The economic legacy of Dr. King

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“What would he say today?” was the question often posed by Julianne Malveaux, Ph.D while addressing an audience of more than 200 during the Carnegie Mellon University Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. celebration.

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QUESTION—Julianne Malveaux, Ph.D asks the question, “What would Dr. King say today?” (Photo by J.L. Martello Photo)

While delivering the keynote address titled, “The Economic Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,” Malveaux pointed out the economic injustices existing 43 years after his death.

“America has defaulted on the promissory note,” said Malveaux referring to Dr. King’s comments in his “I Have a Dream” speech. “The check is marked insufficient funds and we come today to cash the check,” she said.

“What would Dr. King say today,” questioned Malveaux? “He would be extremely disturbed over the last 25 years not just the last two or three.” She listed the high unemployment, lack of businesses and poverty rate for African-Americans as being, unacceptable to Dr. King.

Malveaux commented that Dr. King did not die dreaming. “He died fighting for injustice and dehumanization conditions for the garbage workers who hearts and spirits were on the line. He died leading up to the poor people’s campaign, fighting for people of multi-ethnicity and class.

“Look at now and then. There is still work to do. Dr. King would be concerned about the conditions of today,” she said.

She described the new class of discernment as incarceration, credit discrimination, the huge wealth gap, lack of education, housing issues such as foreclosures, hunger, lack of health care, business opportunities and laws and rules that keep Blacks down.

“Now the new administration wants to cut the budget, cut taxes for the wealthy and shred the social security net,” she said. Where Blacks and Latinos will be mostly effected, she said is through the cutting of unemployment insurance and public assistance. They want to reduce public investments and the public sector workforce. “If Dr. King looked at this what would he say?”

To an attentive audience, Malveaux indicated that our educational structure needs to be changed by being more innovative, especially when it comes to economics, personal finance and businesses. She said President Obama has said he wants to see us increase our educational dominance to lead the world once again, but she questions how, unless we choose to invest in education.

“If Dr. King was here today he would say that there are actions we should take to change our conditions,” she said. “We don’t have to be in this position, that we can turn things around but it will take a restructuring, but do we have the will to do it and do we have the will collectively to do it.”

Pointing out that Dr. King chose his course. She mentioned that he said he had the audacity to believe that people everywhere should have three meals a day for their family; education and culture for their minds; and peace and freedom for their spirit. She ended by saying that Dr. King had the audacity to demand these things and asked the audience, “Do you?”

Conducted by students, the program began with the Posting of the Colors by the Naval ROTC Reserve Officer Training Corp, singing of the Black National Anthem by Brianna Kent, student body president Jarrett Adams did introductions and speeches were made by Maggie Soderholm, and Appiah Adomako. Everett Tademy, assistant vice president for Diversity at CMU presented the president of the university; Jared L. Cohon gave the invocation and Alma Crawford, a member of the CMU Council of Religious Advisors, provided benediction.

Malveaux is the 15th president of Bennett College for Women located in Greensboro, N.C. She is also an economist, author, commentator and entrepreneur. Her company, Last Word Productions is a multimedia production company that serves as a vehicle for her work and products. For the past decade the company has centered its efforts on her public speaking appearances, her work as a broadcast and print journalist, and also as an author. Her academic work is included in numerous anthologies and journals.

She is editor of Voices of Vision: African American Women on the Issues; the co-editor of Slipping Through the Cracks: The Status of Black Women; and co-editor of The Paradox of Loyalty: An African American Response to the War on Terrorism. She is the author of two column anthologies: Sex, Lies, and Stereotypes: Perspectives of a Mad Economist; and Wall Street, Main Street, and the Side Street: A Mad Economist Takes a Stroll. She is the co-author of “Unfinished Business: A Democrat and A Republican Take on the 10 Most Important Issues Women Face” and most recently authored “Surviving and Thriving: 365 Facts in Black Economic History” which has been nominated for Outstanding Literary Work in the Non-Fiction category.

Considering herself a committed activist and civic leader, Malveaux has held positions in women’s, civil rights, and policy organizations. She was president of the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women’s Clubs, and is currently honorary co-chair of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated. Currently, Malveaux serves on the boards of the Economic Policy Institute, The Recreation Wish List Committee of Washington, D.C., and the Liberian Education Trust.

Malveaux’s presentation came after a full day of activities held on the CMU campus. Before her speech students participated in candlelight vigil marching to the Rangos Ballroom singing, “We Shall Overcome” and ending with “This Little Light of Mine.”

The celebration was free and open to members of the Carnegie Mellon and Pittsburgh communities. The Office of the President and Division of Student Affairs sponsored activities.

The nation marked the 25th anniversary of the holiday in honor of whom many classify as one of the country’s most prominent civil rights leaders. A federal holiday honoring Rev. Dr. King, who was assassinated in April 1968, was first observed in 1986. In 1994, Congress also designated it a national day of service.

If Rev. Dr. King were still living he would have turned 82 on Jan. 15.

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