Marking 50 years of driving change in the Greater Philadelphia region through collaboration
The Urban Affairs Coalition honored eight honorees, and announced new initiatives for the new year during the annual Anniversary Breakfast on Nov. 22.
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The Urban Affairs Coalition celebrated 50 years on Friday, Nov. 22 during its annual Anniversary Breakfast at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.
The Urban Affairs Coalition (UAC) is a coalition of more than 80 partner organizations from the government, business, and neighborhood sectors.
Founded in 1969, as a result of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination and the civil unrest that was happening in the nation at the time, business and community leaders partnered together to create the then-Philadelphia Urban Coalition. Its purpose was to eliminate poverty, discrimination, and unrest while securing human and civil rights.
Through the 1980s, alliances grew with the founding of the Urban Affairs Partnership, which was an organization created to improve the quality of life in the Greater Philadelphia region.
In 1991, the two organizations merged to create the Greater Philadelphia Urban Affairs Coalition (GPUAC), before changing to its current name in 2010.
During the Anniversary Breakfast, Sharmain Matlock-Turner, president & CEO of the Urban Affairs Coalition, reflected on why she wanted to start this annual event.
“In 1999, when I began my journey at UAC, I started this event as a way to not only bring together influencers from around the city, but to connect and to raise a little money for UAC,” she said.
During the event, several speakers detailed the impact that the UAC has had across the region during its 50 years.
“A world without the coalition would be one with far less equity, inclusion, and humanity,” said James Mergiotti, board chairman of the Urban Affairs Coalition.
To honor the work that the UAC and its president have done throughout her 20 years with the coalition, Mergiotti announced a new $25,000 UAC competitive fellowship, named the Sharmain Matlock-Turner Legacy Project, that will look to provide opportunities for recent college graduates of color.
With each program and initiative the UAC creates, the main objective remains adhering to the community’s needs.
Senator Bob Casey said the current climate makes the coalition’s work even more significant.
“The work of this coalition has never been more important, has never been more significant… The work that this coalition does to give voice to the voiceless, to give voice to people who are struggling and striving and sacrificing for a better life for themselves, their families and their communities... is so central to our nation’s future,” he said.
Several leaders were honored during the event. Charisse R. Lillie, CEO of CRL Consulting; and Cecilia Moy Yep, founder & executive director at Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation (PCDC) were awarded the Living Legacy Award. Lucinda Hudson, executive director at Parkside Association of Philadelphia; and Mel Wells, President of One Day at a Time (ODAAT) were the Community Leadership honorees. The “Doer” Awards were given to The Honorable Vincent J. Hughes, Pennsylvania State Senator of the 7th District and Pat Eiding, President of Philadelphia Council AFL. The Founder Awards were given to Wells Fargo and PECO.
Philadelphia Foundation, which is celebrating its own milestone anniversary, also presented Sharmain Matlock-Turner with the inaugural Key to Community Leadership Award for embodying the vision of connecting, activating and accelerating change across the region, as well as for her fierce and fearless advocacy.
“Nothing is more important than building stronger communities… No one embodies the role of community leader quite like than Sharmain,” said Pedro Ramos, president & CEO of Philadelphia Foundation. “Her leadership moves vision to reality, and she’s just what the region needs right now.”
As she accepted the award, Matlock-Turner showed great excitement and appreciation for the honor.
“For me, it is always about trying to drive change and including everybody in it. And I believe in the glass half-full, I believe that things can change and that things can get better, and that if we do it together, it is lasting.”
While celebrating 50 years of the coalition and 20 years with it, Matlock-Turner was very clear in her closing message: “We are just getting started,” she said.