“For four years I was awarding this recognition to other people, and it’s an honor to be recognized,” said Corey Ellis on Monday evening (Feb. 4) after the Albany Common Council recognized him and 16 other African-American Albany residents for their contributions to the community, in honor of Black History Month.
The 11th Ward honored Ellis, who grew up in Albany’s South End and Arbor Hill neighborhoods. In 2005, he defeated a 12-year incumbent for a seat on the Common Council. During the 2008 presidential election, Ellis was chair of Albany for Obama, and in 2009 he ran unsuccessfully for mayor. Since then, Ellis has advocated to reduce gun violence, addressed the issue of Albany’s vacant and abandoned buildings, and advocated for Albany’s public television station. He co-founded and is currently vice president of the Capital District Black Chamber of Commerce, and is the first African-American to represent the 108th Assembly District in the New York State Democratic Committee.
“[Ellis] has done a lot and I think there’s more to come,” said Owusu Anane, a graduate student at University at Albany and vice chair of the New York State Young Democrats Caucus of Color. “You hear his story and it inspires you do to more.”
Common Council President Carolyn McLaughlin singled out a group of retired Albany firefighters: Jack Kent, Elston Mackey, Stanley F. Williams and Wardell Dale. In 1966, Dale was one of the first of three black firefighters in the city of Albany, and became the first black fire investigator in the city. In 23 years of working for the Albany fire department, Dale missed only two days of work.
Kent and Mackey were two of eight hired by the fire department in 1987 as provisional firefighters in an affirmative-action effort. Kent spent most of his 20-year career serving the Arbor Hill area. For 20 years of Mackey’s 26-year career, he was the only African-American member of the Rescue Squad, and received special training in several areas, including Homeland Security COBRA Training in Weapons of Mass Destruction.
Williams has served in the US Air Force, as an EMT, a paramedic, a building code inspector and Albany firefighter. Among his list of accomplishments was delivering a baby boy while on the job.
“You’ve got a story to tell and it must be told,” said McLaughlin, thanking the men for their contributions to Albany’s fire department and its history.
The 8th Ward honored Nala Woodward, an Albany elementary school teacher, and the city’s first African-American city clerk. McLaughlin, Albany’s first African-American common council president, presented the honor in the acsence of John Rosenweig, the 8th Ward representative.
The 4th Ward honored Ronnie J. Nicholson, an employee of the Albany City School District, who previously had been honored by President Obama when he received the Martin Luther King Drum Major for Service Award from the Corporation for National Community Service. Nicholson has organized Christmas activities for children in the Capital Woods Apartments, and through the Arbor Hill Neighborhood Association volunteered with the Be the Match Foundation, which raises awareness about bone marrow donation. He also volunteers with his local Christian youth organization.
Other recipients were Elaine Frazier, Wilmer (Decky) Lawson, Robert Brown, Yusuf Burgess, Dale Davidson, Peter Kitonyi, Felicia Green, Dorothea Scott, Sam Coleman, and Ron C. Pople Sr.