Black history is imbedded in the Urban Resource Institute (URI) heritage – in our past and in our present. In 1980, URI was founded by Black physician Dr. Beny J. Primm, an authority on HIV/AIDS and drug addiction and treatment, who through his work became aware of the lack of services for survivors of domestic violence. Although he did not emphasize it, Dr. Primm’s work throughout his lifetime was influenced by his own experiences with racism and discrimination.
Dr. Primm started URI with a 12-bed safe haven for domestic violence victims in Harlem Hospital, located in a vibrant community in New York City rich with Black tradition and pride. Today URI is the largest provider of domestic violence shelter services in the U.S. as well as a leading provider of services for the homeless. While our doors are open to everyone, and we have a deep commitment to diversity and inclusion, our leadership and employees—and the clients we serve—have remained largely Black and people of color through the decades.
This month and every February, URI celebrates Black History, which is intricately woven into the American tapestry and our mission. For 41 years, we have been part of the solution to advance communities of color, lifting up the most vulnerable populations and working tirelessly to enable our clients to escape abuse and live full, sustainable lives. Our country continues to face many challenges, including systemic racism, making the forces that impact our clients structural as well as personal. We believe at the heart of our work to end domestic violence and homelessness is the elimination of oppression and the legacy of racism. Even the global pandemic of COVID-19 disproportionately affects the Black population, adding a new burden to an already underserved community.
Black History Month puts a spotlight on the people and organizations striving toward a more equitable country and working toward justice for all, as it promises in the Pledge of Allegiance — justice under the law, in education, in the workplace, and every public sphere, and in the personal realm, too. The URI team is proud to be a part of this movement not just in February, but all year, and I am proud to help lead us towards greater impact for safe, stable, and thriving communities.
In closing, I want to say clearly and unequivocally: Black Lives Matter. They have always mattered at URI and we are proud to recommit to our legacy as a historically Black nonprofit, which is also among the small percentage of nonprofit organizations with Black leadership. During the events of 2020 I wrote that I had a heavy but hopeful heart, and as we move through 2021, the heaviness is still there, but the hopefulness continues to grow.
I invite you to follow URI on social media, visit the history and newsroom section of our website, and sign up for our newsletter at urinyc.org to learn more about our legacy and our mission. You can count on us to continue our work to empower individuals, families, and communities—especially communities of color.
Nathaniel M. Fields
Chief Executive Officer
Urban Resource Institute