- The Washington Times - Monday, July 29, 2002

LOS ANGELES The National Urban League opened its 92nd annual convention yesterday in the wake of its new report that cites considerable gains among blacks in areas ranging from employment to politics.
"The State of Black America" notes that in almost every vital indicator, blacks have made unsurpassed progress. The annual report is a collection of statements and reports in several fields, including labor, finance and politics.
Most notably cited by this year's 268-page report are the gains made in education. Seventy-nine percent of all blacks age 25 or older have completed four years of high school, compared with 34 percent in 1970.
Additionally, 50.5 percent of all blacks have at least some college education as of 2001, as opposed to 18.2 percent in 1971.
"Black people have made enormous strides since the 1960s, when more than two-thirds of blacks were poor or working class. Now, two-thirds are working class, middle class and even upper class," wrote Lee Daniels, director of publications for the Urban League and editor of the report.
In his prepared opening remarks last night, an upbeat Urban League President Hugh Price said "America sets the pace for the rest of the world" when it comes to "inclusion and equality for minorities."
"Think of it, I read not long ago that Great Britain just designated its first black Cabinet member in history," he said.
"So, the glass that started out empty is steadily filling up."
The Urban League president also commended President Bush for his handling of the war on terror, hailing Mr. Bush's "vigorous leadership."
The five-day conference this week will include speeches and appearances by several black leaders, including Rep. Maxine Waters, California Democrat, BET's Tavis Smiley, former NBA star Earvin "Magic" Johnson, former Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders, and Vernon L. Jordan Jr., a key adviser to President Clinton.
The Urban League is returning to this city after a 20-year absence. In 1996, it canceled its last scheduled conference in Los Angeles to protest then-Gov. Pete Wilson's support for Proposition 209, which sought to limit affirmative action.
But in contrast to other black advocacy groups, the Urban League usually touts the vast gains blacks have made socially and economically in the past several decades.
The Urban League report cites the unemployment rate among blacks as having fallen from 9.8 percent in 1993 to 5.4 percent in 2000, while during the 1990s, the poverty rate among blacks fell to 26 percent, the lowest level ever recorded.
The report hails President Bush's appointments of Colin L. Powell and Condoleeza Rice as his two leading foreign-policy advisers as one of the 10 most significant accomplishments in the 20th century.
It also notes that there were more than 9,000 black elected officials in 2000 more than at any time in the nation's history. In comparison, there were about half that many Hispanic elected officials, although Hispanics now outnumber blacks in the United States.
Also included is an essay on politics by Harvard professor Martin Kilson, who plays down talk about splits between new and old mainstream black leaders.
In it, he calls Democrat Cory Booker, a younger Yale graduate who unsuccessfully challenged incumbent Mayor Sharpe James this year in Newark, N.J., a "stealth black candidate" and accuses him of having conservative ties.

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