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MLK Celebration 2022: “Labor and Community United for Social Justice”

January 17, 2022 @ 2:00 pm 4:30 pm EST

We invite you to join the virtual Martin L. King Celebration “Labor and Community United for Social Justice.” Over the past years, dynamic MLK programs have been led, in person at the Sanctuary and virtually, by community organizers and organizations! This trend with the focus of organizing labor and community united in Troy will continue in 2022!

The backgroundd of the image is a gathering of a strike, all standing outside.

Organizations leading and participating in this event include: NAACP Troy Branch, Team HERO, Troy Coalition of Black Leaders, Coalition of Black Trade Unions, United Ordained Church-North Central, Coalition of Labor Union Women, Equality for Troy, Troy Sanctuary Campaign, NYCLU, Troy DSA, Solidarity Committee of the Capital District, Collectiveffort, Troy Area Labor Council, 5th Avenue AME Zion, Civil Service Employees Association, New York State Public Employees Federation, Capital Region Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, Shades of Cocoa, One Troy, Justice Center of Rensselaer County, Capital Region Poor People’s Campaign, and People’s Health Sanctuary.


  • Troy Community/ Labor Organization speakers
  • Roundtable discussion: Candidates of Color, Rensselaer County, 2021
  • Archival videos and live poetry
  • Calls to Action!

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”

– MLK Jr., 1957

Event MC: Deacon Jerry Ford (Team HERO; Vice President, NAACP Troy Branch)

Multiple speakers representing diverse community organizations in Troy will respond to MLK’s Call for Alliances for Inter-sectional Justice, around the key issues: Racial Justice and Civil Rights, Labor Justice and Community Organizing, Health Justice/Environmental Justice/Economic Justice and The Next Generation.

Speakers include: 

  • Terry Melvin (Coalition of Black Trade Unionists)
  • Willie Terry (Coalition of Black Trade Unionists)
  • Renée Powell (NAACP Troy Branch #2182-B)
  • Reverend Hunter (5th Avenue AME Zion Church)
  • Rev. Charles Burkes (United Ordained Church)
  • Adam Pelletier (Troy Area Labor Council)
  • Debra Garrett (Shades of Cocoa)
  • Aileen Javier (People’s Health Sanctuary at The Sanctuary for Independent Media)
  • Jess Bennett (Friends of the Mohicantuck)
  • Dan Lyles (Collectiveffort)
  • David Banks (Troy DSA)
  • Noreen Mckee (Justice Center of Rensselaer County)
  • Siobhan Burke (Troy Sanctuary Campaign)

Roundtable featuring Candidates of Color who ran for public office in Troy in 2021:

  • Gwen Wright (Candidate for Rensselaer County Executive)
  • D. Colin (Candidate for City Council – District 1)
  • Steven Figueroa (Candidate for City Council – District 2)
  • Kiani Conley Wilson (Candidate for City Council – District 5)
  • Marketa Edwards (Candidate for City Council – District 6)
  • Shawntell Mills-Sanchez (Candidate for Rensselaer County Legislature, District 4)
    • discussion moderated by Daquetta Jones

Poetry by: 

  • D. Colin
  • Ian Macks

Special thanks to event organizers Renée Powell, Adam Pelletier and Willie Terry!

A headshot of Renée Powell, a woman with short brown hair wearing a pink blazer.
A shot of Adam Pelletier, wearing a hat and white shirt.
A headshot of Willie Terry, wearing a dark colored button up.


A headshot of Reverend Terrance Melvin, who is wearing glasses and a brown and blue shirt.

Reverend Terrance Melvin

Rev. Terrence L. Melvin holds the second highest office in the New York State labor movement – Secretary-Treasurer of the 2.5 million members, New York State AFL-CIO. In May 2012, at the 41st International Convention of the CBTU, Mr. Melvin was elected unanimously as the organization’s new president, succeeding William (Bill) Lucy, who had held the position since he co-founded CBTU in 1972. Mr. Melvin has focused on developing lasting ties between labor, religious organizations and community partners.  In December 2008, he spearheaded the development of the NYS AFL-CIO Community Outreach Department which he oversees the day to day operations.Amongst his various Labor and community roles, Mr. Melvin is a man of devout faith and spiritual belief. He is an ordained Baptist Minister.  He serves as Associate Minister and Assistant to the Pastor at Second Baptist Church, Lackawanna, New York.


A headshot of Deacon Jerry Ford, who is wearing a purple sweater.

Deacon Jerry Ford

Deacon Jerry Ford, a husband, father and leader; has seen his share of trauma and adversity. He lost his mother and father at a young age. He was raised by a loving aunt, but found himself in the streets looking for the love he never received from his parents and eventually ended up in prison. After his 3rd prison stint, he saw himself on a path toward life in prison or death. Finding strength in faith,  Deacon Ford was able to make a 180 degree turn and now his story of resilience and hope is impacting communities across the nation. He currently serves as the Vice President of the NAACP Troy Branch. He also started a nonprofit organization named Team H.E.R.O about 10 years ago. H.E.R.O. standing for Helping Everyone Recognize Opportunities which focuses on youth mentoring, character and leadership development and linking families to resources. He has been recognized both locally and nationally for his service to the community, most notably winning  the Maytag Dependable Leader Award. This award is only given to 11 individuals across the nation. 

Listen to Hudson Mohawk Magazine’s interview with Deacon Jerry Ford:


A medium-framed shot of Daquetta Jones, who is wearing an abstract green and red shirt with green pants. sitting on a stool.

Daquetta Jones 

Daquetta Jones is the former Deputy Commissioner for Administration with the New York State Department of Civil Service and Executive Director of the YWCA of the Greater Capital District. Throughout her life’s work she has proven herself to be a change agent and activist for Black Liberation, Human Rights, Womxn’s Rights, and Racial Justice and Equality. Daquetta has earned and received numerous accolades and honors including: Albany Business Review’s Women Who Mean Business Award, was named as one of the 40 Under 40, the Center for Women in Government and Civil Society Change Maker Award, and many others. Daqetta will be moderating the roundtable discussion featuring Candidates of Color who ran for public office in Troy and Rensselaer County in 2021.

A head shot of Gwen Wright, who is wearing a floral blouse with a blue cardigan and beaded necklaces.

Gwen Wright

Gwen Wright has spent most of her career in public service. She recently retired as the executive director of the New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence (OPDV), a position she held for years. She was with the agency for over 27 years. Prior to joining OPDV, Ms. Wright was the executive director of the New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence a statewide non-profit domestic violence advocacy organization.

Ms. Wright has served on many non-profit boards of directors throughout her career. Currently, she is on the board of directors of Upper Hudson Planned Parenthood and the Center for Women and Government in Civil Society. She is past president of both In Our Own Voices and the Pride Center of the Capital Region. She is the mother of three adult children and has four wonderful grandchildren. She has been a resident of Schodack since 2001.

Listen to Hudson Mohawk Magazine’s interview with Gwen Wright:

A headshot of Marketa Edwards, who is wearing a graphic shirt and a black blazer with pearl necklaces.

Marketa Edwards

Marketa Edwards is a community activist that wants to give a voice to the voiceless. She is the Executive Director of the Community Rising Project. The Community Rising Project is dedicated to the advancement of Boys and Men of Color who have been directly impacted by trauma and their involvement in the criminal justice system. Marketa is a Mother, Grandmother, and community organizer who ran for City Council in Troy in 2021.arketa Edwards

A headshot of Shawntell Mills-Sanchez, who is wearing a black blouse and is smiling for the camera.

Shawntell Mills-Sanchez

Shawntell came to the Capital Region in 1994 to attend the University of Albany. Upon graduation, Shawntell remained in the Capital Region where she has worked in the human services sector for over 20 years. She started her career at Albany County Department for Children, Youth and Families. She moved on to continue her focus on child welfare policy & practice in a non-profit organization. Like many working women with expertise in her field, Shawntell pursued career advancement and experienced challenges along the way. She obtained a master’s degree in education and started her own small business by combining her knowledge of information technology and child welfare programs. She now provides her expertise & services to the NYS Office of Children and Family Services as a consultant.

An action shot of D. Colin giving some kind of presentation or talk before an audience.

D. Colin

Originally from Bridgeport, CT, D. Colin is a poet, actor, and visual artist living in Troy, NY. As a multidisciplinary artist, she aims to inspire, empower and educate through poetry, paint and performance and is passionate about cultivating space for stories, healing and community. She is the author of Dreaming in Kreyol and Said the Swing to the Hoop. She is also a Cave Canem, VONA and New York State Writers Institute fellow with degrees in English and Africana Studies. D. Colin is a board member of The Sanctuary for Independent Media.

Listen to Hudson Mohawk Magazine’s interview with D. Colin:

A medium-framed shot of an Macks, who is wearing a blue short-sleeve button-up

Ian Macks, poet

Ian Macks is a 28-year old poet from Troy, New York. His long-awaited debut full-length collection, Identity Crisis, is due to be announced this spring on recto y verso editions, inc. His poetry has recently been chosen for publication in Hypersaturation Magazine and BigCityLit literary journal. You can get at him and read his work on Instagram @imacks22

Listen to Hudson Mohawk Magazine’s interview with Ian Macks:

A headshot of Renée Powell, a woman with short brown hair wearing a pink blazer.

Renee Powell, President of the NAACP Troy Branch

Renee is president of the NAACP Troy Branch since 2019.  The 21st century goal of the NAACP is to build Black political power to end structural racism to put end to race-based discrimination.

A shot of Adam Pelletier, wearing a hat and white shirt.

Adam Pelletier, MLK 22 Celebration Organizer

Adam Pelletier is the President of the Troy Area Labor Council (AFL-CIO), which represents approximately 10,000 working people in Troy and Rensselaer County. He has been involved in labor union and social issue advocacy and organizing in the Capital District for the last 10 years. He has been known to upset people in positions of power. Adam is a graduate of Clarkson University and veteran with prior active service in the United States Marine. He is also a member of the Troy Democratic Socialists of America and the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Local 3343. 

Listen to Hudson Mohawk Magazine’s interview with Adam Pelletier:

A headshot of Willie Terry, wearing a dark colored button up.

Willie Terry, Coalition of Black Trade Unions, Troy Area Labor Council, MLK 22 Celebration Organizer

Listen to Hudson Mohawk Magazine’s interview with Willie Terry:

A headshot of Reverend Charles Burkes, who is wearing a black suit with a red tie and smiling for the camera.

Rev. Charles Burkes, United Ordained Church-North Central

Rev. Burkes is currently the Pastor of United Ordained Church-North Central Troy. He is the former Director for the Albany County Veterans Services Bureau where he was responsible for serving veterans in the 17 cities and towns in Albany County. His duties included assisting veterans, their spouses, and their dependents navigate the process while seeking eligibility for VA benefits and returning to civilian life. In 2014, Rev. Burkes was also nominated and confirmed to the Citizen’s Policy and Complaint Review Council. Rev. Burkers is a graduate of the Sage Colleges and is a Vietnam era Veteran who served in the United States Marine Corps from 1974-1978.

A headshot of Reverend Hunter, who is wearing a grey blazer over a black shirt and smiling for the camera.

Reverend Hunter, 5th Avenue AME Zion

Rev. Xavier Hunter is the pastor of the Fifth Avenue A.M.E. Zion Church in Troy, NY. Finishing his first year here in the Troy Community he has hit the ground running in leading the church and becoming a part of the Troy and Capital area community. Pastor Hunter is a native of Buffalo, NY  and has become a unique orator who is able to convey the truth of God’s word clearly, compellingly and in a way that makes the word come alive to his congregation. An out of the box thinker, teacher, and preacher, who believes in out of the box worship and praise! Combining his business experience and leadership with God’s direction, his ministry has grown and most importantly helped grow the kingdom of God. Rev. Hunter is currently finishing his Master’s of Divinity at Northeastern Seminary in Rochester, NY.

A medium-framed shot of Aileen Javier, who is wearing a pink scarf and wearing a black shirt and smiling for the camera.

Aileen Javier, People’s Health Sanctuary

Aileen Javier is a Community Health Worker/ Outreach Educator/Family Advocate. She is passionate about fomenting community health by supporting and empowering people to successfully navigate the local social and health care system.Previously, Aileen has worked as a Community Outreach / Family Advocate in Massachusetts. She is part of the People Power at the Sanctuary because she believes in the Sanctuary’s Mission: “We use art and participatory action to promote social and environmental justice and freedom of creative expression.”

A headshot of David Banks, who is wearing a green button up under a grey blazer with a floral tie.

David Banks, Troy DSA

David A. Banks is the chair of Troy DSA’s defund police working group and a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Geography and Planning department at University at Albany, SUNY where he is the director of the Globalization Studies program. He is also a proud delegate to the Troy Area Labor Council, and the Officer for Contingents of the Albany chapter of United University Professions (UUP).

A medium-framed headshot of Debra Garret, who is wearing a black shirt under a grey jacket

Debra Garrett, Community Organizer

Debra Garrett holds an A.A.S. in Medical Administration and B.S. in Health Science  She currently works at the NYS Comptroller’s office and at TRIP as a community capacity builder.  Ms. Garrett has also held positions with CEO and St. Peter’s Partners in the past.  She currently serves on boards for the Troy Drug Free Coalition, the Ark After School and the Oakwood Community Center.  Ms. Garrett volunteers in many local organizations throughout Troy including School 2 and Troy Prep.  She previously served on the Troy City Council for District 2 and loved helping the community.  Ms. Garrett founded, Shades of Cocoa, a group empowering black and brown young girls.  She also created the Parent Speak Advocate organization to support parents with school policy.  Ms. Garrett resides in Troy with her husband, LT, and their four children who all attend Troy Prep.

Hear Hudson Mohawk Magazine’s interview with Shades of Cocoa

An action shot of Dan Lyles, who seems to be recording a podcast/ participating in an interview. He is wearing a plaid button-up and a black tie.

Dan Lyles, Collectiveffort

Dr. Dan Lyles is the VP of Operations and Research at Collectiveffort is has been a faculty member at Rensselaer Polytechnic institute for 5 years. He is a Sociologist of Scientific Knowledge and Institutions and received his degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic in 2016. At RPI, he focuses on raising engineering students awareness of the unique opportunities they have to use engineering knowledge and skills to change the world for the better. At Collectiveffort, he focuses on cooperative governance, project management and using the immense power of shared resources to develop community resources and assets. He is pursuing his introductory Professional Project Management certificate in 2022. In his spare time, he likes to organize community organizations and foundations. 

A headshot of Noreen McKee, who has medium-length white hair and glasses, wearing a a dark purple sewater.

Noreen McKee, Board Member, League of Women Voters and the Justice Center of Rensselaer County

As a board member of the League of Women Voters and the Justice Center of Rensselaer County, Noreen McKee has fought successfully to bring early voting into the heart of downtown Troy to provide equitable access to early voting for minorities and low income voters. She is also on the board of directors of Unity House and a member of its advocacy committee, which is “dedicated to giving voice to the voiceless by shining the spotlight on the injustices suffered by the poor and the racial inequality that fuels poverty.

Listen to Hudson Mohawk Magazine’s interview with Noreen McKee:

More interviews by Hudson Mohawk Magazine:

MediaSanctuary · “The Strategy Comes Out of Struggle” Says Leon Van Dyke of The Brothers
MediaSanctuary · PEF Union and MLK Civil Rights talk with Wayne Spence
MediaSanctuary · Labor Organizing Around MLK Day


NAACP Troy Branch #2182-B

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is a civil rights organization in the United States, formed in 1909 as an interracial endeavor to advance justice for African Americans by a group including W. E. B. Du Bois, Mary White Ovington, Moorfield Storey and Ida B. Wells.

The NAACP’s mission in the 21st century is “to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate race-based discrimination”. National NAACP initiatives include political lobbying, publicity efforts and litigation strategies developed by its legal team.  The group enlarged its mission in the late 20th century by considering issues such as police misconduct, the status of black foreign refugees and questions of economic development. Its name, retained in accordance with tradition, uses the once common term colored people, referring to those with some African ancestry. Contact: [email protected].

You can view our MLK Holiday Labor and Community Celebration from 2021 below:

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