LIVING LEGACY—Annie Hanna Cestra, chair of the Urban League board of directors, presents Wendell Freeland with an award as Esther Bush looks on. (Photo by J.L. Martello)
On Feb. 9, the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh began the yearlong celebration of their 95th anniversary by hearkening to the past. As part of the kick-off celebration, they honored Wendell Freeland, former chair of their board of directors, with the inaugural Wendell G. Freeland Living Legacy award.
“Civil rights work, including the work of the Urban League, is extremely hard work, but we have helpers around us and this man is one of them,” said Pittsburgh Urban League President and CEO Esther Bush. “For the work that he has done over the many decades and the work he will continue to do, we want to recognize him.”
While the event was originally meant to feature remarks by National Urban League President and CEO Marc Morial, who was prohibited from attending due to inclement weather on the east coast, it seemed fitting to give over the program to Freeland who took the audience on a journey with him as he shared anecdotes from his many years with the local Urban League, the organization’s involvement with the Civil Rights Movement and his own rise to senior vice-president of the National Urban League board of trustees.
“At that time, for a Negro to be on the Urban League board, you had to be 60 years old. You really had to prove yourself. Of course there were White people who were younger,” Freeland said. “But low and behold, I was elected.”