Julianne Malveaux, economist and journalist, presented the keynote address for the 22nd Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Symposium on Jan. 19 in Crystal Cove Auditorium. The address honored King’s legacy and encouraged the continuation of the civil rights movement within the United States.
The evening’s program began with an introduction by Joseph L. White, professor emeritus of social sciences, who characterized Malveaux as a ‘dynamite sister.’
Malveaux is an economist, author and commentator dedicated to issues of race, culture and gender. She is a syndicated columnist for various magazines including USA Today, and the author of books about current gender and racial issues.
After taking her place at the podium, Malveaux began her speech, ‘What’s Next: Realizing the Dream,’ by saluting the life of King.
She explained to her audience that King did not die a passive dreamer. He died fighting for a ‘change of terms and condition of these people’s work, and don’t you forget about that.’
According to Malveaux, in King’s time, ‘America had been giving black people a bad check,’ paying Caucasian employees $1.65 an hour but black employees $.95 an hour.
She described King as someone who was passionate and active. Had people acknowledged that more, King would be identified with the quote, ‘Cash the check!’ rather than, ‘I have a dream.’
According to Malveaux, today companies are still exploiting the poor and the black populations to increase profits. Malveaux mentioned Wal-Mart, which hired Queen Latifah as a celebrity spokesperson, but does not offer raises to minimum-wage workers.
Malveaux said that these people cannot rise above their struggle when they are oppressed and exploited by these companies.
She reprimanded our government’s procrastination in improving civil conditions and struggle, and reminded the audience about the continuing suffering in New Orleans.
‘While Bush has proposed the construction of hospitals in Baghdad, tens of thousands of people in New Orleans remain unsheltered and thousands of children are missing,’ Malveaux said. ‘As long as our government operates this way, poverty in America will continue.’
Malveaux described her visit to Houston’s Astrodome with singer Erica Badu. Though she does not normally cry, what she saw there caused her to do so.
Malveaux said that if America is to ignore poverty issues such as those in New Orleans and Houston’s Astrodome, America did not learn anything from King.
‘Shame on us,’ Malveaux said.
When asked what specific actions average citizens can take to promote civil movement, Malveaux said, ‘Be politically involved, write to editors, organize around economic issues and [give] fair treatment to Katrina survivors.’
According to Malveaux, ‘African history is American history, and all too often, we forget about that.’