Black List Awards: Making a difference

HURLOCK — The 8th annual Black List Awards on Saturday, sponsored by the Ministers and Citizens for Change (MCC), celebrated those who make a difference in their communities. In the past the nonprofit organization held the event in a school after a fire destroyed part of the church. With restoration complete and the addition of an impressive new gathering space the Black List is where it belongs – at the Full Gospel Church of God in Hurlock.

MCC is an “action” organization founded in June, 1995. The Rev. Charles Cephas formed the group as a “community watchdog” to create a safe neighborhood in which to live and play.

Master of ceremonies Min. David Dickerson led the program with confidence and humor. He introduced Rev. Cephas who said “We started from humbleness. We had a tragedy but God brought us through.”

Orphans’ Court Judge, the Rev. George R. Ames Jr., offered the opening prayer. He thanked God for “all the days that you give us,” and added “the Black List celebration is to recognize the unsung heroes who’ve gone out and made this world a better place.”

Vaughn Evans has a long and distinguished career in the Dorchester County school system. Currently principal at Sandy Hill Elementary School, he introduced guest speaker, Dorchester County School Superintendent Dr. Diana Mitchell, as his “boss” and “a champion for all students.”

Dr. Mitchell noted she is the first African-American and first female to serve as the county’s school superintendent. After praising the prominent black leadership in the county she offered a well researched, detailed history of slavery to coincide with Black History month. She cited hundreds of years of bondage and noted that many of the 300,000 captives who came to the US first landed in the Caribbean where they, free Africans, were taught to be slaves. “It was more brutal than anyone could ever imagine,” she said.

The speaker explained that “keeping blacks subservient to whites was not just a southern thing. It was all over the United States.” After the Civil War the American Missionary Society and the African Methodist Episcopal Church opened numerous black schools, some of which are now historically significant universities.

Dr. Mitchell noted black history month “allows each of us and every American to celebrate the rich tradition of African-Americans … It promotes open dialogue and communication between the races.” The month is a “celebration of what can be.”

Rev. Ames introduced keynote speaker Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford by saying, Maryland has had 9 lieutenant governors. Lt. Gov. Rutherford is the 3rd African-American Lt. Gov. in the state of Maryland.

Lt. Gov. Rutherford, has a ready sense of humor with a quiet, unassuming wit. He said, “That was short and sweet.” When his biography is read “it kind of sounds like my obituary” and suggested anyone who wants to can research him on Google.

“When we first came down here for the Black List Awards ceremony we were candidates who no one knew. No one gave us a chance and Bishop Cephas invited us (he and Gov. Larry Hogan) to come to the Black List awards and we came down here. The trip “created a special place in our hearts with regard to Hurlock, the pastor, and the Ministers for Change.”

“I was asked to talk a little bit about what we’ve been doing with regard to the heroin/opioid issue in the state.” In traveling around the state and talking to people he learned that heroin use was the biggest state-wide challenge. “We were not hearing a lot about heroin issues in the media, but we were hearing it at the local levels.”

A special task force found that the epidemic continued to grow and change with the introduction of synthetic heroin derivatives fentanyl and carfentanil. Recommendations from the task force focus on education and prevention, enforcement of laws, expansion of treatment, and recovery. Education ensures that youngsters understand that drugs are a dead end street and those using prescription opioids must understood what leads to addiction. The traditional heroin user springs from marijuana and alcohol use while 70 percent of new users come from the misuse of prescription medications.

The task force differentiates between an addict who needs treatment for a sickness; and the person we fear who must be taken off the streets. After closing the state-run Baltimore City jail the plan is to create a therapeutic, secure facility for the drug addicted, mentally ill prison population. Public schools will start drug education as early as the 3rd grade to ensure young people live a drug-free life. “It will take everyone to make the biggest impact possible but, there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

The Lt. Gov. noted the significant role of the Eastern Shore in American and African-American history. He mentioned the new Harriet Tubman National Park and Visitors’ Center and described the 200th birthday celebration for Frederick Douglas. “This is a person who escaped from slavery but was able to rise to a level as a national orator, statesman, diplomat, and abolitionist.” He was also the most photographed person in the 19th century. He realized the importance of showing a distinguished black man facing the camera, dressed well, and looking straight into the camera. “He wanted to emphasize the impact on the nation of some of the sons and daughters of the Eastern Shore.”

On behalf of the County Council, Councilman Rick Price gave Mr. Rutherford a tote bag from the tourism department with “souvenirs that represent our beautiful county.”

Min. Dickerson passionately delivered Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech. It was easy to picture the famous leader speaking the words and the audience was raptly silent.

Two hand-clapping musical interludes included the Full Gospel Choir; and North Dorchester Middle School music director Kevin Lewis who sang Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On.

State Sen. Addie Eckardt and Delegates Johnny Mautz and Sheree Sample-Hughes presented citations to the Black List Award honorees, including: Ray Washington Jr., Dr. Norby Lee, Sherwood Sharp, Kevin Lewis, Devon Beck, Lynnell Collins, Austin Brown, Roxanne Green, Cederick Turner, and Earl and Michelle Murphy.

In his closing remarks, Rev. Cephas said, “two men came when they were invited and did not say they had to check their schedules. They just came to this little town with one red light. Lt. Gov, thank you so much for coming when no one else would.” He added he was also “so glad to have this elegant, wonderful superintendent here who has a genuine concern for this community and its kids.”

In a surprise endorsement, Rev. Cephas announced that the Gov. and Lt. Gov. are running for re-election. “We’re going to work with them and get them back in so change will continue in the State of Maryland.”

As always, Rev. Ames could not suppress his sense of humor. Before the benediction, he told the audience seriously, “I’m gonna’ keep this short because I’m standing between you and the chicken.”

The chicken, fixings, and beautiful new dining room did not disappoint.

Susan Bautz is a freelance writer for the Dorchester Banner.

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