Emotional worship highlights annual event

HURLOCK – Every Black List awards ceremony has a different flavor; a different atmosphere. This year, on Feb. 23, it was an emotional tribute to God with liberal doses of humor and humility.


Minister David Dickerson was master of ceremonies. He noted that even after nine years the Black List “still has many worthy people of honor in our community.” Following Minister LaDon Jackson, who said, “Let us be of one accord in this nation,” The Rev. George Ames said, “My welcome to you tonight would be to keep God in the picture. And thank Him for all he’s done for us.”


Following a selection by the Full Gospel Church choir, Min. Dickerson said, “There’s a lot behind the scenes and so many times we judge people without knowing their story. We all live in our community together and we all share the same air.” He then introduced Eugene Woolford whose openness and unassuming nature were apparent as he offered a testimonial on his release from the bonds of drug and alcohol addiction. Painful bone spurs led to prescription pain pills which led to addiction which then led to heroin. “I turned to the demon heroin because prescription drugs were too expensive.” After his wife Margaret confronted him he said he “chose family and chose life.” Now two years clean, he says “God is the center of my being. He leads and I follow.”


The Maryland state legislature, represented by Sen. Addie Eckardt, and Delegates Johnny Mautz and Chris Adams; and Ministers and Citizens members Cederick Turner and Lee Davis presented awards and citations to honorees. Percy Dean, 100 years old and an outstanding community member, is among the oldest people in the area. Marin Young Cephas-Spry is the oldest person in Hurlock at 101 years of age whose mind is sharp and her spirits are good according to the President of the United Methodist Church Women who accepted the award for her.


Awards were presented to: James Hubbard, one of the first African-American auto salesmen on the Eastern Shore and a bus driver for over 55 years; Todd M. Nock was the youngest member of the Pocomoke City Council and served as chair of the Pocomoke board of elections; Wanda Bowers who recalled being led by the “spirit” to find an injured man whom she saved with a quick response; Charles Cummings, Hurlock councilman, youth leader, and police officer; Geraldine Conway for years of service to Full Gospel Church and Ministers & Citizens; Irene Jackson for many years of service to Ministers & Citizens; Sheriff James W. Phillips for many years of service performed in the county; Judge Melvin J. Jews for services performed in the county and the state; Jeanette Jackson for many years “you have been right here with us;” Hurlock Mayor Michael Henry, former councilman, former police chief, with 20 years of service for the Easton Police Department; Purcell Luke who overcame difficulties in his youth to become a successful attorney; Alpheus Tolley Jr. who flew 70 missions aboard a B-26 during WWII and returned to own a well-known market in East New Market; the Rev. Dr. Charles Pinkett Sr., an advocate and strong Christian leader and Breisha Cephas, star basketball player for the North Dorchester High School team.


The Rev. Charles Cephas, founder of Ministers & Citizens for Change and pastor of Full Gospel Church of God, added, “I would be remiss if I didn’t give honor to Dr. Diana Mitchell, superintendent of Dorchester County schools.” Dr. Mitchell stood to applause.


Cederick Turner praised Rev. Cephas’ wife Doretha. “This award goes to a young lady who has been with Ministers and Citizens since day one. We thank you for all the work that you do and the countless hours you put in.”
Mrs. Cephas recalled the organization originated in Prospect Heights “where drugs were so rampant they were even recruiting little children. You name it they did it back then.” Rev. Cephas recruited ministers, preachers and citizens who patrolled the area with walkie talkies “to make sure nobody was doing something wrong. People don’t appreciate some of the things he did.” She turned to her husband and said, “But we want you to know we appreciate you.”


Mr. Turner added that Rev. Cephas taught him many things but most importantly, “you don’t have to be in the streets to be a man.”
An imposing figure, Lt. Walter Holmes who runs the Eastern Correctional Institution (ECI), also partners with Capt. Kevin King to offer a seminar called CHOICES/Part of the Solution. Lt. Holmes and Capt. King travel to schools, community groups, and anywhere they are asked to educate the public about gangs which he says are increasing on the Eastern Shore. He presented an award to Capt. King for maintaining the CHOICES program a few years ago while Lt. Holmes solved some serious problems at ECI.


In his introduction of the Keynote Speaker, Rev. Cephas said Melvin J. Jews has a long history in Dorchester County. “He has seen the worst side of our humanity and has shown the good side. This man is trying to help young people get help.”


The first African-American district court judge in the county, Judge Jews was born and raised in Cambridge, is a 1978 graduate of Cambridge-South Dorchester High School, and a 1982 University of Maryland College Park graduate. After law school graduation in 1986, he was a Legal Aid attorney, Baltimore City prosecutor, and litigator for the Baltimore City government in various capacities. He established a private law practice in Cambridge. Married to attorney Jodi Cavanaugh Jews he has four children. After practicing law for approximately 28 years, Judge Jews was named Judge to the District Court of Maryland for Dorchester County in 2014.


The essence of strength, humor, pride, and a strong moral core, Judge Jews explained that “Bishop Cephas is my 1st cousin and my 3rd cousin. My mother is his aunt; his father was my 3rd cousin so we are connected with deep roots. I had forgotten my Pentecostal roots. Sometimes you have to testify and give thanks for what God has given you. Sometimes education makes you forget what God can do. I’m a believer and I know what God can do.”


The speaker said the theme of his talk was “Continuing the struggle.” He approached the topic with a significant message…“continuing the struggle with a strategy.” Judge Jews explained, “You have to know the history of black folks. How they got here. The values of their ancestors. Parents are the authority in a family. Parents are in charge. The way to get the community back is through the family. These people who were brought here as enslaved people; not because they wanted to come here but when they got here there were institutions that oppressed and held them down. When they were freed they developed a strategy: We work hard. And everything we do should be excellent.”


He noted, “They set a standard for their children. When you came home from church you taught mommy and daddy how to read. Set high expectations. They built hospitals, churches, sent children to college, law school. So by struggling and strategizing they kept the standard of excellence. Parents must be parents. That’s what we need to go back to.”
“Be excellent. That’s the expectation we should hold for our children. I’m not shy to say ‘I believe in God.’ The other part of the strategy was looking after your neighbors. We need to come back to what the people of old did. I’m here to tell you – when you struggle have the strategies.”


It wasn’t just the music that night that had the audience clapping and tapping their feet. Judge Jews had the same power to move his audience.

Susan Bautz is a freelance writer for the Dorchester Banner.

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