Arnold, Md. – Anne Arundel United, the County’s anti-discrimination initiative, hosted “King’s Dream: Then and Now” in celebration of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday at Anne Arundel Community College Tuesday night.
County Executive Steve Schuh told approximately 50 attendees at the Pascal Center for Performing Arts auditorium that the goal of the event was not only “to encourage us to reflect” on King’s legacy but also “to gain a greater appreciation of Dr. King’s work in the context of the full span of the African American historical experience.” Schuh, a co-sponsor of the Anne Arundel United initiative along with Councilman Pete Smith, who was not in attendance, proposed the idea for Tuesday’s event.
County Community and Minority Outreach Officer Derek Matthews moderated the event and thanked the county executive for bringing the community together to discuss King’s legacy. Matthews said, “The goal of Anne Arundel United is to bring folks together of all colors, all backgrounds to have meaningful conversations.”
Schuh and Smith created Anne Arundel United after two race-related incidents took place in the county last year. In May two young men hung a noose at Crofton Middle School and a Severna Park man, who belonged to a racist Facebook group, allegedly murdered Bowie State graduate 2nd Lt. Richard Wilbur Collins III.
Three guest speakers presented the landscape of the African American struggle for civil rights throughout history and shared personal recollections of the time period during which King gave his iconic “I Have A Dream” speech.
Caucus of African American Leaders convener Carl O. Snowden reminded the audience of 1963 Annapolis when African Americans could not eat in restaurants and could not try on clothes and shoes in downtown shops. Snowden marveled at the character of the anonymous men and women who gave all fighting for their basic human rights. “There are men and women who went to their graves fighting for something that we collectively take for granted,” said Snowden.
Keynote speaker and special adviser to the governor Keiffer J. Mitchell Jr. and Anne Arundel Community College history professor Dr. Lester Brooks provided further historical context in their talks. Mitchell is the grandnephew of deceased former U.S. Rep. Parren J. Mitchell.
King’s famous speech was shown in its entirety and was met with generous applause from the audience.
County resident Darius A. Stanton said he appreciated Matthews asking the audience to apply King’s speech to the present. “It’s so important for us to act urgently in all of our communities, not just the African American community” said Stanton, noting the deadly opioid epidemic and the 343 shooting deaths in Baltimore City in 2017.
Attendee Torrey Snow said he received a personal message from the speakers to listen to those with whom he disagrees. Snow said, “Tonight’s program put a significant amount of pressure on me to step beyond my political paradigm. … To see what can happen and what’s possible when I just stop and listen.”
Last night’s presentation was the last in a full weekend of annual King celebrations.
Brenda Wintrode is a freelance reporter. Please post comments on our Facebook page.