An enthusiastic throng of about 300 well-dressed citizens gathered at the Center Stage area of Maryland Live! Casino in celebration of Black History Month, acknowledging the 7th annual Black History Heroes, which toasted Black local and statewide leaders.
The special affair, hosted by Live! Casino & Hotel, along with the Maryland-Washington Minority Companies Association (MWMCA), took place on Thursday, Feb. 20.
In the process of celebrating individuals and organizations alike, several honorees received special plaques denoting their individual awards. Dr. Sheila Brooks, founder/CEO of SRB Communications, delivered the welcome address, also handling emcee duties.
Special awards were presented by Cordish Company officials (Maryland Live Casino owners) including Anthony G. Faranca and Zed Smith, executive vice president and general manager of Live Casino & Hotel and COO of the Cordish group, respectively. Wayne Frazier, Sr., president/CEO of MWMCA, also served as an award presenter.
The Rev. Jerome Stephens, community outreach director for Maryland Sen. Benjamin Cardin, delivered the prayer and described the ceremony as “a worthy tribute to our leaders, past and present.”
In a special commendation letter from Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, the governor stated, “This celebration seeks to honor and recognize Black history heroes.
“Maryland is steeped in African-American history,” he wrote. “Numerous African-American leaders have called Maryland home including Frederick Douglass, Benjamin Banneker and Harriet Tubman. We are proud to celebrate these and other historical heroes here in Annapolis and across our state.”
Morgan State University’s 10th overall president, David Wilson, attended the event and received a plaque for his contributions to the academic and larger community.
As an honoree, Wilson acknowledged the achievements of other awardees including Maryland House Speaker (District 10) Adrienne A. Jones.
Former Negro League infielder Luther “Luke” Atkinson, 82, served as keynote speaker and shared insight on his playing days under the tutelage of legendary Hall of Fame pitcher, Leroy “Satchell” Paige.
But he also noted that in those days, Black athletes had no choice but to accept both the poorest of playing conditions and meager salaries – far below wages earned by whites.
“We didn’t have agents back then,” he repeated.
Atkinson now volunteers for the Hubert V. Simmons Museum of Negro League Baseball Inc., located in Owings Mill. While Rayner “Ray” Banks, a Hall of Fame co-founder, serves as exhibits manager.
Cordish Companies, in a corporate statement, said its commitment to the City of Baltimore and other communities throughout the state remain viable as ever.
“Live! is recognized as one of the top corporate philanthropists in the region, while contributing millions of dollars annually to neighboring communities, charitable, non-profit and business groups,” the statement noted.
A soulful performance by a Temptations tribute band closed out the evening’s festivities.