One week prior to the 50th anniversary of the historic 1963 March on Washington, the Baltimore branch of the NAACP teamed up with the GCOMM Media Co. for the annual Freedom Fighter Awards Breakfast.
Held at Hotel Monaco on Aug. 17, the awards ceremony celebrated Maryland’s leaders in media, politics, community and civil rights.
Political and community leaders from around the state gathered at the fifth annual awards ceremony. Among the attendees were Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler, Montgomery County Del. Heather Mizeur, Balttimore City Council members Helen Holton and Nick Mosby and Circuit Court Judge Melissa M. Phinn.
Hassan Giordano, founder of GCOMM Media, said he started the Freedom Fighter Awards to celebrate local people who have worked towards ensuring freedom, justice and equality for all people.
“We started the awards to honor the March on Washington and highlight those who have paved the way and articulate King’s dream,” said Giordano. “We want to honor them and give them their roses while they are still alive.”
He said the awards ceremony is also held in August because of the month’s importance to the Black Power movement and honoring fallen freedom fighters such as Jonathan Jackson and George Jackson. Black August is also celebrated because it marks the month when many big events in Black history occurred. The Nat Turner rebellion and beginning of Harriet Tubman’s Underground Railroad occurred in the month of August.
The spread of food was provided buffet style by the hotel. Attendees dined on pastries, eggs, potatoes, bacon, sausage and fruit salad.
The event opened with a powerful rendition of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech recited by George Arnold. As the speech got underway, Arnold said he traveled back through time as King himself to speak the crowd. Arnold’s speech received a standing ovation from the crowd.
The theme of the breakfast was “passing the torch,” said Giordano. Each award honored two people or organizations, one a more seasoned trailblazer in the fight for civil liberties and the other standing on the shoulders of others who paved the way.
A list of the awardees included Judge Wanda Keyes Heard, who received the Thurgood Marshall award, and media influencers Sherri Johnson and Crystal Berger, who received the John H. Murphy award. Attorneys A. Dwight Petit and Sheryl Wood received the Marian Wright Edelman award. Former NAACP CEO and ex-congressman Kweisi Mfume and Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) received the Martin Luther King Jr. award.
Chris Brown, mother of Christopher Brown, who was killed by an off-duty cop after throwing a rock at his home in Baltimore County, received the Trayvon Martin award.
Best-selling author and Baltimore native Wes Moore delivered the keynote address, reciting from King’s “Letter from the Birmingham Jail.”