Greater New Orleans


Community Lead

Judy Morse

President and CEO at Urban League of Louisiana

Get Involved

Have questions about how you can help? Click below to contact us.

Lead Community Organization

Urban League of Louisiana

Since 1938, the Urban League has served New Orleans and assisted underserved communities in securing economic self-reliance, parity, power and civil rights. In 2016, it expanded into the Urban League of Louisiana — now the largest African American-led, African American-serving organization in Louisiana. Today, it is focused on ensuring quality education, access to information, employment, entrepreneurial and economic inclusion and equal dignity under the law. In 2021 alone, it supported about 1,000 job seekers and more than 1,800 entrepreneurs. The Urban League of Louisiana is a founding community lead of Southern Communities Initiative.

The official logo of Urban League Louisiana.

Greater New Orleans Community Lead

Judy Morse

President and CEO at Urban League of Louisiana

Judy Reese Morse serves as the President and CEO of the Urban League of Louisiana, a historic civil rights and social justice organization serving residents since 1938. The Urban League of Louisiana delivers programming and policy initiatives that promote economic self-reliance, civil rights and racial equity for Black Americans and others. 

History of New Orleans, Louisiana

Founded in 1718, New Orleans is a city with a rich history and vibrant mix of African, French and Spanish culture. It was one of North America’s earliest economies, became the third largest city in the U.S. by 1840 and was once home to the largest population of “free people of color” in the country. Yet, progress in New Orleans has been hampered by institutionalized racism – from Jim Crow laws starting in the late 19th century to continued inequalities today. Over the last 50 years, suburbanization, gentrification, de facto segregation and natural disasters — such as Hurricanes Katrina and Ida — have driven many out of greater New Orleans.

Image of four men playing the trumpet on the side of the street in New Orleans,LA

Racial Inequities in New Orleans

Black people make up 35% of the population, yet Black businesses only represent 4% of businesses and 2% of revenues.
MBE Entrepreneurship and Supplier Diversity
Roughly 43% of Black households are unbanked or underbanked, three times higher than that of white households.
Access to Capital (CDFI/MDI)
Black people are half as likely as white people to hold a college degree, and Black households earn half of what white households earn.
Education/HBCU and Workforce Development
While 18% of households still do not have access to broadband, Black families are disproportionately impacted, limiting access to remote work, education, telehealth, etc.
Digital Access
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Image of a group of people dancing in the street of New Orleans, LA

What Else Needs To Be Done

These inequities have been further amplified by the economic downturn caused by natural disasters and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many initiatives are tackling these inequities, but New Orleans needs more investments and resources to address them. Doing so can build wealth in the Black community and strengthen the overall economy of New Orleans and the region.

Racial Equity Priorities

Click to explore a priority in detail.

Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) Entrepreneurship and Supplier Diversity

Access to Capital (CDFIs/MDI)

HBCU and Workforce Development

Digital Access

Community Snapshot

Explore the dashboard to view demographic stats and key racial equity metrics.

Success Stories for New Orleans

The Urban League of Louisiana Awards $90,000 in Grants to Nine Black-owned Food Service Operators in Louisiana in Partnership with the PepsiCo Foundation’s Black Restaurant Accelerator Program

The Urban League of Louisiana (ULLA) has been a longtime supporter of women and minority-owned small businesses. A recent collaboration with the National Urban League announced nine recipients of its 2022 Black Restaurant Accelerator program grants sponsored by the PepsiCo Foundation.

Join Us and Get Involved!

If you are interested in partnering with Southern Communities Initiative or wish to volunteer your time, we invite you to explore the different ways you can engage.

Charlotte, North Carolina

Racial Equity Priorities

Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) Entrepreneurship and Supplier Diversity

Creating and Scaling Black-owned Businesses

Southern Communities Initiative focuses on increasing the number and value of MBEs in the region. Southern Communities Initiative specifically aims at raising the economic weight of Black-owned businesses from 2% to 6% of the aggregated value of all businesses in the region.  

Additionally, small businesses in primarily Black communities tend to have lower profit margins and concentrate in industries with less potential for growth.

Black entrepreneurs often face many barriers, including a lack of access to capital, technical assistance, procurement opportunities and more.

Creating and scaling a greater number of Black-owned businesses is crucial to generating employment opportunities for people of color and increasing wealth in the community and economy.

A Black barber adjusts a smock on a young Black boy sitting in a barber chair.


Offer In-Kind FTEs for Supplier Diversity:

Offer 2-5 FTEs to Charlotte Regional Business Alliance (CRBA) over 5 years to convene corporate partners, assess their MBE spend, develop pipeline to increase MBE spend to 5-10%+.

Offer Technical Assistance Expertise:

Partner with CRBA to advise/mentor ~200 MBEs on capital/loan access to help them scale from <$10M to $50M+.

Commit to Supplier Diversity:

Increase MBE spend to 5-10%+.

Estimated Impact (Of All Initiatives): 3X Increase in MBE Value and ~13K New Jobs, Boosting Black Community’s Net Worth by ~$2B+.

Charlotte, North Carolina

Racial Equity Priorities

Digital Access

Increasing Access, Affordability and Adoption to Broadband

Digital access is vital for any community to thrive in today’s world. Southern Communities Initiative’s ambition is to increase access to high-speed internet and its affordability for underserved communities. Currently 10% of households in the Charlotte area are without Internet access.

An African American man sits beside a young Black boy while sitting at a table and doing schoolwork.


Support Center for Digital Equity – $25M:

Secure $25M over 4 years for Center for Digital Equity’s longitudinal project on digital access to enhance health efficacy and agency in the health experience lifecycle.

Raise Community Awareness and Adoption of Emergency Broadband Benefit:

Increase door-to-door and community outreach in low-income neighborhoods to get households onto EBB to help connect ~35K unconnected households.

Drive Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) Adoption:

Secure $1-3M (donations or in kind) to drive door to door and community outreach in low income focus zip codes to get ~12K households onto Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) subsidies in Charlotte.

Provide Digital Access and Technical Assistance for Charlotte Households:

Provide 20K laptops, internet subs and broadband for ~35K households + grant writing support and internet adoption centers.

Support Efforts to Increase Digital Access:

Secure $2.2M for ~4K routers, switches and internet backhaul connections for ~80 bldgs.

Estimated Impact (Of All Initiatives): ~35K Households Get Connected to High-Speed Internet to Unlock ~$700M in Economic Potential for Charlotte.

Charlotte, North Carolina

Racial Equity Priorities

HBCU and Workforce Development

Increasing Bachelors Degrees and Reducing Student Debt

Increasing education quality and minority representation in top job positions can have a positive effect on communities. Southern Communities Initiative aims at increasing Black empowerment and representation in the workforce. In Charlotte, Southern Communities Initiative supports the Mayor’s plan to make of JCSU a top 10 university in the US. Southern Communities Initiative is also planning to help increase the percentage of Black Charlotteans owning college degrees to 59%, and improve the representation of Black/Brown in executive positions to 30%.

Many of those who do graduate from HBCUs, where students are 1.4 times more likely than non-HBCU students to take out student loans and borrow 20% more on average.

Studies have found that taking on student debt can negatively affect academic performance, graduation rates and long-term wealth accumulation.

That is why it is critical to address issues in both enrollment and student loan debt, thus allowing students and graduates to access high-paying job opportunities and build their wealth.

A young African American man smiles while wearing a black graduation cap and gown.


Fund Student Freedom Initiative Program:

$10M to HELPS program and support ~1.5K+ students per year at 3 HBCUs with emergency expenses – e.g., health.

Provide In-Kind Staff:

Offer 2-5 FTEs to Charlotte Regional Business Alliance over 5 years to track and help increase Black-/Brown-exec representation from 10% to 30%+.

Estimated Impact (Of All Initiatives): 2.5K+ Additional College Graduates and 2.5K Workers With High-Paying Wages to Drive ~$0.2B in Economic Growth.

Charlotte, North Carolina

Racial Equity Priorities