joejones1Joe Jones, President and CEO of Grand Rapids Urban League has been with the organization since 2011, when the Board of Directors unanimously appointed him as the organizations seventh President and Chief Executive Officer.

The Grand Rapids Urban League is a proud member of the Urban Core Collective. “The Urban Core Collective will increase the cultural, racial, and ethnic diversification of multi-sector leadership in the Grand Rapids area,” said Jones, president of the Grand Rapids Urban League. “We believe that successful people and neighborhoods overcome the negative side effects of systemic racism through equal access to education and the resources to live physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually healthy lives.”

Jones uses a dynamic leadership approach to organize staff and volunteer teams focused on workforce development and neighborhood transformation models focused on employment, housing, education and health.

The Urban Core Collective sat down with Joe Jones for a more in depth look at the difference he is making in the Grand Rapids community.

Q: What inspired you to become involved with the Grand Rapids Urban League?

I was a board member of the Grand Rapids Urban League previously and have always had a special place in my heart for the Urban League movement. Previous national presidents such as Whitney Young and Vernon Jordan are heroes of mine. They embodied the bold and strategic leadership that I believe is necessary to move a community forward.

Q: How are you hoping to pair the Urban Core Collective and Grand Rapids Urban League to further the positive changes that have been taking place for minorities in our community?

The mission of the UCC parallels very well with our mission. It’s all about building the capacity of individuals as well as communities. It’s about meeting the needs of the people and equipping them with whatever tools they need to become economically secure. I believe the sky is the limit in terms of the impact UCC can have on the core city.

Q: What is your best memory of working with the Grand Rapids Urban League and the Urban Core Collective?

One of my best memories would have to be the press conference introducing the Collective to the community. That was really cool. We had grassroots folks there, elected officials and media. We also took the opportunity to introduce the inaugural class of our Transformational Leaders Program. It was indeed a most memorable occasion.

Q: What changes do you feel are most pressing in the Grand Rapids community and how do you feel the Urban Core Collective and Grand Rapids Urban League can meet these needs?

The Grand Rapids Urban League is in the empowerment business. We feel very strongly that when families are more economically secure, opportunities and options are broadened. Economic security can positively affect educational outcomes for children, as well as health outcomes, and overall quality of life. As a collective, I believe we can have significant impact by pooling our resources: intellectual, social and financial.

Q: Describe your background and how it led to you working with the Grand Rapids Urban League and Urban Core Collective?

I’ve been an entrepreneur for over 14 years and served as a grassroots organizer in my native Detroit before moving here 18 years ago. I’d like to think my career and life experiences have prepared me well for this very important work that I’ve been charged to oversee. I’ve been blessed to be the recipient of wisdom from various leaders in our community and I’m a student of history, as well. I really believe that I’ve been called to lead the Grand Rapids Urban League and to play a role in engaging in authentic collaboration via the Urban Core Collective for such a time as this here in Grand Rapids.