For museum, NAACP: time to celebrate

The Baltimore Sun

Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture : The mezzanine of the Lyric Opera House was packed with people enjoying the annual gala of the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture. The air practically popped with excitement during the cocktail hour before the performance by Ashford & Simpson. There was so much to celebrate.

For philanthropist Sylvia Brown, it was the museum itself. For Carla Hayden, Enoch Pratt Free Library CEO, it was the evening's honorees, Brown and her husband, Eddie Brown.

Roslyn Smith, Northrop Grumman Corp. human resources director, Squire Padgett, Washington attorney, Dianne Bell-McKoy, president/CEO Associated Black Charities, and Richard McKoy, retired director of Baltimore Emergency Management, were all abuzz about the evening's entertainment.

"You wanna hear some inside scoop?" Smith asked. "This guy, Squire Padgett, and Nick Ashford were busboys together when they were in school together in Michigan."

Meanwhile, Loida N. Lewis, widow of the museum's namesake, and museum board chairwoman Leslie King-Hammond marveled at the gala's timing, coming three weeks after the election of the nation's first African-American president.

"We're going to have the most wonderful singalong to celebrate two fabulous occasions: the gala ... and the election of our 44th president of the United States, Barack Obama," King-Hammond said.

Meanwhile, event chair Beverly Cooper was celebrating the completion of a tough, but fulfilling, task.

"I'm happy, glad it's over," she said as she scanned the crowd. "Lots of hard work. But, [I feel] good."

Baltimore City NAACP: A jazz band played in the corner of a small room at Martin's West, as VIPs arrived for a cocktail hour before the evening's main event: the 2008 Annual Freedom Fund Banquet of the NAACP's Baltimore City Branch.

Event chair Tessa Hill-Aston greeted guests with warm smiles and hugs, as her husband, Joe Aston, chairman of the branch's finance committee, provided backup.

Hill-Aston marveled at the size of the evening's crowd - more than 600 people.

"I'm coming for [NAACP branch president Marvin] 'Doc' Cheatham," said Baltimore attorney J. Wyndal Gordon. "He's helping us come together and recognize that diversity is an asset, as opposed to a liability."

Examples of that diversity could be found in the presence of Maria Y. Welch, chair of the Governor's Commission on Hispanic Affairs, and Charles Ramos, president/CEO Baltimore Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

"It's very important ... to show the unity within our communities because we have so much in common and so many of the fights are the same fights. Coming together makes the voice louder and stronger," said Welch.

As for branch president Cheatham, his primary duty that night was to make everyone feel at home. He did this by cheerfully circulating through the crowd.

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To see more photos from these two events, go to baltimoresun.com/unisun

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