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NAACP President Speaks at Annual Black History Breakfast
Waldorf, MD - 2/11/2013
By Dick Myers
For the 32nd year, on Saturday the Fifth Congressional District Black History Month Breakfast was the hottest ticket in the area. The attendees packed the Greater Waldorf Jaycee Community Center from all over Rep. Steny Hoyer’s district of Prince George’s, Charles, Calvert, St. Mary;s and Anne Arundel to celebrate the accomplishments of African-Americans to the history of the country and the world.
Hoyer, in opening remarks said, “Maryland has a particularly long list of notable African-American sons and daughters who have helped build our communities and advance the causes of justice, opportunity, and the arts. Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Thurgood Marshall, Benjamin Banneker, Billy Holiday, Eubie Blake, Matthew Henson – these are names we are all proud to associate with Maryland.
“In my years in public office – both in Annapolis and in Washington – I have been privileged to serve with many outstanding African-American leaders working to continue making Maryland a great place for all to live and pursue the American dream.”
Guest speaker for the event was the 17th President and CEO of the NAACP Benjamin Todd Jealous. His appointment at the age of 35 in 2008 to be president of the national organization was controversial at the time. But he has succeeded in increasing NAACP’s online activists from 175,000 to 600,000 individuals and its donors from 16,000 per year to more than 120,000.
During his speech Jealous asked the attendees who were NAACP members to raise their hands and the majority did so.
Hoyer, in his introduction of Jealous, noted his ascendency to the presidency of such a prestigious organization at such a young age. But then Hoyer noted that he was looking through some old pictures and found one of himself at the same age when he was first elected to the Maryland Senate.
Jealous is the product of a mixed marriage. His mother, an African-American helped desegregate Baltimore’s Western High School for Girls and his father, a white man, was jailed during the Congress of Racial Equality’s efforts to desegregate Baltimore’s downtown business district.
Jealous noted that his parents were not able to get married until 1967 because laws prevented interracial marriage up until then. Likening the situation to today’s Gay marriage controversy, he said, “The state shouldn’t be in it (controlling marriage).
Before becoming NAACP president Jealous was founding director of Amnesty International’s U.S. Human Rights Program. While there he authored a widely cited report: “Threat and Humiliation – Racial Profiling, Domestic Security and Human Rights in the United States.”
Most of his speech was dedicated to mocking racial profiling. He wondered out loud what would happen if a report of a crime noted that the perpetrator was a white man and every car driven by a white man was stopped on the Beltway. He said imagine how angry they would be when they wound up late for work.
Jealous cited a famous case in American history to underline the fact that racial profiling has been going on for a long time. President William McKinley was shot on September 6, 1901, inside theTemple of Musicon the grounds of thePan-American ExpositioninBuffalo, New York. He died two weeks later.
Jealous said those protecting the president put out a profile of a potential threat that included male, dark, tall and with a beard. Ironically the man who tackled the shooter, Georgian Big Jim Parker, fit that description instead. He was of part-African and part- Spanish descent.
The NAACP president said racial profiling can only be ended with political and electorate will and with an education program within the schools.
Jealous said of the NAACP, now more than 100 years old, that it was started with the determination: “We will fight until we win and that is exactly how long we did.” Jealous praised Maryland’s political leaders for their courage, and singled out t6he current effort in the Maryland General Assembly to abolish the death penalty. That was met with a round of applause from the audience.
Jealous, whose speech was often punctuated with humor, noted that Black History Month was the coldest month of the year. It was picked because no one else wanted it. But on a more serious side, he added, “Our history is American history. How can you talk about Lincoln and not talk about Frederick Douglass.”
Maryland’s junior U.S. Senator Ben Cardin also attended. Cardin and Hoyer are best of friends from their days in the Maryland Senate and they are a mutual admiration society when they talk about each other. Cardin said Hoyer is a global leader fighting against tyranny worldwide. But he also said, “He is one of the most effective local congressmen in the nation.”
The breakfast is a labor of love for a dedicated group of volunteers. This year it was also sponsored by Comcast, Solomon Milburn and Chuck Lewis Photography, Lou Harvey, the Michael Company, Local 26 and Exelon.
In closing remarks, Hoyer said “I look forward to this breakfast every year, and this year is special. This year, we are observing major anniversaries of two critical milestones in black history.
“The first, which we marked on January 1, was the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, which brought freedom to millions who were subjected to the horrors and injustices of slavery.
“Here in Maryland, we constantly grapple with our own history when it comes to slavery. But as much as we must accept our state’s role in sustaining that evil institution for so long, so too can we take pride that Maryland produced some of slavery’s fiercest opponents, including Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass.
“The other anniversary this year, which is coming this August, is the 50th year since the March on Washington and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech. It was more than a speech – it was a call to arms. And that march was more than just a march – it was a turning point in the advance of American liberty.
“In many ways, this year is a bookend, with the second inauguration of our country’s first African-American president.
“But, as President Obama would remind us – and as we all know too well – there is too much unfinished work to rest on our laurels. The arc of the moral universe bends forward with no end. The trials and triumphs of black history teaches all of us – black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American – that we can only make our nation stronger and make our union more perfect by working together.
“We must choose to seek out the table of brotherhood Dr. King spoke of in his speech fifty years ago and make sure it is set for those who will gather around it another half century from now.
“Every year, not too long after this breakfast, I travel to Selma, Alabama, with Congressman John Lewis and other Members Of Congress to take part in a recreation of the 1965 Civil Rights March.
“This breakfast is a fitting way to begin preparing for that journey, because the march from Selma truly began not at the Brown Chapel AME Church but in the long span of black history, which made that turning point possible. I look forward to carrying the hopes and reflections from this breakfast with me as I embark once again on that journey.”
Musical selections were performed throughout the morning by Duval High School Gospel Choir and the Refreshed Band from the University of Maryland Easter Shore, Posting of the Colors was by the Gwynn Park High School JROTC. Invocation was by Rev. Jamila Woods-Jones of Jabez Christian Community Church of Waldorf. Blessing of the Food was by Rev. George Hackey, Jr. of Metropolitan United Methodist Church of Indian Head. And Benediction was from Rev. James Spence, Jr. of Oasis Victory Christian Church International of Lexington Park.
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