Counting The Cost

Hugh Price’s African American Life: Lessons and blessings

Julianne Malveaux | 7/27/2017, midnight

Price’s book is extremely thoughtful and transparent. While he expresses extreme joy in the high points of his life, for example joining the Urban League as CEO, his tone is not much different as when he experiences disappointment at missed opportunities. The African American community has gained when Price felt he “lost”, and agrees with his daughter, Traer, when she notes that missed opportunities opened doors to new possibilities.

Thus, it is engaging to read through his path as youth mentor, New Haven community leader, mayoral appointee, New York Times editorial writer, public television leader, foundation executive, then president and CEO of the National Urban League. In his “back nine” he has been a professor and thought leader, connected with prestigious organizations like Princeton University and the Brookings Institution. He is candid about the ways he lobbied for and secured some of the positions he attained, as well as the ways that some opportunities “fell in his lap”; his transparent revelations should be “must” reading for young people with aspirations. Without lecturing, Price makes powerful statements about the importance of relationships.

Price has been passionate throughout his career about improving possibilities for young people. As a young law student and paid mentor to New Haven youth, he learned the importance of consistency. There is no place, he learned, for “drive-by” mentoring that takes place only at a mentor’s convenience. This is a lesson for the present; so many well-intentioned helpers feel that they can alter the course of a life with well-meaning, but tenuous engagement. Price used his early lessons to develop programs to combat Black youth unemployment, both through the Rockefeller Foundation and through the military. His commitment to youth continued in his Urban League years with his work on quality education and the achievement gap. He describes his work as “Spreading the Gospel of Achievement” in a chapter of his book; it is a gospel he continues to spread.

While I enjoy Price’s policy conversations, I equally enjoy the way he recounts his love of family, and the early struggles that he and wife, Marilyn, faced as they reared their family while he completed law school. Equally enjoyable is his conversation about baseball, a sport he is passionate about. Reading this book made me want to engage with Price in a rambling interview that dug even deeper into his work than the book does. It makes me want to further explore his love for baseball and the ways baseball metaphors reflect contemporary life. For sure, Price hit a “home run” with this book, but it makes me want to engage him in another inning, another game, and more reflections from this phenomenal man!

Julianne Malveaux is an economist, author, and founder of Economic Education. Her podcast, “It’s Personal with Dr. J” is available on iTunes. Her latest book “Are We Better Off: Race, Obama and Public Policy” is available via amazon.com.

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