These Black Leaders and Their Organizations Are Making a Difference in Our Community Every Day

To mark Black History Month this year, United Way of Central Alabama (UWCA) is spotlighting several of its partner agencies led by Black executives.

Birmingham Urban League

Photo Credit: Birmingham Urban League Instagram

The Birmingham Urban League, headed by President and CEO William A. Barnes, has been a partner agency of UWCA since 1973. The organization, founded in 1967 as an affiliate of the National Urban League, seeks to enable underserved residents to secure economic self-reliance, parity, power and civil rights.

Barnes, who has led the local organization since 2016, grew up in the North Birmingham neighborhood of Hooper City and has been dedicated to serving others throughout his life. After college, he became a youth advisor and then ran for local office prior to serving as an aide to former Birmingham Mayor William Bell.

The Birmingham Urban League provides a variety of services to residents of Birmingham and Jefferson County, including emergency rental and utility assistance, as well as workforce development and school-based programming.

For more information, visit

Legal Aid Society of Birmingham

The Legal Aid Society of Birmingham, led by Executive Director Jequette A. Edmonson Noland, provides free court-appointed legal representation for children and low-income individuals who need representation in dependency, juvenile delinquency, misdemeanor, traffic and drug court cases.

Noland said her organization’s focus on youth clients is an investment in the future.

“If the right decisions are made during their adolescent years,” Noland said, “then there is a greater likelihood that they will become productive members of society.”

Founded in 1954 by members of the Birmingham Bar Association, the Legal Aid Society predates the American public defender system as we know it.

Noland, who was named executive director in 2016, has served the organization since 2000, when she started as a staff attorney in the Municipal Court Division. She holds degrees from both the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the Birmingham School of Law.

A.G. Gaston Boys & Girls Club

Photo Credit: Toro the Bull Facebook

Started in 1966 by Birmingham business magnate Arthur George Gaston, the A.G. Gaston Boys & Girls Club (AGGBGC) has provided a space for education, creativity, physical activity and care for Birmingham children.

Today, the AGGBGC is led by CEO André McFadden.

For more information about the AGGBGC, its three locations or the many services offered by the organization, visit

United Community Center (The Riley Center)

February is the perfect opportunity to highlight the work of Black executive directors and their agencies

United Community Center, commonly known as The Riley Center, in Birmingham’s Riley-Travellick neighborhood was established in 1903 and has been a longstanding hub of activity for people of all ages.

Led by Theresa McGhee Johnson, who has worked there since the 1980s, The Riley Center serves Southwest Birmingham by providing daily services, such as lunch and snacks for students ages five to 18, a summer camp for children ages five to 12, after-school tutoring, meals for seniors and arts and quilting classes for people of all ages.

Additionally, the center maintains a food pantry with groceries provided by the Community Food Bank of Central Alabama, another UWCA partner agency.

Before beginning her long career at The Riley Center, Johnson had been a longtime participant in its programs. The center serves as a critical hub for the neighborhood, she said.

“Everybody that comes in here says it just feels so warm,” Johnson said. “They feel like they could just stay all day because we’ve made the center a safe haven.”

For more information about quilting and quilters at the center, visit their Facebook page at