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Speakers at King dinner focus on continuing to improve lives; Community, children called key to success


Although African-Americans have achieved a great deal socially, politically and economically, they will have to fight complacency, build community and educate children in order to move forward.

That theme was repeated by speakers at the 11th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Awards Dinner at Annapolis Marriott Waterfront Hotel Friday night.

County Executive Janet S. Owens called for community leaders to reach out to children to battle the low test scores and high dropout rates among minority students, a struggle she called "a community crisis."

"I think if [King] were here tonight, he would urge us to redouble our efforts to reach out to those children who are drifting away from us," she told the crowd of 500.

"Dr. King, I think, would urge us to draw these children close to us, to secure them in our communities," Owens said.

Standing beside a poster of the newly unveiled Malcolm X postage stamp, the keynote speaker, the Rev. Frank M. Reid III, pastor of Bethel AME Church in Baltimore, delivered a rousing speech urging the crowd to redeem the soul of America with a spiritual, social and servant agenda.

"Malcolm and Martin did not die so we can live in a comfort zone," Reid said. "We have gotten so caught up in getting the crumbs from the table, we have forgotten that they died so that things might be changed."

The King Awards Dinner honors African American leaders who foster the slain civil rights leader's ideals of equality and social justice.

The dinner came under fire last year when articles in The Sun reported that the dinner committee had not registered as a charitable organization and had never disclosed how much money was raised, where the money was kept and how much was donated.

The Secretary of State's office found that Carl O. Snowden, former Annapolis alderman and chairman of the dinner committee, had not violated any law and was not required to register the effort as a charitable organization because the dinner was not promoted as a charity event.

Nevertheless, organizers restructured the process for donating money and set up a bank account for the funds raised.

In years past, the dinner had been run by an ad-hoc committee consisting of Snowden's friends, including some campaign donors. It is now co-sponsored by county chapters of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Peace Action and the Robinwood Planning Action committee.

This year's event was the most popular to date, with organizers turning away 300 people.

The committee recognized 10 community leaders with Drum Major awards for keeping King's dream alive, the Morris H. Blum Humanitarian Award for pioneers in civil and human rights and the King Peacemaker Award for county residents who work to promote peace.

C. Christopher Brown, former president of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, and former Attorney General Stephen Sachs also were recognized for their promotion of human rights.

"We have a lot to be thankful for," Snowden said. "We have made tremendous progress in the last half of the 20th century. That does not mean we don't have problems, but we have come a long way."

Pub Date: 1/17/99

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