Some Baltimore City Public School students received a rich history lesson they will never forget during “Booker T. Washington Arts Academy Day @ The Avenue Bakery.” The event was held Wednesday, Feb. 20 and afforded Booker T. Washington Middle School students the opportunity to participate in a number of activities which included learning about Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, watching a civil rights documentary, and watching the unveiling of a mural.
The event was hosted by James “Jim” Hamlin, Owner and Head Baker of The Avenue Bakery, and was sponsored by The Royal Theater & Community Heritage Corporation.
“We have to instill a sense of pride and dignity in our kids and future generations,” said Hamlin. “I have been working with Booker T. Washington since 1995, and that has always been my focus. This was a great event and an awesome experience for the students. They got the opportunity to learn a lot of history about the community.”
Located at 2229 Pennsylvania Ave., The Avenue Bakery brings the rich, historic legacy of Pennsylvania Avenue to life under one roof. This distinction has placed the unique eatery on the map as one of Baltimore’s most successful new cultural destinations since opening its doors two years ago.
"The students got to understand they have a lot to be proud of,” said Hamlin. “They also learned about how our community has helped the country. In addition to the photos and wall panels, The Avenue Bakery also includes a historic timeline, and archive footage.”
He added, “That’s the basis of what we do here at The Avenue Bakery and through The Royal Theater & Community Heritage Corporation. We give people a taste of history and the legacy of the community.”
During the event, students and other attendees enjoyed samples of The Avenue Bakery's freshly baked rolls, pastries and muffins. They also listened to attorney Larry Gibson, author of “Young Thurgood: The Making of a Supreme Court Justice.” Gibson’s discussion took place in The Avenue Bakery’s conference room.
Columnist Rosa “Rambling Rose” Pryor, who authored a book entitled African American Entertainment in Baltimore, also attended the event and spoke to the students. Attorney Eddie Smith also participated in the event.
Students also watched the premiere screening of “Baltimore's Leaders of the Civil Rights Movement” a documentary which was commissioned by The Royal Theater & Community Heritage Corporation.
The culminating part of the event was the unveiling of the fully-installed Royal Theatre Courtyard Mural by Francisco “Cisco” Davis. The mural was commissioned by The Royal Theater & Community Heritage Corporation to share the rich history of Pennsylvania Avenues’ Golden Era. The mural is located outside The Avenue Bakery near The Royal Theater & Community Heritage Corporation’s Hamlin Family Garden.
“The mural represents the Civil Rights Movement from the perspective of the Baltimore community,” said Hamlin. “It includes Parren J. Mitchell, Juanita Jackson Mitchell and others. It also includes some of the historic churches in our community.”
Hamlin has worked with The Royal Theater & Community Heritage Corporation since 2003.
“The whole idea of coming to The Royal Theatre & Community Heritage Corporation was to impact and spearhead efforts around The Royale Theatre because so many people talk about the fact it should have never been torn down,” said Hamlin. “It means a lot to me to help rebuild our historic communities.”
The Royal Theatre was the famous theater along Pennsylvania Avenue. Duke Ellington, Nat King Cole, Louis Armstrong, and Redd Foxx were among the many famous entertainers to perform there.
“We also offer The Pennsylvania Avenue Heritage Trail, which takes you through the area,” said Hamlin. “The Trail introduces its visitors to Baltimore African-Americans who helped build the city, gain Civil Rights, and more.”
Hamlin formerly worked at UPS, where he retired after more than 35 years. Hamlin said he is always looking for ways to expose youngsters to positive role models. On Feb. 5, The Avenue Bakery sponsored a ‘Job Shadow Day’ with Booker T. Washington Middle School students.
“Booker T. Washington Arts Academy Day at The Avenue Bakery was exciting for me,” said Hamlin. “The students had the opportunity to talk to authors, lawyers, entrepreneurs, and others. We are the products of what we are exposed to. The problem today is that young people are limited to what they are exposed to. During segregation, all of the successful African-Americans had to live in the community. As a result, this exposed them to the children living in their neighborhoods.”
He added, “That’s where we are successful in fulfilling our mission. I commend Larry Gibson, Rosa Pryor, Eddie Smith, and all those who came out to make this a great event for our young people. It’s about our children, and what we are able to do to improve their future and ours. We can contribute to their success.”