Mid-Shore Arts: The MSO Combine Silent Film and Music to End Winter Blues

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The Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra had an interesting programming challenge a few months ago as they were flushing out their expanded schedule this season with a February concert. In short, what was the best way to beat the winter blues?

With the Eastern Shore just recently having to endure an unusually cold January, and with February’s forecast not looking that much better, this was not the time to roll out Mahler’s Symphony #9. But it was an excellent opportunity to reuse a popular strategy used since the arrival of cinema more than a hundred years ago when silent films were paired with symphonic sounds to chase away melancholy seasonal lows.

The answer, according to MSO president Jeffrey Parker, was to blend the pure brilliance of classic silent films with the sounds of Broadway and more upbeat classics. Add in the remarkable voice of soloist Alexis Tantau, and the Shore’s favorite orchestra will take the stage at the Avalon on Feb 8 for a particular tonic for the audience to withstand winter’s adversity, at least for another month.

We checked in with Jeffrey about the evening’s plans at Mason’s for a short overview.

This video is approximately two minutes in length. Please go here for ticket information here

Opioids–What to Do?

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Tim Dove, Rachel Goss, and Rani Gutting on the panel at the Community Opioid Crisis Forum at Washington College on 25 January 2018 from 1:00-4:00 pm.

A panel discussion Thursday, Jan. 25 at Washington College’s Hynson Lounge brought together some of the key players in the effort to combat the opioid crisis.

Organized by WCTR radio, the panel included Tim Dove, the Local Addictions Authority for Kent County Behavioral Health, Peer Recovery Specialists Rachel Goss and Rani Gutting, Jen Moore of the Local Management Board, Chestertown Mayor Chris Cerino, Police Chief Adrian Baker, and Ginger Gregg of the Kent County Office of Emergency Services. Leslie Sea, general manager of WCTR was the moderator.

Sea opened proceedings by introducing Chrissy Chisholm, executive director of Foundations of Recovery and a recovering addict. Chisholm told how she had become an addict in her early teens on Long Island, ending up in treatment for the first time at age 15. “I had no intention of staying sober,” she said, recounting how she was jailed, expelled from school, and kept relapsing despite all efforts. At age 23, she was still living in her parents’ basement, trying to get through college. She was “barely functioning,” she said. One night, driving in pouring rain to try to get drugs, she ran off the road and crashed. She woke up in the wreck, with airbags deployed, going through DTs. The police put her in the hospital, charged with driving under the influence.  This was the turning point for Chrissy.

Chrissy Chisholm, founder and executive director of Foundations of Recovery and a recovering addict

Finally, Chisholm said, she turned her life over to God and began getting better. She stayed away from her old friends and stayed sober. Moving to Kent County, she began to put her life back together and decided to do what she could to help others do the same. Realizing that recovery is a lifelong process, she opened Foundations of Recovery and Mission House – so others in recovery can support and encourage each other. “I’m tired of watching people die,” she said; “I want to be part of the solution.”

Sea said the opioid crisis has two prongs, street drugs like heroin and prescription pain-killers. She called attention to the sign near the corner of Washington Avenue and Morgnec Road listing the number of overdoses and deaths; “We want it always to be at zero,” she said. She then turned the microphone over to Dove.

Dove said the word that resonated in describing the opioid crisis is “insidious,” especially in terms of its effect on families. “You can’t erase the trauma” of overdoses or multiple trips to the emergency room. He cited the Maryland overdose statistics for 2016, the last year for which there are complete records for the state; 2089 overdose deaths were recorded, he said. That’s the equivalent of all the passengers and crew of five Boeing 747 airliners dying in crashes in one year – and that story would dominate headlines if it occurred in the state. But it is swept under the carpet because of the stigma of overdoses, he said. “We need to work to create sympathy” for the victims of the opioid epidemic – to treat it as a public health issue.

Heroin has been a problem for decades, but it was “a dirty word until it hit the middle class,” often as a result of built-up tolerance to prescription painkillers. When prescriptions for the legal painkillers run out, or the cost gets out of reach, many patients begin to turn to street drugs like heroin to manage the pain. Some of them have a genetic susceptibility to becoming addicts, he said. And that’s when they find themselves dealing with the risk of overdoses. The big killer, he said, is fentanyl, which drug cartels intentionally add to heroin to increase its potency – but which is 100 times more potent than morphine. Carfentanil, another opioid, is10,000 times more potent than morphine.  So it does not take much to overdose.  The amount that would normally just get you high now will kill you.

Tim Dove, Local Addictions Authority for Kent County Behavioral Health 

Dove told about the benefits of Narcan, an easily administered nasal spray that can reverse the effects of overdoses. It’s like a miracle, everyone agreed–almost instantly restoring the person to sobriety.  Those who were unconscious, barely breathing, are suddenly conscious and breathing normally again.

Narcan works on all the opioids, including fentanyl. However, if fentanyl has been used, the recovery may last only a minute or two before the person relapses.  In these cases, Dove said, several doses of Narcan may be necessary, sometimes as many as four or five doses of Narcan.  This is one of the reasons why everyone should call 911 right away when trying to help a comatose person who has overdosed. If the first dose is not sufficient, emergency personnel should already be on the way and they will have more Narcan and other first aid equipment and treatments that may be needed.

Narcan is being distributed to local law enforcement and emergency response personnel and has already saved many overdose victims locally. Dove said anyone wanting training in how to use Narcan can contact him at the Whitsitt Center. It is now available at many local pharmacies.

Recovery is an attainable goal, he said, with a number of treatment facilities in the local area. Many people in respected roles and occupations are in recovery, he said.  All someone needs to do is ask for help. If they’re in the emergency room, they’ll be referred to the Whitsitt Center. He noted the availability of Vivitrol, an opioid antagonist drug that works for a month at a time, attaching to the opioid receptors in the body and preventing the person from getting high; at the end of the month, the patient needs to get another shot. This allows the patient to work on the psychological aspects of recovery. It is being used in the Kent County Detention Center and is available from three private treatment centers in the county.

Chief Adrian Baker of the Chestertown police and Ginger Gregg, emergency planner for Kent County

Ginger Gregg said that 911 teams responding to overdoses first administer Narcan, then deliver the patient to the emergency room, and then, if the patient is willing, take them to Whitsitt Center. But the patient must be willing to go to the hospital, she said. The paramedics will provide information about recovery, but they cannot take the patient in for treatment against their will.

Trish McGee, speaking from the audience, asked how accurate the numbers reported on the sign at the Morgnec Road intersection are. She said the community needs accurate numbers to respond effectively to the crisis. “Getting real numbers is part of removing the stigma,” she said

Dove said it’s difficult to get accurate numbers because different agencies are responding to overdoses. He said the number of patients transported to the hospital is the statistic he places most weight on. But the hospital doesn’t test for which substance is responsible for an overdose, so it’s not always clear whether a patient has been using heroin, fentanyl, or something else. Also, if a local person experiences an overdose somewhere out of the jurisdiction, that isn’t reported.

Gutting said Narcan is saving lives; many of the overdoses would result in deaths without it, she said. She said there were six overdoses the previous week, and she suspected all were caused by fentanyl.

Chief Baker said his department had looked into liability issues before issuing Narcan to officers. Once he was satisfied there would be no problem, he had his officers trained — it took about half an hour. “They were saving lives within a week,” he said.

Mayor Cerino said prescription opioids are a key ingredient of the epidemic. He said he was given an opioid after knee surgery and knows the relief it provided. He said he understands how legal drugs can lead to addiction. As mayor, he said, he is concerned about how addiction leads to crime sprees as addicts need to finance their habits. A few individuals can have a big effect in a small town like Chestertown, he said.

Baker said Chestertown’s reputation as a safe place ironically makes crime easier because people are negligent about locking doors or taking other safety measures. He said a spree of burglaries and break-ins last year was the result of a small number of addicts trying to find cash or things they could sell to get drugs.

Jen Moore of the Local Management Board

Jen Moore said that most clients in recovery programs have been in active addiction for 20 years, while a normal course of treatment lasts only 28 days. Some of those arrested for narcotics-related crimes “relapse before they even get out of jail,” she said. There’s a better chance if they go through long-term treatment. “they need two or three years of recovery programs and treatment to have a chance to get out of it. We need to close the gap between jail and the treatment center,” she said.

Dove said the different local agencies are meeting monthly on the first Wednesday of the month to deal with the epidemic. The meeting, which is open to all, is at the Kent County Commissioners hearing room at 400 High St., at 7:30 a.m.

Rachel Goss noted that there is a focus on reducing the stigma of addiction and offering support.  “We need to talk about it, get the message out to teachers and coaches” and other role models to stop it before it starts. “I met a lot of great people in recovery,” she said.

Moore said it’s far too easy for young people to get drugs. “Doctors will automatically prescribe if you tell them the right symptoms,” she said. “A lot of kids have figured it out before ninth grade.”  They know exactly what “symptoms” to tell the doctor in order to get the drug they want.  And then they tell other kids what to say in order for them to get drugs, too.

Goss said young people are exposed to drugs before they’ve developed coping skills to deal with the problems they face. She said she started using drugs and alcohol when she was 12. “The scare stories didn’t work, I tried it and it felt good, so I kept it up.”

Cerino agreed that it’s far too easy to obtain drugs. “You can order them on a cell phone.” He said it should be more difficult, at least requiring the buyer to talk to somebody.

Dr. Ben Kohl of Eastern Shore Psychological Services said from the audience that the availability of Vivitrol allows recovery on an outpatient basis. The good news is that insurance programs usually cover the drug, allowing patients to do rehab with less chance of relapses. “The whole community needs to support recovery,” he said. Jobs and housing need to be available for those in recovery. “We understand the brain a lot better, and how addiction and recovery work,” he said. “We need to emphasize the disease model” and remove the stigma from recovery, he said.

Maryland’s Good Samaritan law protects those helping an overdose victim or calling to report an overdose.

An audience member asked whether the recovery programs emphasize the spiritual dimensions of the process.

Dove said most rehab programs are built around the Alcoholics Anonymous 12-step model, which is spiritually based. “There are many ways to find a spiritual path to recovery. There’s no wrong way — just get there,” he said.

Goss said that many churches support those in recovery.  The various recovery programs and personnel also refer users and their families to resources in churches and many spiritually-inspired or based programs.  “We know what’s out there and we offer it,” Goss said.

Gregg said Gov. Larry Hogan’s declaration that an opioid crisis existed in the state “opened up resources.” She said it “let us treat not just addicts but their families.” She gave as an example the van the county has acquired.  The van contains a mockup of a young person’s bedroom showing places an addict could hide drugs and other clues a parent could use to start a conversation about drug use. The van will be on exhibit at numerous community events in 2018.  Only those over 18 are allowed in, so it doesn’t give ideas to teens. She said anyone interested in having the trailer come to an event should call the sheriff’s office.

Moore said several projects are in progress to help raise public awareness of the crisis. Among them, she mentioned a state website,  BeforeItsTooLateMD.org, with resources for patients, families, medical professionals, and others. There is also a 24-hour crisis hotline, 1-800-422-0009, that anyone can call anonymously for help for themselves or another.

Leslie Sea and Brian Moore, owners and operators of WCTR radio in Chestertown, organized the Opioid Crisis Forum

Maryland’s Good Samaritan law protects those helping an overdose victim or calling 911 about an overdose.

Drug Education Kit at the opioid forum had a display of drugs and various drug paraphernalia.

 

 

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“No Bay Bridge to Kent,” Say Residents

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Is a new Bay Bridge coming to Kent County? If a standing-room crowd that filled Chestertown Firehouse Thursday night has its way, the answer will be a resounding “No.”

The meeting, organized by the Kent Conservation and Preservation Alliance (KCPA), was meant as a way to inform residents of the process by which the state of Maryland will make its decision on a bridge, and to motivate opponents to get involved in stopping the route from coming through Kent.

Janet Christensen-Lewis opened the meeting by introducing KCPA board members and the elected officials in the audience. Present were Kent County Commissioners Ron Fithian and Bill Short, Chestertown Mayor Chris Cerino, Councilmen Marty Stetson and David Foster, Judge Harris Murphy, Clerk of the Court Mark Mumford, and representatives sent by Sen. Chris Van Hollen and Rep. Andy Harris. Christensen-Lewis then gave an overview of the mission of KCPA, calling the landscape of Kent County “a natural oasis” that must be preserved. She said the Maryland Department of Transportation is “using a 20th-century model” to solve 21st-century transportation problems. A bridge from Baltimore to Kent County would not be “harmonious with the land or the people,” she said, turning the county into a suburb of Baltimore.  Large portions of Kent County’s fertile farmland would be turned into roads with the inevitable strip malls–picture Kent Island on Rt. 50.  Housing developments would most likely follow quickly–picture Middletown, DE.  And once lost, once paved over, this beautiful and fruitful farmland cannot be restored.

Elizabeth Watson and Janet Christensen-Lewis of Kent Conservation and Preservation Alliance

The idea of a bridge from the western shore to Kent County goes way back.  The first known proposal for a bridge to cross the bay was in 1907 but nothing came of it until the 1920s, Christensen-Lewis said. Plans were proceeding in 1927 but the project was derailed by the stock market crash of 1929 and the subsequent arrival of the Depression. A revived proposal, in 1938, had to be put aside when World War II broke out. When the idea again became possible, after the war, the route chosen went through Kent Island, taking advantage of roads already existing to serve the ferry service that previously brought passengers across the bay, The bridge was completed in 1952, and a parallel span was completed in 1973. But with the increase of traffic over the years, the Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA) now seeks a way to reduce strain on the current bridge – and thus the call for a new bridge – which would not, she said, be a solution in the long run.

Christensen-Lewis stated that we can stop this, but “The time to raise hell is now,” she said.

Some of the standing room crowd at the firehouse meeting

Elizabeth Watson then took the microphone to outline theMDTA process and timelines for major decisions and ways Kent County residents can work to influence them.  A new five-million-dollar study sponsored by the MDTA is looking at possible locations for a new bridge across the Chesapeake Bay.  The study began in fall 2017 and will continue through 2020. MDTA is considering sites along the entire length of the Bay from north to south. The study will identify 10-15 possible corridors for the crossing by fall 2018. From these initial possibilities, MDTA will select a single location for a crossing, including a bridge plus approaches (access highways and bridges) on both the eastern and western shores of the bay. MDTA’s final decision will come in 2020.

Public comment will be accepted at all phases of the project, but once the choice of a route is made, it will be all but impossible to overturn it. Therefore, she said, it is essential to apply pressure while there is still the chance for it to affect the process.

There is a good possibility that a Kent County location could be the final choice as it is almost directly across from Baltimore. However, if the study concludes that the bridge should originate somewhere other than Baltimore, then other routes — including a third span parallel to the existing two between Sandy Point and Kent Island — become possible. That is what the MDTA study is currently working to determine and why it’s important for residents to make their opinions known now. Some southern counties, including Dorchester, have said they would welcome a bridge to their shores. In Queen Anne’s which has the Route 50 traffic from the current bridge, opinion is mixed, Watson said.

A map for a Kent County option (above) shows three possible routes connecting a new bay bridge to Route 301; one going through Kennedyville and connecting to 301 near Millington, another routed slightly up the Chester River from Chestertown, and a third downriver from Chestertown.  The above map, prepared by KCPA, assumes a  third span originating in Baltimore and ending near Tollchester in Kent County.

Watson said the MDTA had received some 400 comments by mid-December 2017, which she said the agency characterized as an “unprecedented” high number.  She said KCPA has prepared sample letters for residents who want to add their own comments. Attendees at the meeting were given the samples along with a pre-addressed envelope to mail the signed letter. They can be downloaded from the KCPA website.  It is not too late to send letters, she stressed.  A large volume of letters will definitely make both politicians and government officials take notice.  But, she added that Kent County residents have basically only nine months to make their opinions known as the three recommended routes will be announced next fall. The address to send letters about a new Chesapeake Bay bridge, pro or con, is “Ms. Heather Lowe, Bay Crossing Study, MD Transportation Study, 21310 Broening Hwy., Baltimore, MD 21224.”

Suggested wording for one of the sample letters reads: “Dear Ms. Lowe: Building another bridge to the Eastern Shore is the last thing the Eastern Shore needs.  New highways encourage more travelers; more travelers encourage more development, and more development will destroy the very nature of the ‘Shore that attracts people to visit.  As the Baltimore Sun op-ed article said, “Let the Eastern Shore be.” Don’t build a new crossing over the bay.  Sincerely,”

An online comment form that you can fill out is here.

While Maryland government sources list the bridge itself as an estimated 4 billion-dollar project, Watson said that it would probably be more like 20 billion when all the associated costs are considered, including buying the land and constructing the connecting roads.  If some landowners were unwilling to sell, then their land would most likely be acquired through eminent domain at an estimated fair market price.

Just inside entrance of Chestertown Fire Hall where the meeting took place, the old fire truck was decorated with “No Bridge” signs

The Kent County route has its supporters, who see it not only as a more direct route from Baltimore to Ocean City but as a quicker route for trucks headed north.  Those who favor a new bridge believe that it will also have the benefit of reducing wear on the current bridges, where truck traffic is 10 percent of the volume. It would also open up Kent County to development much in the way Kent Island has become a suburb of Annapolis. Given that some 57 percent of the county is prime farmland, that could be a disaster to the agricultural community that makes up one of Kent’s strongest components. On the other hand, the Baltimore Sun printed an editorial Jan. 2, this year, titled “Let the Eastern Shore Be,” that strongly opposed the Kent County route.

Watson listed actions residents opposed to the Kent County route can take,  In addition to writing letters, actions can include displaying yard signs – there were several at the meeting with the legend “No Bay Bridge to Kent” – donating to KCPA, and passing the word to friends and acquaintances who may be unaware of the threat posed by the bridge.

County Commissioners Ron Fithian and Bill Short tell about efforts to prevent a new bridge from coming to Kent County

Watson then invited public officials to comment, and Ron Fithian took the floor to list actions taken by the commissioners. Fithian said the commissioners testified against a General Assembly bill that would repeal a provision by which five of the nine Eastern Shore counties must approve any new toll road, bridge, or highway on the shore. He said state Sen. Mike Middleton, chair of the committee studying the bill, called it “a terrible precedent.” Middleton’s probable opposition gives hope that the bill would fail. “I feel good about the situation,” Fithian said, implying that he thought the bill to repeal the Eastern Shore counties right to approve or disapprove any new toll road on the shore would not pass.  He said that such a bill would unfairly silence the voices of those directly affected.

Short said the commissioners are doing their part to oppose the bridge coming to Kent County and said it was good to see so many residents at the meeting. Both Short and Fithian testified against the repeal before the Maryland Senate Finance Committee. All nine Eastern Shore counties have sent letters opposing the proposed Senate bill 34.

Clerk of the Court Mark Mumford said he would lie down in front of the bulldozers.

Mark Mumford, during an audience comment period, said he swore in the 1960s that he would be the first to lie down in front of the bulldozers to prevent any bridge from coming to Kent County. He said he was ready to do it again if such a route is approved. He urged residents to “get to your delegates” and let them know you oppose a Kent County crossing.

More details of the proposed bridge crossing and links to other relevant websites are available on the KCPA website.  Kent Conservation and Preservation Alliance, which organized the standing-room-only meeting, is a 501(c)3, all-volunteer, non-profit group. KCPA merged last year with Kent Conservation, which was founded in 1970 and has been a leader in local conservation ever since.  KCPA plans more meeting to keep residents informed.  An Op-Ed article titled A Bridge to Somewhere by KCPA stalwarts Judy Gifford, Janet Christensen-Lewis, and Elizabeth Watson published earlier this month in the Chestertown Spy, looks at some of the stated and unstated reasons for a third Chesapeake Bay bridge.

The current study–which will identify the recommended and two preferred-alternate routes for a third Chesapeake Bay bridge–is a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) study.  The Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA) owns, finances, operates and maintains the Bay Bridge, officially titled the William Preston Lane, Jr. Memorial Bridge.  More information on the study, which is scheduled to end in 2020, can be found at $5 million Bay Crossing Study.

Correction: The above article was edited on 30 Jan 2018, to clarify that 10 to 15 possible bridge locations will be announced in fall 2018 while the final choice will be determined sometime in mid-2020.  As originally published, the article said that three possible sites would be announced in fall 2018.

Photo gallery below.  Photography by Jane Jewell

 

 

Professor John Seidel of Washington College urged audience members to take action now because it will be almost impossible to change it after a final location is selected.

Marjo Rasin (center) and former Chestertown Mayor Margo Bailey (left)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Is Another Bay Bridge Even Necessary? by Benjamin Ford

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“Is another Bay Bridge crossing even necessary?”

A recent meeting in Chestertown regarding a potential third span crossing into Kent County was incredibly well attended. By my very rough count, there were at least 250 people there on the Thursday evening. Most seemed to be against the idea of a third span and the explosive development a span would doubtlessly bring to the most rural of MD counties. Arguments were made about economics and debt, about why MD taxpayers should bankroll expenditures at Delaware beaches, about rural vistas, about prime agricultural land, and about disenfranchisement and political backstabbing. These arguments are all good ones, but I hope that the powers that be seriously look to the future to determine if creating a third span at any point across the Chesapeake is even a valid idea.

Since November of 2017, appliances have been delivered to warehouses in Southern California from manufacturers in El Paso, Texas in “big rig” trucks. Now, this isn’t anything new, but you would hardly recognize the long haul truckers driving these rigs. Disappearing fast are the men and women who delivered 70% of all goods in the US. Indeed, these new trucks are autonomous (though a human rides along as backup for now); piloted by computers and sensors, they drive through four states to deliver your washing machines and ovens at a lower cost while avoiding the busiest traffic times.

Forbes Magazine predicts that there will be over 20 million self-driving cars on the road by 2020. A recent beer delivery in Colorado was delivered by a driverless rig made by Uber. Tesla’s Elon Musk says “”Every truck we sell has Autopilot as standard,” Musk said of the Semi, which goes into production in 2019. “This is a massive increase in safety.”” Daimler, the company that owns Mercedes, is in on it too and hope to have a truck in production within a few years.

The teamsters don’t think their jobs will be obsolete for another 40 years; the developers of these trucks and software engineers in Silicon Valley say less than 5.

Our transportation system may be transformed for the average person. Most people at this point have used Uber or Lyft, or at least know what these services do. Imagine a commute where your subscription driving service pilots an autonomous car (or van) to your front door exactly when you need to leave for work? Imagine being able to order a car that will meet you in your driveway so you can go see a movie or go buy groceries. Imagine being able to meet friends out on Friday and not having to worry about overindulging.

Imagine not owning a car at all.

There is no other modern “investment” that fails to provide any sort of return (in fact, it depreciates as soon as you buy it) and sits around unused most of it’s time (with the exception of, hopefully, health insurance). Imagine all the billions of capital sitting and peoples garages and driveways instead invested in portfolios, vacations, or educations!

Imagine getting on an autonomous car, van, or bus and going to Ocean City from DC or Baltimore!

One of the coolest potential features of the autonomous driving revolution is the ability to drive in convoy. Long haul autonomous trucks will be able to essentially “park” right on another trucks bumper and draft, saving lots of energy (did I mention most of the trucks are fully electric?) and space. The same, hopefully would go for commuter autonomous vehicles.

Take the image below. It’s a satellite image of the east bound span from 2014. There are 24 cars in the quarter mile of road shown. If each car carries 1.5 people, that’s roughly 612 people on the bridge at any given time.

The image below (excuse my sloppy photoshop) shows what autonomous commuter vehicles could do for traffic “bandwidth”. If the cars (there are now roughly 70) were drafting in convoy and had the same passenger density, the passenger count on the bridge at any given time is now 1785. If ride-sharing bumps the number of people per vehicle to say, 2.5 on average, that’s 2975 people on the bridge at any given moment.

Now, I’m no engineer, but Washington State commissioned a study in 2004 (which was a LONG time ago as far as construction costs go) that sought to project cost per lane mile of suspension bridges. Their number was $67.2 million per lane mile. Even if the necessary 9 mile bridge to Tolchester were only two lanes (yeah, right), the cost would be over $1.2 billion dollars to Maryland taxpayers (and that’s just the bridge, not the legal fees or approach roads, etc.). I would hate to see Marylanders make that extraordinary investment just to see the need for increased connectivity be rendered obsolete by other, free-market technological changes.

Benjamin Ford
Chestertown, MD

P.S. Weren’t we promised flying cars by now?”

 

That They May All May Be One by George Merrill

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This essay’s title is from the Gospel of John. It’s statement of Jesus’ vision for universal reconciliation.

I watched a talk show rerun recently. Former vice president Joe Biden was being interviewed. He discussed his book, “Promise Me, Dad,” dealing with the death of his son, Beau. One of the women present conducting the interview was Meghan McCain. Meghan McCain, Senator John McCain’s daughter, is a former host on Fox news, a cradle Republican and one of the hosts of the talk show called The View. Biden’s book (I have not read it) is a grief work of hope that describes the profound sense of loss Biden felt for his son and the obligation he felt to honor his memory.

The interview was poignant. It told an important story of its own.

In the initial minutes of the interview, Biden and Ms. McCain were seated with a person between them. As the conversation developed, Biden spoke of how his son (who died of the same brain cancer that John McCain suffers now) had always found comfort in Meghan’s father’s bravery. As he spoke, Meghan grew teary. Biden then rose and seated himself next to her. He took her hand and shared with her some fond memories he and his son had of her father. In the political arena, John McCain and Joe Biden had done battle with each other. Each had great respect for the other. They were political adversaries and very loyal friends. They enjoyed a relationship with dignity.

I do not recall being moved by anything recently as much as I did watching this interview. Certainly, talking of our losses touches us all deeply; mourning is the one feeling that stabs us to the core and a feeling every one of us understands. Perhaps even more than laughter, grief is the universal emotion we all share. However, there was something else about the interview that haunted me. I couldn’t identify it right away.

Joe Biden, by most all accounts, is a decent human being. Professionally, he is regarded as an honest man and a skillful politician. He has a sense of humor, engages people in respectful ways and has passion for his ideas. He has integrity, is clear but gentle in his opinions and has a deft manner of handling complicated feelings tactfully – whether they’re political or emotional. He possesses that redeeming quality of being able to poke fun at himself. He talks freely about his big mouth in the way president Obama used to speak of his own big ears. It’s the kind of playful self-denigration people who are secure in their own skin are able to indulge.

Joe Biden knows about loss. Meghan McCain knows that for her, the final curtain of her grief will fall. They mourn together. They grow close.
One of Joe Biden’s character traits is his personal warmth. When he got up and went to sit next to Meghan McCain, took her hand and spoke softly to her as she wept, I almost wept, too. It was an image of male tenderness in a powerful man that is so different from the images reported in the daily news we hear or read about. We are besieged with relentless tales of abuse that men with wealth, social capital and political influence inflict on others. It seems to be a trickle-down effect, originating from the highest echelons, seeping through the political fabric and down into the various major and minor industry captains and entertainment celebrities. The frequency of the sordid reports would seem almost to testify to behavior now become routine, the kind we’d once have called unacceptable.

Who is left for any of us to look up to, to inspire us?

In that brief exchange between Biden and McCain I saw a possibility, a hope for the way we can be with one another. Tenderly and kindly. I am confident that for anyone who saw Biden take his seat next to Meghan McCain in that clip, there was no way this could be construed as posturing. It was a genuine gesture, based on a history of trusting relationships, demonstrating the kind of authenticity that has been in painfully short supply in the political figures we are confronted with daily in news media. There is so little trust evident, so little tenderness.

While women today may be witnessing to the ideal of dignity and respect we need to emulate, it’s the good men that are hard to find.

My attempt here is not to lionize Joe Biden or Meghan McCain. I want to cite his decency and McCain’s grace and to suggest how people, who do have power and social capital, are fundamentally honest and compassionate. These people can create good will and facilitate personal and collective healing. They become agents of reconciliation.

The core of the Christian message is a drama of reconciliation. The tale recounts the struggle to achieve reconciliation with God and with each other. We become reconciled to God by reconciling to each other. It isn’t accomplished by mouthing pious clichés nor by overlooking differences or even by accommodating political, religious, racial and ethnic distinctions. It’s by sharing our vulnerabilities and our humanity with each other.

When we are able to see in others the wounds and brokenness we have known in our own lives, we meet each other in deeper and more loving ways. I believe I saw in that clip some a tender and respectful moment between a man and a woman, a conservative Republican and a liberal Democrat, a devout Catholic and a practicing Baptist.

In our lives today, our alienation from each other weighs heavily on us. We hunger for closeness, to be able to share our true humanity with one another.

My hope is that one day we may all be one.

Columnist George Merrill is an Episcopal Church priest and pastoral psychotherapist.  A writer and photographer, he’s authored two books on spirituality: Reflections: Psychological and Spiritual Images of the Heart and The Bay of the Mother of God: A Yankee Discovers the Chesapeake Bay. He is a native New Yorker, previously directing counseling services in Hartford, Connecticut, and in Baltimore. George’s essays, some award winning, have appeared in regional magazines and are broadcast twice monthly on Delmarva Public Radio.

A Blooming Amaryllis, Hibernation and Spring by Nancy Mugele

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In December, I received an amaryllis bulb as a Christmas gift from a Kent School Kindergarten student. Over the years I have not had much luck with winter flowering bulbs like amaryllis and paperwhites, so I almost did not even open the box. I kept it in my laundry room for two weeks until I summoned up enough courage to pot the bulb. Carefully nurtured in a sunny spot on my kitchen counter, it has seemingly been brought back from hibernation. I am now amazed by the breathtaking beauty and bounty from this mighty bulb. There is a brightness in my kitchen from its simple elegance, and gazing at its red blooms gives me hope for the warmth and magic of spring.

I have also literally watched the Chester River come back from its forced hibernation – released and flowing freely twice this month during our January freeze and thaw. Though beautiful to look at, both the amaryllis and the cold river make me yearn for spring in the still-early part of this winter.

Animals have it right. They sleep for long periods of time in the dreary, cold winter and awaken in the spring. I used to think that the winter was a very good time for humans to hibernate as well. Living and working in New York City in the 1980s, walking 20 blocks to and from my advertising job was miserable in the dead of winter. In general, New Yorkers don’t see each other as they fast-walk on the sidewalks, but in the winter, bundled up in big coats and hats, people definitely ignore each other. It was a cold existence during the winter months, and it was in those months that I began to hibernate with books.

Winter, even more than summer, signals reading time to me and the grey days of February always make me yearn for hot tea and a good book – even when I am at work. During D.E.A.R.S. (Drop Everything And Read Silently) time at Kent School, I read, too. This month I have selected Brene Brown’s newest Braving the Wilderness – a recommendation from the Reese Witherspoon Book Club – about the practices of true belonging and who we really are in our hearts.

In my mother daughter book club with Jenna we have most recently been reading about the great wars in The Nightingale, The Alice Network, The Zookeeper’s Wife and next up Lilac Girls. In The Zookeeper’s Wife, a true account of Polish zookeepers Jan and Antonina Zabinski who save more than 300 Jewish refugees from the Nazis by hiding them in their zoo, Antonina wondered if humans viewed the war days in the same way as wintering animals, as “a sort of hibernation of the spirit, when ideas, knowledge, science, enthusiasm for work, understanding, love – all accumulate inside, where nobody can take them from us.” Her journal entry resonated with me.

Reading helps us imagine a time and place different from the one in which we sit and these recent novels help us to experience the pain of war. I do believe it must have been like “hibernation of the spirit,” especially for those living under the rule of their oppressor. Thankfully, though, no one can ever take away the sacred feelings of our mind and heart.

Reading (and writing!) brings joy to the soul and this winter it has become a family affair. Jim is reading Ali, one of 2017’s top ten books, and the biography of a sports figure who intrigued him as a boy and whom he met on an airplane after we were married. Kelsy, who prefers mysteries, is reading Murder in Music City about her home city of Nashville and our niece Amanda is reading The Last Mrs. Parrish – also a Reese Witherspoon Book Club selection. James is reading The River in Denver. All of these selections inspire us during our winter hibernation.

Am looking for signs of spring and my next book…

Nancy Mugele is the Head of School at Kent School in Chestertown and a member of the Board of Horizons of Kent and Queen Anne’s.

Movie Theater Reopening Hits Snag

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The widely anticipated reopening of the Chester 5 Theater is not going to happen, at least in the near future.

The theater, which closed June 4, was originally anticipated to open in November, in time for the Christmas season, when many of the year’s top movies are released.

One of the partners in the Chesapeake Theaters group, which was behind the plans to reopen, spoke to the Chestertown Spy in September. He said that plans were to renovate the entire interior with new, more comfortable seats, an expanded concession area offering more substantial fare. The partners also planned to work with local youth groups to hold fundraisers to benefit children. However, those plans were delayed and rumors began to circulate that the deal was falling through. Those rumors were confirmed when the Spy spoke with one of the principals last week.

Mike Klein, a partner in Chesapeake Theaters, told the Chestertown Spy that his group “was not able to negotiate a favorable lease” with the management of the Washington Square mall. “We went in in good faith,” Klein said in a Jan. 18 phone interview. He said the partners had begun work on the interior, including removal of the old seats, on the assumption that they had an agreement with the landlord. “We wouldn’t have started renovations if it wasn’t good,” he said. They have invested quite a bit of money already in the project. He and his partners have been involved in theaters in the Baltimore area, though this would have been a separate venture, he said.

Klein said the landlord, Silicato Development of Millsboro, Delaware, made modifications in the terms of the final lease that they had not discussed in their initial negotiations.  The added terms would have made it too difficult to make a go of the theater. He said all negotiations with the landlord have stopped as of January. and he does not expect the theater project to go forward.  However, he said, if Silicato Development reached out to them, they would be willing to re-examine the situation.  

The partners also would be open to the possibility of an alternate location, Klein said, but the property needs to be suitable for the purpose. He said they would need at least 20,000 square feet, with ceilings high enough for a movie screen, and a rent that fell within their budget.

Klein said he met with Kay MacIntosh and Jamie Williams, the economic development coordinators for Chestertown and Kent County, respectively, to discuss ways to make the project possible, including the possibility of other sites, but he was unable to find anything that solved the problems.

MacIntosh said on Tuesday that she had discussed incentives related to the Enterprise Zone, a state-designated area where tax benefits are available for new or revived businesses. The benefits include possible abatement of state property taxes for renovated properties and income tax benefits for businesses hiring a certain number of new employees, she said. A possible waiver of a state tax on movie theater tickets was also discussed, although that would require the approval of the town council. Discussions of those incentives never got past the talking stage, she said.  But, McIntosh said, she and Williams were very disappointed about the stalemate and would be willing to work again with Chesapeake Theaters or any other parties interested in re-opening the movie theater. 

Klein said he was disappointed at the failure of the project to get past the starting line. He and his partner had come in good faith and they have already invested a good deal of money on the project.  He said he spent some time in town, talked to people, and ate at the Fish Whistle. He found people in Chestertown were friendly and welcoming and enthusiastic about the possible reopening of the movies.  This was the kind of town, he said, that they were attracted to and had hoped to open a movie theater in.

The representative of Silicato Development familiar with negotiations on the theater was on vacation and unavailable for comment until early next week.  We hope to speak with the Silicato representative in the near future.

Biloxi Blues: A Boot Camp Hoot!

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Sgt. Merwin J. Toomey (John Haas, left) addresses his boot camp squad in Church Hill Theatre’s “Biloxi Blues” –  Top Bunk – Robbie Spray & James Rank; Middle bunk – Timothy Daly & Troy Strootman,  Bottom Bunk – Anthony Daly & Morgan Jung.  Photo by Steve Atkinson

Biloxi Blues, by Neil Simon, is a semi-autobiographical play about young soldiers undergoing basic training during World War II. Directed by Michael Whitehill, it is currently playing at Church Hill Theatre.

Set almost entirely in an Army training camp near Biloxi, Mississippi, the play focuses on six soldiers in one platoon and their hard-nosed drill sergeant. Like other comedies with a military setting, it gains much of its humor by contrasting the raw recruits — a motley crew with different backgrounds and personalities — with the Army’s demand for discipline and adherence to an apparently irrational set of rules.

Originally produced at the Neil Simon Theatre on Broadway in 1985, Biloxi Blues ran for 524 performances. It is the middle piece in Simon’s “Eugene trilogy,” featuring a young Brooklyn Jew whose experiences roughly follow Simon’s own early life. The other two segments are Brighton Beach Memoirs and Broadway BoundBiloxi Blues won Tony awards for best play, best actor (Barry Miller as Arnold Epstein) and best director (Gene Saks); Miller also won a Drama Desk award. Others in the original production were Matthew Broderick as Eugene, Simon’s self-portrait character, and William Sadler as drill sergeant Toomey. 

A 1988 film adaptation, directed by Mike Nichols, brought back Broderick as Eugene and featured Christopher Walken in the role of Sgt. Toomey.

On the train to boot camp in Biloxi! Photo by Steve Atkinson

While there is a great deal of broad, often profane comedy, the play also has at its core a serious story about growing up and learning about the world. The narrator, Eugene, has ambitions of being a writer, and he keeps a journal in which he writes his impressions of his fellow recruits and their experiences. Right at the beginning, Eugene says that he has four goals for the near future – to fall in love, to lose his virginity, (not necessarily in that order), to become a writer and to make it out of the army alive.  Like much comedy, the play draws its materials from events that may seem far from amusing to those caught up in them, but that with time and experience become funny even to those involved.

Recruits Arnold Epstein, Don Carney, and Eugene Jerome are berated by Sgt. Toomey.     Photo by Jane Jewell

At the center of the play is Arnold Epstein, a gentle misfit who draws the wrath of Sgt. Toomey almost from the minute he arrives in camp. Even though he considers Arnold his closest friend in the army, Eugene can do little more than watch as Epstein is assigned endless KP and latrine duty as a result of his failure to meet the sergeant’s standards. Epstein, for his part, continues to assert his humanity, even as other recruits mock him (and Eugene) for being Jewish.

The plot, on the whole, is episodic. We see the recruits’ first reactions to the demands of Army life and learn their backgrounds and quirks. We follow them through confrontations — one soldier in particular, Wykowski, is especially scornful of the two Jews in the squad — though that attitude softens somewhat throughout the play as the six recruits go from being strangers to being a unit, soldiers together.  We see the six going to visit a prostitute for their first sexual experience. Eventually, all of them — even the sergeant, who has a plate in his head where he was wounded in battle — gain a degree of humanity and sympathy by the end of the play.

Whitehill has assembled a cast dominated by young actors —  — just right, given the age of the characters they are portraying. He said after the opening night performance that the youngest cast member is only 13 while the oldest is in his early 40s,  most are in their teens or early twenties. Almost all have some previous theatrical experience, though this is the Church Hill debut for several of them. While there were a few first-night glitches, the performance was, on the whole, up to the high standards local audiences have come to expect.  Be sure to read the Director’s Notes in the Play Bill as he gives some interesting information on the production and using memoir as a narrative technique.

Whitehill also noted that he broke in the young cast by having them do push-ups as punishment for arriving late to rehearsals — 15 push-ups for each minute late! It was all good-natured, Whitehill said, with the young actors often running in just on time, pointing at their watches and shouting “I’m here! I’m here!” Not only did it improve promptness, it got the recruits in shape to perform push-ups at the sergeant’s command during the show! 

Troy Strootman, who has appeared at the Garfield Center and with Shore Shakespeare, makes his CHT debut as Eugene. He effectively strikes the balance between the character’s youthful naivete and his innate intelligence and insight into his fellow recruits — this is, after all, someone who is going to grow up to become Neil Simon. A good job in an important part.

Robert Spray takes the role of Arnold Epstein, in many ways the focus of the play’s main drama. He brings out the awkward recruit’s genuine distaste for the dehumanizing aspects of military training, and makes his confrontations with the sergeant appropriately comic.

John Haas, a CHT veteran, is well cast as Sgt. Toomey, who turns out to be a more complex and sympathetic character than the stereotypical drill sergeant he appears to be when the soldiers arrive at boot camp. Haas is convincing as the hard-nosed drillmaster, but when the opportunity arises for the character to demonstrate genuine concern for his men, he makes the switch believable – not an easy thing to do!

Daisy and Eugene dance at the USO. (Kendall Davis & Troy Strootman with Carney (Morgan Jung) and hostess Scarlett Chappell dancing in background)    Photo by Jane Jewell

Daisy Hannigan, Eugene’s love interest, is played by Kendall Davis, a 2o16 Washington College graduate who is appearing in her fourth CHT production. She convincingly projects the sweetness and innocence of the Catholic school girl who meets the soldier at a USO dance, winning him over with her knowledge of the literary world he aches to become part of. A very warm performance, given an extra dimension by Davis’s dancing.

Brothers Anthony and Timothy Daly play Roy Seldridge and Joseph Wykowsky, two of the recruits in the squad. The sons of Jeff Daly, who has many CHT credits in his own right, they give solid performances. Timothy’s character, at first a somewhat dim-witted anti-Semite, comes to recognize that he is part of a team, and all the members need to work together if they are to survive the coming ordeal of wartime. Anthony’s character thinks of himself as the comedian of the bunch, though he’s not as witty as he thinks.

Morgan Jung and Jeffrey Rank fill out the boot camp squad with portrayals of Don Carney and James Hennessy. Carney sings — off key! — in his sleep, to the annoyance of his bunk mates. and Hennesey, who is the oldest recruit and who claims to be part African-American, comes across as slightly more attuned to Army life.  Good jobs by both.

The boys are initiated in the mysteries of sex by the local prostitute Rowena , played by Christine Kinlock. Biloxi Blues Photo by Jane Jewell

Christine Kinlock, who has become a regular in the local theater scene, has a meaty if brief part as Rowena, a prostitute. Again, the character, who might have been a stereotype, turns out to have depths that Kinlock nicely brings out.

Scarlett Chapell appears as another USO hostess, dancing with the soldiers. The character is not in the original script, but Chapell, who is in her first show at CHT, makes good use of the opportunity to create a character without speaking a word.  Beautiful dancing in a shadowed background.

Given that the majority of the cast is in uniform for the entire length of the play, the only real chance for costuming flash is in the three women’s outfits — which nicely distinguish the three characters.  Both USO girls are wearing distinctive 1940s dress styles. Note that the recruits are all wearing realistic, WWII “dogtags” around their necks.

The sets are quite effective, creating a believable 1940s army camp and surrounding scenes. The main set is a surprisingly realistic two-sided unit with the soldier’s three-tiered bunks on one side and a latrine on the other. The set not only swings around to give two different scenes, it rolls offstage when a less specific scene is needed — for example the open floor of the USO dance.  A side portion of the stage is used for a train car, Toomey’s office, and Rowena’s bedroom. While not as spectacular as some of CHT’s past sets, it does an excellent job of creating the atmosphere of the time and place. Kudos to Whitehill and Brian Draper, who designed and built it.

Not surprisingly, given its subject and setting, Biloxi Blues has its share of adult situations and language — and a good number of the characters share the prejudices of the time and express them in the language of the era. Parents might think twice about bringing very young children to the production. But adult audiences, or even teens, will appreciate the larger message of the play — how growing up involves surviving harsh experiences and making something bigger than any one individual’s feelings or abilities. And there is plenty to laugh about, along the way.

Biloxi Blues runs through Feb. 4, with performances at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for students, with special prices for groups of ten or more. The audience was packed on opening night and there were also  sizable crowds for the Saturday evening and Sunday matinee of the opening week.  For reservations, call the theater at 410-556-6003 or visit the theater website.

Photo Credits: Steve Atkinson and Jane Jewell

Biloxi Blues second side of reversible, rolling set.         Photo credit: Jane Jewell

At the USO dance.         Photo by Jane Jewell

Biloxi Blues – curtain call on opening night. Photo by Jane Jewell

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Carrying King’s Legacy Forward

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Award winners and presenters at MLK Breakfast 2018 – Fahren Bartley, Alycia Wilson, Airlee Johnson, Leslie Raimond, Aniya Jefferson, Mae Etta Moore, Kurt Landgraf, Kim Kratoville

“Get out of your comfort zone!”

Because that’s when change begins.  This was the theme for several of the speakers during the Martin Luther King breakfast at the Rock Hall Firehouse on Monday, January 15.  The breakfast is organized by the Chester Valley Ministers’ Association with the help of the Kent County Arts Council.

The meeting room was soon packed as guests arrived for the 7:00 am breakfast and celebration.  The crowd of over 250 people was entertained as they entered by the Kent County High School Jazz Band. Led by Keith Wharton, the band played two up-tempo blues and an arrangement of the bossa nova standard, “Corcovado”.

KCHS Jazz Band at MLK Breakfast 2018

Washington College President Kurt Landgraf at MLK Breakfast in 2018

Washington College President Kurt Landgraf, serving as Master of Ceremonies, set the tone for the proceedings by noting that he grew up in an orphanage and it was there that he learned the importance of helping other people –  just as King taught.

“Education is important,” Landgraf said, “but providing basic needs is more important. A nation that doesn’t care for the disadvantaged will inevitably fail.” He urged attendees to get involved and unite to put their principles into action. To demonstrate Washington College’s commitment to racial equality, he said that at the Feb. 23 Convocation, the college will award an honorary Doctor of Laws degree to Frederick Douglass, the Civil War-era abolitionist who grew up on the Eastern Shore. Douglas’s biographer from Yale will speak at the Convocation and a direct descendant of Douglass will be present to accept the degree.  This will be the first doctorate ever awarded to Douglas, either posthumously or during his lifetime.  And the first honorary degree since Howard University awarded one to Douglas in 1872.  The event is open to the public and Landgraf invited everyone to attend.

The invocation was given by Cantor Gary Schiff who prayed for peace in our times.  He noted that Jewish prayers traditionally end with a call for peace.  Following the invocation, Kent County commissioner William Pickrum read the official proclamation, declaring the January 15 Martin Luther King Day an official holiday.

The Chamber Singers of the Chester River Chorale were next with three beautiful songs.  The singers, led by assistant director Michelle Sensenig, were all dressed in black and wore long colorful scarves.  Their first song was a jazzy arrangement of “Gloria in Excelsis Deo,” followed by the women’s voices a capella on “Down to the River to Pray.” For their final selection, everyone stood to join in “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” the black national anthem.

Chester River Chorale at MLK Breakfast 2018

Chester River Chorale at MLK Breakfast 2018

Julie Lawrence with Chester River Chorale at MLK Breakfast 2018

Rosemary Granillo, Vice President of the CVMA, announced grants awarded to community organizations. Recipients were the Vincent Hynson Scholarship Fund at Washington College,  the Good Neighbor Fund, the Samaritan Group and the Kent County Food Pantry. The grants are funded by the proceeds from the breakfast and the “Lift Up Our Voices In Song” concert Saturday night.

Three students from Kent County Middle School received Vincent Hynson Youth Awards, recognizing contributions to the quality of life in the community and participation in school and community events. This year’s recipients were Taion Johnson (not present), sixth grade; Alycia Wilson, seventh grade; and Fahren Bartley, eighth grade.

Leslie Raimond presented certificates to recipients of the Vincent Hynson Memorial Youth Awards Alycia Wilson (7th grade) and Fahren Bartley (8th grade) at MLK Breakfast 2018

Airlee Ringgold Johnson and Kent County High School senior Aniya Jefferson were the recipients of the Dr. Martin Luther King  Jr. Humanitarian Awards, presented by Rev. Mae Etta Moore. The award recognizes significant contributions to the quality of life in Kent County. Jefferson, receiving the award, thanked God and her parents. She quoted King saying. “Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve others.”

Rev Mae Etta Moore presented the Humanitarian Award to KCHS senior Aniya Jefferson 

Johnson, who left Kent County after graduation from then-segregated Henry Highland Garnett High School, said she originally planned never to return. Living elsewhere, she became active in her communities and learned about the “big world” that was not segregated. She advised the audience to get out of their comfort zone and seek out members of other races, recognizing that things have changed. Chestertown is not just for one race or group — it is getting wide recognition for its cultural life. “We can’t afford to be separate any more,” she said. She mentioned her involvement in the Legacy Day committee and the Social Action Committee as examples of how change is coming to the community. “It’s a brand new day; we need to move forward,” she said in conclusion.

Airlee Johnson and Rev.Mae Etta Moore at MLK Breakfast 2018

The keynote speaker was Sam Abed, Secretary of the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services. Abed, whose grandparents emigrated over 100 years ago to the U.S. from Palestine.  Working with young people who have fallen into conflict with the law, he said, he inevitably observed a disproportionate number of African Americans.

Abed warned the audience that parts of his story might make many of them uncomfortable. He then described the anti-Arab prejudice he encountered as a young boy in Virginia. He was called “sand-n****r” and “towel-head” at school.  Though it hurt, he tried to ignore the taunts, and he said he still believed in America and the values of democracy and equality that it stood for.  At the time, he felt the insults were isolated incidents, that most people did not feel or act that way, that America was not a racist country.

But the final blow came when, in the fall of 2001, he graduated from law school, passed the bar, and applied for jobs. A year afterward, every member of his class had found a job except him — he didn’t even have one interview out of more than 1,000 applications. And he had been a good student; graduating in the top quarter of his law school class.  Finally one of his professors told him, “You have to change your name.” Sending out the same application with a new name, he immediately got three interviews. The change consisted of dropping two letters from his birth name: Osama.  As soon as he became “Sam” Abed instead of “Osama” Abed, he got a job! He was glad to get the job but disappointed that people hadn’t been able to look past the name to the individual.

He told his staff to challenge them to take responsibility for their actions and not blame others  — the judges, police, schools or parents of the young people that came into the system. “Fix what we can fix, hope others will do the same,” he told his staff, reminding them of what King’s work means — “keep going and fighting” to make a difference in the world.

The keynote speaker, Secretary Sam Abed, Esq., Maryland Department of Juvenile Services

The Sensational Stars, a favorite at the MLK breakfasts, brought old-time gospel harmonies to “Heaven is a Beautiful Place” and “It’s Going to be All Right” before concluding with a soulful version of Sam Cooke’s powerful anthem, “A Change is Gonna Come.”

Sensational Stars at MLK Breakfast 2018

The morning ended just a little before 10:00 am with a benediction by Rev. Sheila Lomax.  Following the benediction, the entire audience rose and held hands to sing “We Shall Overcome.”

Photo Gallery below.  Photography by Jane Jewell.

Rev. Jim Van de Wal with Sam Abed at MLK Breakfast 2018

 

MLK Breakfast 2018

Marianne Leery, George Shivers at MLK Breakfast 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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