Alumnus speaks on Martin Luther King Jr. and racial inequality

Pat Gareau, Creative Editor

Corey Ellis delivered a lecture called “Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: The Stymied Dream” on Feb. 6, during which he examined whether the goals laid out in King’s “I Have a Dream” speech have been accomplished.

Ellis is a former Albany City Councilman, co-founder of the Capital District Black Chamber of Commerce, 2013 Albany mayoral candidate and alumnus of Hudson Valley.

“50 years later, we’re still wondering if his dream has been realized,” said Ellis.

King gave his speech 100 years after the Emancipation Proclamation and opened with a series of repeated points on the lack of progress for African-Americans. In the first part of the lecture, Ellis went through this section of King’s speech and illustrated how many of the problems he hoped to solve were ongoing by simply replacing the repetition of “100 years later” with “150 years later.”

Ellis noted that African-Americans still suffer from an unemployment rate of double the national average and disproportionate poverty.

“Economics rule the world,” said Ellis. “We need to make sure there’s equality to enter the American dream.”

Among the problems facing African-American communities are substandard schools with inadequate resources and mass incarceration, according to Ellis.

Ellis spoke about the Rockefeller Drug Laws, which carry lengthy mandatory sentences for drug offenses. The result has been high rates of imprisonment in minority communities.

Ellis suggested that police officers be heavily vetted, with extensive training  to make sure they understand the communities they protect and serve and that they should be thoroughly evaluated in terms of mental makeup.

A recent incident at a nightclub in Troy has caused a backlash against police brutality, which included a march and public meeting.

“Marching does have it’s effects,” said Ellis.

Ellis noted that many people don’t believe their vote matters due to the the tendency for elected officials to disappoint their constituents with regular scandals. Despite this, Ellis encourages everyone to remain involved however they can.

“It’s everyone’s job to make the community a better place,” said Ellis.

“We’ve made great strides, make no mistake about it,” said Ellis.

However, there is still a gap in many indicators of quality of life between African Americans and the general population.

“When we look at those disparities, it’s not [because of] a lack of money,” said Ellis.

America is one of the wealthiest countries in the world and resources are available to address social issues like inequality. Still, when it comes time for legislation there are those that say we have “inadequate funding.” A recent example that Ellis noted is the battle in Congress to extend long term unemployment benefits.

Ellis has spent much of his life and career working on the problems he spoke about at Hudson Valley.

“I challenge everyone to try and make sure Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream isn’t stymied,”said Ellis.


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