Lt. Gov. Rutherford speaks at 2016 Black List Awards

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Dorchester Banner/Susan M. Bautz
State Senator Addie Eckardt with the 2016 Annual Black List honorees. From left, the Rev. C. Claudia Waters, Cpl. Johnnie Beasley, Jullion Taylor, Jason Beal, Pastor Stanford B. Ricks, Brother Robert W. Boyd Jr., Doris K. Lewis, Charmaine Smith, and Sen. Eckardt. Missing was award winner Dorchester County Sheriff James Phillips.

HURLOCK — No one had to brave the snow to attend the 5th annual 2016 Black List Award Celebration. And, Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford, who was trapped on the Western Shore last year, easily reached the Eastern Shore this year to fulfill his duties as Keynote Speaker.
Lt. Gov. Rutherford is one classy gentleman. Introduced by Orphans’ Court Judge Rev. George Ames, he spoke with eloquence and enthusiasm about the changes he and Gov. Larry Hogan have made and will continue to make to help the citizens of Maryland. With a distinguished background in education and law he genuinely appreciated the needs of Dorchester County residents.

He recounted how the Rev. Charles Cephas, founder of Ministers and Citizens for Hope and Change, “invited two little known, long-shot candidates for Gov. and Lt. Gov (in 2014). We were excited to be invited because no one really gave us a chance. Even friends said we were crazy but we just kept going. This actually was our first invited event. The Governor and I were quite pleased and honored to be invited let alone that you even knew who we were.”

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Dorchester Banner/Susan M. Bautz
Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford receives an award from Ministers & Citizens founder the Rev. Charles Cephas.

Lt. Gov. Rutherford said it is “Appropriate to think about our state and our rich history of black America during Black History Month. From Harriet Tubman, to Frederick Douglas, to Thurgood Marshall. So many people have paved the way for all of us and the countless achievements of black Americans throughout history.

“The governor and I have a mantra: ‘Work every day to change Maryland for the better.’ We were elected to put our state on a new path towards opportunity and prosperity for all of our citizens. We want to leave the state in a better position than it was when we came in. We are making strides. In 12 months we have created 55,000 new jobs; instituted a series of toll, fee and tax reductions so you can keep more of your money in your pocket rather than sending it to Annapolis. We have offered additional relief for struggling families, small businesses, and retirees.” In conclusion, he said, “we celebrate our shared heritage and also celebrate our shared future and a shared role in making our people and our state better.”

When Rev. Cephas presented an award to Lt. Gov. Rutherford he recounted the history of the Lt. Governor’s history with the Black List Awards. “Two years ago we invited then Gov. Martin O’Malley, Lt. Gov. Brown, a lot of the people that I thought would want to be in this program simply because it’s part of our history and heritage. Black History Month is not just a name. Many losses and much suffering has been done over the years to get that name.” He reflected on the 1960s and the Cambridge riots. “If you think the struggle is done you’re sadly mistaken. I called on the Gov. and Lt. Gov. who were then running for office and asked if they could come to my program. They said they were going to Salisbury but they’d make the program one of their stops.”

Rev. Cephas couldn’t believe it! “I saw a short white man and a tall black man. And they walked in the door and illuminated the room. My heart said, ‘is this real? These are Republicans!’ These two wonderful men who held high offices even before the election thought enough to come and sit with us. I promised I would never forget you, Lt. Gov. You said you would do a good job and man, you’re exceeding all expectations.”

State Senator Addie Eckardt presented citations to the honorees and noted, “It is very fitting to do this ceremony during black history month. Many times we don’t recognize those people that we rub shoulders with day after day who serve the community not only in their jobs but in their sharing and caring in the community. You are living examples of what God can do in a community.” The 2016 honorees included: Charmaine Smith, Doris Lewis, the Rev. Robert Boyd, Jason Neal, Pastor Stanford Ricks, Jullion Taylor, Hurlock Police Cpl. Johnnie Beasley, the Rev. Claudia Waters, and Sheriff James Phillips.

Master of ceremonies Minister David Dickerson moved the program along easily and introduced the talent that continuously rocked the auditorium. It was a real treat to hear some stirring gospel music sung by the renowned Christianaires. These talented, dapper gentlemen had the audience on their feet again this year.

Kudos to North Middle School teacher Kevin Lewis and the North Dorchester Middle School Gospel Choir. They are a disciplined, talented group of young people led by a young man who strives to help them be the best they can be. And they were!

Ashley Cephas offered a history of Ministers & Citizens. Organized in 1998, the group helps low-income citizens and their families. It provides recreation activities for youth, fights for the rights of the poor and homeless, and provides training for low income first time homebuyers. The organization helps those facing foreclosure, has food banks for the needy, and offers information about gang problems, jobs, business training, and self help.

The Black List Honor Awards was founded by Bishop Charles Cephas and the Ministers & Citizens for Change as a part of Black History month. At this ceremony, honor is given to individuals who have made a difference in their communities and the lives of others.
Honorees, ordinary people who have dedicated their lives to service, receive awards for outstanding services.

“The struggle for equal rights is unending,” she said, “and the Ministers & Citizens will always be at the heart of it.” The theme for this year’s event is: “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.”

Ministers & Citizens focuses much of its efforts on the youth of the community and it was obvious in Rev. Cephas’ closing remarks. He stood at the podium with two young men, members of the Honor Guard, plus two little girls who were thrilled to join him on stage and be part of a unique event. It was a fitting conclusion that visually paid tribute to the group’s mission.

Susan Bautz is a freelance writer for the Dorchester Banner.

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