When the 29th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Awards Dinner is held Jan. 13, it will honor 10 people whose deeds, words, and actions have helped keep the slain civil rights leader’s legacy alive.
Since the dinner's inception, the event and the Annapolis-based Martin Luther King Jr. Committee have raised more than $600,000 to build and maintain three memorials in Anne Arundel County to King’s legacy, organizers said.
The first effort was a statue of King at Anne Arundel Community College, erected in 2006, followed by a plaque and garden tribute to King’s wife, Coretta Scott King, at the former Sojourner-Douglass College in Edgewater in 2011 and the Civil Rights Foot Soldiers Memorial at Whitmore Park in Annapolis in 2013.
Money from this year’s dinner will be used to help pay off the remaining balance on the loan that funded the Foot Soldiers Memorial.
“It is because of the generosity of citizens that we have been able to build more memorials preserving the history of the civil rights movement than any other jurisdiction in the atate of Maryland, including Baltimore City and Prince George’s County,” said Carl Snowden, a longtime Annapolis civil right activist and chairman of the committee.
“These memorials serve as guideposts. They remind us of where we have been and where we must go in order to achieve racial equality in our nation,” said Snowden, a columnist for The Capital.
The Annapolis-based Martin Luther King Jr. Committee Inc. is a 501 (3)c nonprofit corporation founded in 1988. It hosts two major events each year, the awards dinner and the annual Fannie Lou Hamer Reception in October.
This year’s winners to be recognize at the dinner are:
Morris H. Blum Humanitarian Award
Annapolis Fire Deputy Chief Kevin Simmons is being honored for his 35-year commitment to the Annapolis Fire Department, and for his role as chairman of the diversity committee of the Metropolitan Council of Fire Chiefs. He was also chosen for his to work to further opportunities for people of color and women in local fire departments.
Since 2010, Simmons has been deputy chief of planning, leading emergency management, fire department training, public outreach, public information and the fire marshal’s office. As emergency manager for Annapolis, Simmons has guided the city through many weather emergencies.
Simmons previously worked with We Care and Friends, establishing and providing administrative oversight to Annapolis’ Stanton Center as an overnight warming shelter, providing meals, counseling and fellowship to patrons.
Peace Maker Award
A retired teacher, Patience Schenck works to educate the white community on the negative outcomes of racial privilege. She founded the Working Group on Racism within the Baltimore Quakers Yearly Meeting, the regional Quaker organization, and has offered workshops at its annual gatherings.
Schenck reviews books on the topic of racism for a Quaker magazine. She is a member of the Executive Committee of the Maryland Alliance for Justice Reform, the Annapolis Human Relations Council and the Annapolis Friends Meeting.
Alan Hilliard Legum Civil Rights Award
Dr. Alyson L. Hall, a board-certified ophthalmologist, was chosen for her commitment to minority health care in Anne Arundel County.
As a chairwoman of the Anne Arundel County Minority Business Enterprise Committee, she worked to promote equal business opportunity and utilization of women- and minority-owned firms.
In 2001, Hall founded the Glaucoma Center P.C., which offers medical and surgical glaucoma care. She travels to Ghana, in West Africa, annually as a medical missionary glaucoma surgeon.
Annapolis Alderman Kenneth A. Kirby co-founded the Concerned Black Males of Annapolis, worked in public housing recreation programs and served as a Youth Ambassador at Annapolis High School.
His award acknowledges his community involvement to the Anne Arundel public school system and his efforts as chairman of Annapolis’ Housing and Human Welfare, Housing, and Community Development committees.
Kirby remains a strong supporter of community involvement in Anne Arundel public schools. On Saturdays, he volunteers at the Hillsmere Library, where he mentors 15 youth alongside other role-model men. He is a member of the Caucus of African American Leaders and coaches the Key School Girls Varsity Basketball Team.
This award, which is named after the late Annapolis civil rights lawyer, will be presented by members of the Legum family.
We Share the Dream Award
Anne Arundel County Police Chief Timothy J. Altomare is being recognized for his extensive military and law enforcement career, in which he has led efforts in community policing, re-instituting outreach units, youth activity programs and faith-based partnerships in long-underserved communities of color in the county.
The Marine Corps veteran served in the Gulf War and was awarded the Navy Achievement Medal, the Combat Action Ribbon and numerous other expeditionary awards, as well being honored for his leadership in combat operations in the Gulf. He was honorably discharged in 1992.
Following his military career, Altomare joined the Annapolis Police Department. Named county chief in 2014, he has overseen the creation of the first ever Intra-County Heroin Task Force.
Altomare has been decorated three times for risking his life to save others.
Courageous Leadership Award
State Sen. Joan Carter Conway has been in the Senate since 1997, where she has helped citizens receive better mental health care and health insurance. She has chaired the Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee since 2007.
Conway is a member of the Women Legislators of Maryland, the National Conference of State Legislatures, the Women Legislators of the Maryland General Assembly Inc. and the NAACP.
Drum Major Award
Terry Patton is a recipient of the Drum Major Award. She is the principal of Franklin Square Elementary-Middle School in Baltimore, which serves a minority neighborhood, and has worked as an educator her entire life, also serving as elementary teacher, teaching consulting, education teacher, administrative assistant and assistant principal.
Patton understands the importance of education culture as it relates to reducing chronic absenteeism, as well as how to build relationships among the families and the school community.
Midshipman 1st Class Megan Rosenberger has been involved in numerous Midshipman Action Group outreach projects, including Harvest for the Hungry for Annapolis and surrounding communities during her four years at the academy. As a result of her volunteer efforts, Rosenberger will serve as the 2017 Midshipman Action Group Chief of Staff. She is also involved in environmental issues and was given the President’s Environmental Youth Award by President Barack Obama.
Last fall, Rosenberger and her Harvest for the Hungry team collected more than 80,000 pounds of food for the Anne Arundel County Food Bank. This represented an all-time high in a single year for the food bank, which collected more than any other institution in the Maryland program.
Alicia A. Smoot is being honored for her youth mentorship activities in Anne Arundel County and Baltimore City. She is the lead mentor for the Michael Jones Mentoring Group Inc. in Baltimore City, helping pre-teens, parents and guardians with communication and character building.
Smoot also mentors youth in Anne Arundel through a driving program, helping them get to and from school. Previously, she worked with pre-teens through Anne Arundel Adopt-A-School.
Smoot became a member of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Committee in 2015, volunteering with the Fannie Lou Hamer Awards.
Annapolis Police Sgt. James C. Spearman Jr. has been in law enforcement for 31 years, starting as a cadet in the Annapolis Police Department. He has taken leadership positions helping underserved youth in Annapolis. Spearman has been recognized by Maryland Govs. Parris Glendening and Robert Ehrlich for his work in crime control and prevention.
Spearman is on the Resident Opportunities and Self-Sufficiency Grant Committee in Eastport, the Caucus of African American Leaders and Brandon’s Coalition for Success — a group aimed at enriching the lives of young teenage boys.
Each year, Spearman supports the William Reese Memorial Thanksgiving Dinner, started by William Reese in the 1990s. The dinner ensures families and senior citizens in the Eastport area receive a holiday meal.
The dinner will be at 6 p.m. Jan. 13 at La Fontaine Bleue, 7514 Richie Highway, Glen Burnie. Tickets are $60 before Monday, and $65 afterward. VIP tickets are $100 and include premium seating and a private reception.
The Rev. Kevin W. Cosby of Louisville, Kentucky, will give the keynote address. He is the senior pastor of St. Stephens Church there, and was among several speakers at boxing legend Muhammad Ali’s recent funeral service.
For information, write MLK Jr. Committee, PO Box 371, Annapolis MD 21404, call 443-871-5656 or visit www.mlkcskmd.org.