The Rev. Dr. Cari Jackson, principal organizer of the Every Valley Symposium and founder of the Center of Spiritual Light, thanked Eugene Cornelius, deputy associate administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration, for his involvement and support as keynote speaker at the symposium, which focused on Dr. Martin Luther King’s drive for economic justice and peace through his “Beyond Vietnam” speech, delivered at the Riverside Church on April 4, 1967. The event also marked the 46th anniversary of King’s assassination.

In his “Beyond Vietnam” speech, King said, “We must, with positive action, seek to remove those conditions of poverty, insecurity and injustice.” Event organizers noted that in the decades since King issued that clarion call, the economic divide in the U.S. has widened in unprecedented and alarming ways.

In honor of his life and legacy, the symposium brought together pastors and other spiritual leaders, community stakeholders, residents and business owners to discuss theological and entrepreneurial tools needed to change marginalized neighborhoods into thriving communities with strong businesses and job creation.

“Our goal [was] to have faith leaders and community activists come together with the SBA to help communities reimagine and reposition themselves in ways to effectively turn the tide of the economic crises facing urban neighborhoods today,” said Jackson. “We must engage in economic justice and advocacy, as well as individual empowerment strategies, in order to bring about substantial change. Dr. King would expect no less than this.”