The Cordish Companies, Live! Casino & Hotel Maryland and the Md. Washington Minority Companies Association (MWMCA) hosted the 10th Annual Black History Heroes Awards in celebration of Black History Month. Ten of Maryland’s most prominent Black trailblazers in areas including business, education, civil rights, sports, journalism, and politics were honored for their contributions to the communities they serve at the 10th annual Black History Heroes Award ceremony held at Live! Casino & Hotel Maryland on Thursday, February 23, 2023.
Co-sponsored by the Maryland Minority Companies Association and Maryland Live!, the awards honored those who have used their talents in a wide range of disciplines to make things better for the community as a whole, said Wayne Frazier, Sr., the Association’s president and CEO.
“This is wide ranging,” said Frazier, who was also one of the evening’s honorees. “This is philanthropic, this is the sports world, this is business, this community and this is civil rights. When you look at our honorees, that’s where they hail from, because that’s important for our communities … the contributions that we make.”
In addition to Frazier, the other honorees included: Sam Davis, the first Black managing editor in the Baltimore Sun’s 185-year history; Gloria Dent, owner/CEO of Genergi Logistics LLC and a member of the Anne Arundel County Board of Education; Allison Lawrence, president of eCommerce for Stanley Black & Decker; Dr. Barbara Palmer, CEO of Kingdom Kare Childcare, Inc., which offers programming and free childcare for teen mothers; Shelonda Stokes, president, Downtown Partnership of Baltimore, Inc. and the executive director of the Downtown Management Authority; Danita Tolson, president of the Baltimore County NAACP; Vincent O. Leggett, founder and president of Blacks of the Chesapeake; and Morgan State University football coach Damon Wilson.
The keynote speaker for the event was civil rights activist Carl Snowden, another one of the night’s honorees. Snowden, a three-term member of the Annapolis City Council, recalled the time he heard a speech given by the late Rosa Parks, who ignited the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Civil Rights Movement by her refusal to give up her seat to a white man.
Parks’ determination to demand her respect is a common thread tying together all of the nominees.
“After (Parks) finished her speech, a reporter asked her, ‘Mrs. Parks, why did you refuse to give up your seat to a white man in 1955?’ and Mrs. Parks responded, ‘I didn’t refuse to give up my seat. I refused to give up my dignity.’ Tonight’s event is honoring people who refused to give up their dignity,” Snowden said.
Snowden said that the Black History Heroes Award ceremonies are also a celebration of the progress African Americans made in both the country and in the state of Maryland.
“I think what makes this event significant is the times in which we are living,” said Snowden, who also serves as the Convener of the Caucus of African American Leaders of several Black organizations. “We have seen in our lifetime the impossible become possible. We saw a president (Barack Obama) get elected, we saw a vice president (Vice President Kamala Harris) get elected, we saw the first appointment of a Black woman to the Supreme Court and then here in Maryland the first Black governor, attorney general, speaker of the (Maryland House of Delegates), treasurer and 64 members of the Black caucus …Nobody 20 years ago, 30 years would have thought this was a possibility. The people we celebrate tonight are the people who made that possible.”
While the honorees spoke of the importance of community involvement and celebrating the success of African Americans, they also reminded everyone in attendance that there is still work left to do.
“It’s extremely important because the work that I do supports our communities,” said Kingdom Kare Childcare’s CEO.
Palmer’s program helps teen mothers get their high school diplomas.
“For me, it’s boots on the ground. I’m not just in an office sitting there writing proposals and going to meetings, I’m hands-on. I work with those young ladies, and I talk to our people to educate them on the resources we have in our community,” Palmer continued.
Sam Davis, the Baltimore Sun’s first managing editor, talked about the importance of diversity in the media and providing opportunities for journalists of color.
“What it means to me is that there is an opportunity for others,” Davis said. “Whenever I’ve climbed the ladder at the Sun, every job that I did, I hope this opens the door for the next person. … Not only doing the job myself and being excited about being the first person to do it, but hoping that it showed others that the door is now open.”