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Racial, economic justice discussed at Schenectady County Library

Racial, economic justice discussed at Schenectady County Library

The forum was meant to kick off the Human Rights Commission's King celebration
Racial, economic justice discussed at Schenectady County Library
Randy McGough, MLK Coalition chairman, speaks during a Face of Economic Justice forum on Thursday.
Photographer: Erica Miller

Some say poor neighborhoods in Schenectady County remain poor.

Others say people who live in communities of color often cannot find jobs that pay a living wage.

Randy McGough, chairman of the Schenectady County Human Rights Commission's Martin Luther King Jr. Coalition, believes people must become fed up with these thoughts, and fed up with the status quo. He shared his opinions during Thursday night's community panel discussion on economic justice at the Schenectady County Library.

McGough compared the situation to a scene in the 1976 movie "Network," in which a television anchorman played by Peter Finch implores his viewers to shout from their windows, "I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!"

"That's basically what we need to get to," McGough said during the two-hour discussion inside the library's McChesney Room.

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Four other panelists discussed "The Face of Economic Justice in Schenectady County in 2019," a gathering sponsored by the coalition and the Capital District Area Labor Federation.

The forum, which attracted 23 people, including state Assemblyman Philip Steck, D-Colonie, and Schenectady County Community College President Steady Moono, was meant to kick off the Human Rights Commission's King celebration.

This weekend's expected snowstorm has forced the postponement of a second event. Assemblywoman Latrice Walker was scheduled to speak Sunday, but the King remembrance has been called off.

The speech has been re-scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 28 at 6 p.m. Walker will speak inside the Carl B. Taylor Auditorium on the campus of Schenectady County Community College.

On Thursday, speakers answered questions about economic justice delivered by Angelica A. Morris, executive director of the Human Rights Commission.

Poverty became a major part of discussions. Mark Emanatian, director of the Capital District Area Labor Federation, said such want has become an issue of the times. Labor unions, religions leader, elected officials and others, Emanatian believes, must come together for discussion.

"Every single one of us," he said. "What are we going to do about it?"

Shana Davis, president of the Capital District Coalition Black Trade Unionist, said people in poor neighborhoods need more economic opportunity. She said some people often do not realize they are qualified for different jobs. 

And some people, she said, do not want to settle for low-wage positions behind counters at fast food restaurants.

Ron Gardner, director of diversity and affirmative action for the city of Schenectady, said racial discrimination has long prevented young people from securing jobs in the trades. He said adults must talk to young people, learn their interests. Jobs in architecture and engineering could be within their reach, he said.

"We can control this," Gardner added about the situation. "We can change this thing."

Jamaica Miles, state organizing and training director for advocacy group Citizen Action of NY, said all jobs need to pay living wages.

She also said people are refused jobs because of a name on a resume, because of personal appearance.

Miles also believes voices are important in the fight for economic justice. Advocacy groups are places for those voices, she said. Miles also believes voices should be heard inside meeting rooms of city councils and town boards.

"Speak if you feel comfortable," Miles said. "If not, listen. Show up and be a presence with your voice. It's important."

Morris said the forum was designed to bring awareness, education and information to the community on the economic justice issue. 

Added McGough: "We're hoping to put ideas in people's heads that will result in people coming together and maybe taking some sort of positive actions that were discussed. Maybe just everybody being together, working together as a group. For too long we haven't addressed these issues.

"We've had the casino, we've had downtown revitalization, but the community, the neighborhoods have suffered and people in the neighborhoods feel it, they've been left out," McGough said. "And we want to try to bring get those folks to the table so they share their voices and share their ideas and feel like they're part of what's going on."

Other local events scheduled to honor and remember King follow:

FRIDAY

* The community project MLK Saratoga will begins a weekend of celebration tonight - the 4th annual Dr. King Challenge will be held tonight from 7 until 9:30 p.m. inside the Win and Place Room of the Holiday Inn, 232 Broadway. Regional performing artists will speak up and sing out on social justice issues.

Other MLK Saratoga weekend events follow. Organizers ask people interested in attending weekend events to check the MLK Saratoga web site for events that may be affected by the expected weekend snowstorm.

SATURDAY

* "Shout It Out!" with Garland Nelson - from 3 to 4 p.m. at Caffè Lena, 47 Phila St. Nelson will conduct a historical, interactive African-American musical experience.

* Yaddo Presents: Kima Jones. The poet, writer, publicist and founder of Jack Jones Literary Arts will speak at Caffè Lena from 5 until 6 p.m.

* Creative Action Unlimited: "Our Now," will be held at Caffè Lena at 7:30 p.m.

SUNDAY

* Workshop on equity, inclusion and understanding implicit bias with Ray Anderson - an equal opportunity trainer - will be held inside the Dutcher Room of the Saratoga Springs Public Library from 2 until 4 p.m. The library is located at 49 Henry St.

* The Heavenly Echoes, an Aretha Franklin tribute group and gospel group will perform at The Parting Glass, 40 Lake Ave., at 7 p.m.

MONDAY

* Day of service projects, 9:15 a.m. until 12:30 p.m.

* "Klan We Talk?" A Black man's influential conversations with white supremacists, 2 to 4 p.m. at Presbyterian New England Congregational Church, 24 Circular St.

* An evening of music and conversation with Daryl Davis, Caffè Lena. Tickets are $15. 

MONDAY (Albany)

* The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Observance will begin at 10 a.m. at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center. Rashad Jennings, former running back for the New York Giants, will be the keynote speaker. Tony award winner and Broadway vocalist Lillias White will perform.

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