shackelford went on to serve as Southern Region Vice President of NULYP before recently being elected to serve as the 10th National President.
Recognized as a leader in his community, Shackelford was nominated by the Mayor of Houston and confirmed by the Houston City Council to serve on the city’s Independent Police Oversight Board (IPOB), making him one of the youngest members to serve on that board in the city’s history.
In this role, Shackelford reviews investigations conducted by the Houston Police Department’s Internal Affairs Division when officers use force on civilians or discharge their firearms.
After reviewing those cases, Shackelford and his peers make recommendations to the Mayor, Chief of Police, and the Public Safety representative for City Council.
Not only is Shackelford an Eagle Scout, he is also a proud member of the Rho Beta Beta Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., as well as a graduate of the Houston Black Leadership Institute Class II, National Urban League Emerging Leaders Class VII, National Urban League Advocacy Certificate Program, Acceler8 Cohort 3, United Way Project Blueprint Class XXXV, and Leadership Houston Class XXXVII.
He is also the proud father of a nine-year old daughter, Jordan. While maintaining significant commitment to his community, Shackelford has also excelled in his professional life. He holds a Master of Business Administration from the University of Houston and previously worked for the Houston Area Urban League in its Housing Programs department and as a certified housing counselor for the Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program.
In both roles, Shackelford worked to solve housing issues facing disadvantaged communities. He is currently working on a major Census 2020 project to ensure an accurate count for African Americans in the upcoming year.
Shackelford understands that he must gain the trust and respect of all members, especially those who did not vote for him, but he is overly optimistic that the organization can thrive with collective unity and focus on advancing the movement.
“Just like I didn’t get here on my own, moving forward the same will be true,” said Shackelford. “In the coming months my team and I look forward to meeting with the members across the country and hearing their ideas of how we can work together to advance the movement. It will take all of us to create the impact that we want to see, and our communities desperately need.”
Shackelford ran on a presidential platform that focused on the following:
- Connecting with the community on a more grassroots level and bringing together corporations, elected officials, entrepreneurs, unions, the faith community and all other concerned parties for the benefit of the people they serve.
- Creating a “family-feel” environment that with an emphasis on support and accountability as the organization moves toward the common goal of positive impact in our communities, in that wherever a YP member travels to a place where they have a presence in that city they should be able to connect with other YPs.
- Ensuring that the NULYP Executive Leadership Team (ELT) sets the tone and the example for chapters across the country, by modeling the same expectations they have of the leaders and chapters they support.
- Being open to receive feedback and listening intently to collect and consider all recommendations.
- Setting clear expectations for how they will operate internally and being transparent by sharing that information with the overall body.
- Responding to communications and requests within 48 hours.
- Strongly encouraging all ELT members to remain active in the movement by participating in local chapter events and supporting NULYP Programming.
- Working with each chapter on how to best align efforts with Affiliate programming
- Having a year-round fundraising focus, targeting national corporate partners that will provide funding to local chapters.
- Instituting a National Giving Tuesday Effort
- YP Next – Urban League College Program or Auxiliary, which will give the organization an opportunity to reestablish their presence on college campuses across the country.
- The Whitney Initiative – Part One: Work with corporate partners to encourage existing Black employee resource groups (BERG) to join NULYP and the development of BERG’s where applicable. Part Two: Have conversations with corporations about diversity within their recruitment efforts. Part Three: Encourage Tech and high skill companies to invest in low-income neighborhoods to help close the skill gap.
- National Black Leadership Forum – Organize an annual meeting to discuss issues facing our community in conjunction with other national organizations to identify areas for collaboration and action plans.
- Develop a solid Strategic Plan to continually assess their trajectory and adjust course where needed for the betterment of NULYP and the communities they serve.
Shackelford knows it will take a lot of hard work to accomplish those goals, but he believes the current climate in this country as it relates to African Americans won’t allow him to be deterred from his mission to better the organization.
“Today we live in a nation where Black lives have little to no value, mass shootings have become the norm, children are being stripped from their families, women cannot receive equal pay, and a host of other issues. So, what does that mean for you and I?” asks Shackelford. “We must achieve record voter turnout in both presidential and local elections. We must ensure that every soul is counted in the census. We must become the best version of ourselves and we must come together as a family. We are necessary. We are needed and we must all step up to lead now. The time is now, and this is too important of a time to have a seat on the sidelines.”
Jeffrey Boney is a political analyst and frequent contributor for the NNPA Newswire and BlackPressUSA.com and the associate editor for the Houston Forward Times newspaper. Jeffrey is an award-winning journalist, dynamic, international speaker, experienced entrepreneur and business development strategist. Follow Jeffrey on Twitter @realtalkjunkies.