Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, the president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County will be this year’s speaker at the 16th annual Freedom Fund Banquet hosted by Carroll County National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Branch 7014 on Oct. 19.
Jean Lewis, president of the Carroll County NAACP Branch, had contacted the nationally renowned speaker last May and was excited that he had accepted.
Then again, Hrabowski accepting the local branch’s invitation continues what has become a distinguished speaker series tradition for Carroll County that arguably dates back to at least October 13, 1870 when the famed national leader and orator Frederick Douglass once spoke at the Odd Fellow’s Hall in Westminster.
For 16 years, the list of folks who have spoken at the annual NACP event reads like a “who’s who” among national leaders.
In an interview with Carroll County Times writer Carrie Ann Knauer that was published on Oct. 11, 2013, Lewis said, “the event is an annual fundraiser for the NAACP, helping collect money for scholarships for black students in the county as well as covering some of the organization’s administrative costs.”
“But it also is a chance to celebrate the work of distinguished individuals,” Lewis said. “We see who we feel has made a significant contribution to the community, to the African-American community and the community at large.”
The first annual banquet took place Nov. 2, 2001, shortly after the local branch was officially recognized by the Baltimore-based NAACP in mid-May 1999 after being dormant since 1993. The Carroll branch had been quite active in the community during the 1980s.
Much of the success of the local branch is because it has always emphasized reaching across political, ideological, and color-lines. The minority population in Carroll is about 5 percent, however the local branch is very diverse with many white folks in its leadership and on the executive board.
The local branch is steadfastly nonpartisan. During the reorganization process in the late 1990s, both political parties played an active role in re-energizing the local branch.
The speakers for the first “speaker series banquet” in 2001 were NAACP President and CEO Kweisi Mfume and 7th Congressional District Congressman Elijah E. Cummings. Over 550 folks attended the event.
The second banquet did not take place until two years later — on Oct. 17, 2003. That year, Michael S. Steele, the first African-American to be elected lieutenant governor in Maryland, was the speaker.
On Nov. 20, 2004, Dr. Levi Watkins Jr., the associate dean of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and full professor of Cardiac Surgery spoke.
Several hundred people attended the fourth annual banquet on Nov. 19, 2005, and heard an address from fellow Carroll County resident and Maryland Secretary of Higher Education Calvin Burnett.
Burnett, a resident of Westminster, offered not only his experience but also a sense of humor in his presentation on the challenges of post-secondary education in Maryland.
Education was a clear theme of the event as Carroll County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Charles Ecker introduced Burnett to a diverse crowd that represented a broad spectrum of Carroll County leadership.
Guests at the 2005 banquet included WJZ-TV news anchor Vic Carter, who served as master of ceremonies, and Maryland Senatorial candidate Kweisi Mfume, who shared a few remarks despite being a bit hoarse from the campaign trail.
Often we only read about the people who helped shape history in Carroll County and Maryland. However on April 9, 2010, a history maker, Judge Robert M. Bell, was the featured speaker at the banquet.
On October 11, 2013, the guest speaker was the first woman and African-American commander for the Maryland Army National Guard, Brigadier Gen. Linda Singh, and U.S. Congressman Elijah E. Cummings.
On Oct. 10, 2014 Bert Hash Jr., the retired president and CEO of MECU of Baltimore; delivered the keynote address: “Don’t Work for Money, Make Your Money Work for You.”
At the 13th annual banquet, the guest speaker was Maryland Lt. Gov. Boyd K. Rutherford. The following year, on Oct. 21, 2016, the speaker was Stephen Tillett, president, Anne Arundel County NAACP, and pastor of Asbury Broadneck in Annapolis.
Maj. Roland Butler, the Assistant Bureau Chief of Field Operations, and the highest ranking African-American in the Maryland State Police, was the speaker on Oct. 20, 2017.
The theme for this year’s address by Hrabowski is “Empowering Youth.” Tickets are available by contacting Jean Lewis at 410-861-6872 or Bernard Jones at 410-876-2358.