I hope that everyone had a terrific weekend, and used the opportunity yesterday to put action behind one of Dr. Martin Luther King’s many important insights: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?'” At the Y and across the region, there were many wonderful opportunities for community service. My family and I were pleased to be at the Druid Hill Y with other volunteers putting together food bags and notes of encouragement for a local West Baltimore shelter and crisis center.
It’s been 31 years since MLK, Jr. Day became a federal holiday, and it’s easy perhaps to see it as simply another day off. However, it’s anything but that. It’s an important milestone in our country’s long, but tortured march towards greater social justice and equality. If the searing events of past few years here in Baltimore and around the country are any indication, we have a tremendous amount of work to do as a country before we can consider ours a “post-racial” society. Yes, we are about to see our first African American President, Barak Obama, and his family peacefully transition out of the White House after eight years in office, and that signifies a tremendous and historic marker of progress in its own right. However, we all know in our bones that much is left to be done in ours, the most pluralistic and diverse of countries. So, it’s critically important to not only celebrate Dr. King’s legacy, but to think deeply about what his too-brief life meant and about the unfinished business that we all need to grapple with.
Given all this, I am so proud that our Y continues a long tradition of welcoming all and of paying tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. through both community service opportunities and our annual breakfast celebration, now in its 42nd year.
Last Friday, about 150 people, including many wonderful school children, gathered at the historic Druid Hill Y to honor Dr. King’s life and legacy. As usual, it was a warm and inspiring tribute which reminded us all of our duty to protect the values which make us free and which are fundamental to democracy: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all.
The guests were warmly greeted and escorted to their seats by young men from the Baltimore Collegiate School for Boys, and several of those young men also showed up yesterday to volunteer their time. With the sounds of the Morgan State University Jazz Band welcoming us in and an inspiring invocation and benediction by our good friend, Reverend Alvin C. Hathaway of Union Baptist Church, we were treated to a sobering yet uplifting keynote speech by WBAL-TV news anchor Stan Stovall. He recalled the humiliation his father endured, and he witnessed, when as a child going with his father to look for work his dad was repeatedly turned away with the words, “we don’t hire coloreds.” Many of you may not be old enough to recall this time in America, but it actually was not that long ago. Stan’s purpose in recalling that era and his personal experience of it was to impress upon all of us the importance of remembering the lessons of the past and staying vigilant to guard hard won victories which are so necessary to democracy for us all. They were wise words, indeed.
Stan Stovall’s thought-provoking speech was followed, aptly enough, by a stirring recitation of Dr. King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech, with each paragraph delivered by a different student from our partner school, Waverly Elementary and Middle School, which is located next door to the Weinberg Y. The idea for this memorable recitation was the brainchild of Jimmy Carter (no, not that one!), from Effective Leaders International, who not only helped to bring his idea to fruition, but also generously made a very kind donation to the Y in honor of the Waverly students who performed the speech.
The Y’s Baltimore City Community Board Chair Andrea Garris-Jackson, who was instrumental in planning the event, closed the proceedings with special awards to three key partners: the Youth Development Award going to Kelly Coates, the Section Chief of Extended Learning at Maryland State Department of Education, where she provides oversight for the state’s 21st Century Community Learning Centers (of which we run several); the Social Responsibility Award going to Turner Construction, accepted by Project Manager Michael Washington, for their ongoing support, including the sprucing up of the Druid Hill Y in advance of the 100th anniversary celebration; and the Healthy Living Award going to McCormick & Company, accepted by their Community Relations Manager Jason McCormick, in recognition of their continuous, generous and active support of the Y’s Healthy Kids Day, summer camp, the Druid Hill 100th Anniversary and Turkey Trot.
All are to be thanked and are deeply appreciated for their commitment to the Y, particularly the event’s generous sponsors: Flowers & Fancies, The Annie E. Casey Foundation, Morgan State University Jazz Ensemble, Effective Leaders International, Chesapeake Employers Insurance, and The Documentist. I’d like to also give a shout-out to several Y associates who worked so hard to make this event a memorable and fitting tribute, including Catrina Springer, Dr. Sharon Johnson, Eric Somerville, James Weathers, Bradley Alston (who’s actually retired but still does so much for us) and many more.
All the best,
John K. Hoey
President & CEO
The Y in Central Maryland