Dr. Patrick Graham – President and CEO of the Urban League

by Crystal Kelly | February 10th, 2011
Dr. Patrick Graham

Dr. Patrick Graham - CEO of the Greensboro Urban League

February is set aside as the time to celebrate  Black history and the people who have shaped the past to provide a better future. Pivotal leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, Dorothy Height and others  are recognized during this month. These leaders all have one thing in common; they took time out of their lives to stand up for someone else  and believed that change was possible. These celebrated leaders emphatically believed and diligently worked so that  African Americans could be assured of the same rights as White Americans. The question is who is standing up for Black America today?  Who are the people that are continuing to inspire the change that these leaders fought and died for?  In this issue we take time to recognize one such leader; Dr. Patrick Graham, president and CEO of the Urban League of Central Carolinas, Inc.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once stated, “A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.”  The Bible says in Luke 10: 25-37 that the first question which the priest and the Levite asked was, “If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?” But, the Good Samaritan reversed the question: “If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?” This mentality; that of taking time out to stop and help someone is what compels  Dr. Graham to continue to push the Leagues’ mission to empower the community to attain financial stability and social justice in a global economy through education, training and placement.

Dr. Graham was born and raised in Long Island, N.Y. and considers himself to be a very inquisitive person. “I always wanted to know where things came from and how we all got to where we are today,” says Graham.  “They say you never know where you’re going until you know where you came from.”  His mother, while raising  him and his younger brother,  always participated in community events. This community involvement at a young age served to make community service as an adult a natural transition.
After receiving a graduate degree in African American history from the University of Wisconsin – Madison, and a doctorate’s degree from Stony Brook University in American history, Graham  became the executive director for the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Center in Long Beach, N.Y.  He says just like Dr. King he didn’t have much political experience. This worked to his advantage because people didn’t expect him to be such an inspiring leader. He has passion for the cause and believes in uplifting  the community.

In 2001 he became the director of the Emergency Financial Assistance Program for Crisis Assistance Ministry in Charlotte, N.C. During this time he also took on the  responsibility of being president of the Diversity Counsel of the Carolinas in 2004.  He states, “I am a person that doesn’t like to keep still for too long. I like to be involved in different things.” When he isn’t leading the community in some fashion, you may find him riding dirt bikes, hiking or trail running.

In 2007, when the Urban League needed a leader to fill its open slot, he was highly recommended for the position of president and CEO. During his three years as president and CEO, he has continued to push and strive to fulfill the Leagues’ mission to place people from disenfranchised communities, educate them and train them to become financially stable. Programs are offered to assist individuals obtain their GED, get certified in special fields such as HVAC, fiber optics, energy auditing and much more. After completing the certification programs, many people are employed by reputable companies.  In addition, urban youth empowerment programs for young adults ages 17 – 24 are available. These programs are provided free or at very little cost to the participants.

Dr. Graham has taken time out to plant seeds in today’s youth to aspire to be more than just the minimum. He has received leadership awards from numerous organizations such as Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., Intercultural Coalition, and has been  named  Community Person of the Year in The Long Island Herald. He instills in his own two children, Jasmie who is 22 years old and Myles age 7, the same values  that he promotes to the youth in the community; to push the limits – don’t settle for less.

Dr. Graham is only one of many leaders who have taken time out to stop and ask the same question the Good Samaritan asked. This Black history month, we want to celebrate those leaders and  recognize the people  who take time every day to help those in need.

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