The 27th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Awards Dinner was held Friday, January 16. The largest celebration of Dr. King’s birthday in Anne Arundel County was held in Glen Burnie. Vice Admiral Walter Carter, Jr., Superintendent of the United States Naval Academy, was the keynote speaker. The crowd of almost 700 heard from U.S. Representatives John Sarbanes, Donna Edwards and Dutch Ruppersberger as well as County Executive Steve Schuh. Among the 10 honorees was Reverend Dr. Carletta Allen, Pastor of the Asbury United Methodist Church of Annapolis, who was recognized for her long history of protesting violations of workers’ rights and other civil rights causes – even enduring being handcuffed and arrested for her beliefs.
Other individuals honored for their actions to help keep the legacy of Dr. King alive included: Miriam Stanici, Community Relations Director of the Naval Academy; Dr. Larry W. Blum; Alderwoman Rhonda Pindell Charles; Bishop Douglas Miles; Carl Owens; Howard Zeiderman; Jeffrey S. Blum; Monzy Faulkner, Jr., and Ramocille Solenza Cooper Johnson.
During his keynote address Carter recounted a story of moral leadership by the second African-American to graduate from the academy. In the closing days of the Vietnam War that graduate, Lawrence Chambers, was the captain of the aircraft carrier USS Midway. His ship was at sea when a Cessna low on fuel and piloted by an escaping South Vietnamese soldier with his family ask to land on the carrier. He made the decision to dump helicopters worth $10 million in the sea to make the successful landing possible.
At the time, Chambers had only been in command of the USS Midway for four weeks and believed that his order would get him court marshaled. He also called Major Buang-Ly the “bravest man I have ever met in my life” and said of his decision to allow Lee to land that “When a man has the courage to put his family in a plane and make a daring escape like that, you have to have the heart to let him in.” Carter quoted Martin Luther King Jr. to illustrate Chambers moral leadership. “Everybody can be great…. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” Carter concluded, “King produced some of the greatest oratory in the history of our nation.”
Entertainment was provided by the Maryland Youth Symphony Orchestra, performing an orchestral arrangement of America by Ray Charles and an excerpt of Dvorak Symphony No. 9 “The New World” incorporating the spiritual Goin’ Home. The Naval Academy Band played the National Anthem.
In 1988, then Alderman Carl O. Snowden founded the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Awards Dinner in Anne Arundel County. The dinner was designed to honor the legacy of Dr. King by honoring those who through their deeds, words and actions have helped to keep his legacy alive.
The Annapolis based Martin Luther King Jr. Committee, hosts two major events each year, the annual Fannie Lou Hamer Reception in October honoring woman of different racial backgrounds who have made contributions to the community, state and nation. The second event is the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Awards Dinner held in January to honor those local citizens whose leadership in civil rights has helped keep Dr. King’s legacy alive. The proceeds from this years dinner is being used to pay off the debt incurred by building the Civil Rights Foot Soldiers Memorial.
The MLK Jr. Committee has successfully placed three memorials to the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. in Anne Arundel County funded by private donations. A bronze statue of King was erected at Anne Arundel Community College in 2006 after the Committee raised more than $250,000. In 2011, the Committee dedicated a plaque and garden tribute to Dr. King’s wife, Coretta Scott King, at Sojourner Douglass College in Edgewater, MD (just south of Annapolis). Most recently, in 2013, the nations first Civil Rights Foot Soldiers Memorial was dedicated on August 28th (the 50th anniversary of the “I Have a Dream” March on Washington). The $50,000 memorial is located in Annapolis’s Whitmore Park on the corner of Clay and Calvert Streets. The names of over 500 of the 250,000 ordinary citizens who marched in the demonstration and risked the threat of personal harm to underline support for the civil rights leaders who spoke that day are engraved in the monument. To donate funds to help pay off the Foot Soldiers Memorial write MLK Jr. Committee, PO Box 371, Annapolis MD 21404 or call 443-871-5656.