Clarence Anthony, CEO and executive director of the National League of Cities (photo courtesy NLC)

Clarence Anthony, the CEO and executive director of the National League of Cities, on June 3 provided the following message to support municipal leaders through the NLC’s Race, Equity And Leadership (REAL) program.

The REAL program, which was highlighted at the MMA Annual Meeting in January, is an important and timely resource for cities and towns, here and across the nation.

Dear NLC Members,

I write to you today as the CEO of the National League of Cities, as your colleague, and as your friend.

As CEO, I want you to know that the National League of Cities is here to support you during this challenging time. As your colleague, I want you to know that I am acutely aware of the leadership demands you are facing right now. As your friend, I want you to know that I am tired of violence towards African Americans by members of law enforcement. I am tired of implicit and explicit racial biases that permeate our society. And I am tired of the inequities in healthcare, finances, education, housing, nutrition and other basic needs.

We have a crisis of humanity in this country, and we’re seeing this crisis reach its boiling point right now. The current situation in America is not just about the murder of George Floyd at the hands of police officers. This is about communities that have been left behind for hundreds of years.

This is about the communities that have been hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic. This is about a lack of hope and a lack of agency that is felt throughout the Black community. In the words of civil rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer, “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired” – that is the feeling of many African Americans in our nation.

You ran for office and work in local government to make a difference in your community. Now, your residents are looking to you for answers, guidance and support.

You have a great power and a great responsibility that no one else in this nation has. You, as the person elected by your neighbors and community members, can make a real difference right now – and your residents are looking to you right now for leadership.

I challenge you to use the power of the pulpit to heal your community and chart a path forward that prioritizes equity and humanity. I challenge you to look to your colleagues in other cities for support and unity. I challenge you to educate yourself on the history of race in your own community and state, because it affects more than the African American communities, it affects all communities of color. And I challenge you to advance policies and programs that will make a difference in the lives of every person of color that rely on you to lead.

In 2014, the National League of Cities created our Race, Equity and Leadership department to strengthen local leaders’ knowledge and capacity to eliminate racial disparities and divisions and to build more equitable communities. It has been an honor to work with many of you over the past six years to advance this mission in your cities.

In the coming days and weeks, we are continuing this work and are working to provide you with the support you need. I encourage you to read and share the resources enclosed below. If you have any questions or feedback, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at real@nlc.org.

Things will get better. However, it is up to us to ensure that we make it better by working together.

In solidarity,

Clarence E. Anthony
CEO and Executive Director

Race, Equity And Leadership Resources
Responding to Racial Tension in Your City: A Municipal Action Guide – Important contextual and tactical information to support your municipality’s efforts to respond effectively
Advancing Racial Equity in Your City: A Municipal Action Guide – Six immediate steps for improving outcomes for all residents
Repository of City Racial Equity Policies and Decisions – Examples of concrete policy and budgetary changes local elected officials have made to prioritize racial equity in their cities, towns and villages
The City Leader’s Compass to the My Brother’s Keeper Landscape – City leaders respond to the My Brother’s Keeper Community Challenge by tackling the disparities that face our nation’s boys and young men of color
REAL City Profiles – How 12 cities and their elected leaders around the country are advancing racial equity in their communities