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31st Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Awards Dinner

 Ten Local Civil and Human Rights Activists to be Honored Naval Academy Gospel Choir to Perform World Premier of MLK Jr. Film

(Annapolis, Md., Dec. 26, 2018)—The 31st Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Awards Reception and Dinner will be held Friday, Jan. 18, at 6 p.m. The largest celebration of Dr. King’s birthday in Anne Arundel County will be held at La Fountaine Bleue in Glen Burnie. A highlight of the program will be the world premiere of the Martin Luther King Jr. documentary film The Dream Revisited, Civil Rights in Perspective, directed by Charles and May Love. “I watched this beautiful film and was deeply moved by it,” said Dr. William Ferris, former chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities, Washington, D.C. “It is a powerful, timely reminder of how race continues to define our lives,” he said. The Dream Revisited that will be screened at the dinner is a seven-minute portion of the documentary, which pays tribute to King and discusses the struggle for civil rights that still exists to this day. Also addressing the dinner will be local and state political leaders. The Naval Academy Gospel Choir will also perform. Among the 10 honorees acknowledged at the event are: M. Eve Hurwitz, of Annapolis, winner of the Alan Hilliard Legum Civil Rights Award, who helped organize the Women’s March; Alderman Marc Rodriguez, of Annapolis, winner of the Morris H. Blum Humanitarian Award, who made history in 2017 as the first Latino elected official in the City of Annapolis; and Naval Academy senior Midshipman First Class Aaron J. Lewis, of Fort Washington, winner of the Drum Major Award, for his outstanding contributions to the community. General admission tickets for the dinner are $65 before Jan. 14 and $70 afterward, VIP tickets are $100, and all tickets may be purchased online at, by phone at 410.760.4115 or 301-538-6353; or by mail to MLK Jr. Committee, PO Box 371, Annapolis, Md. 21404. The VIP reception begins at 5 p.m.

Addressing the dinner and reception will be Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman, Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley, and Congressman Anthony Brown. Representing Governor Larry Hogan with remarks will be Steven McAdams. Additional speakers will be St. John’s College president Panayotis Kanelos and Captain Robert Dews of the United States Naval Academy.

​The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Awards Dinner in Anne Arundel County was founded in 1988 by then Alderman Carl Snowden. Designed to pay homage to the memory of Dr. King, the dinner honors those whose deeds, words, and actions have helped keep his legacy alive. The banquet is a reflection on the best that Anne Arundel County has to offer.

Charles and Mary Love are award-winning filmmakers and partners in Imagyn, Inc. (, a media company based in Charlotte, North Carolina. Their documentary films have featured destinations around the world, as well as social and environmental issues close to home. Their movies have been honored with screenings in the 9th Annual Iran Film Festival in San Francisco in 2016, and in the 2018 International Travel Film Festival in Limassol, Cypress. More recently, one of their movies was recognized as a winner in the 2018 Best Film Shorts Competition. The duo’s professional associations include the American Society of Media Photographers and the Society of American Travel writers.

Other winners of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., awards who will be recognized for their dedication to the ideals of Dr. King include: Wandra Ashley-Williams, of Baltimore, winner of the Courageous Leadership Award; George “Lassie” Belt, of Annapolis, winner of the Peace Maker Award; Patricia Cole, of Bel Air, winner of the Alan Hilliard Legum Civil Rights Award; Najiba Hlemi, of Annapolis, winner of the We Share the Dream Award; Congressman C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, of Baltimore County, winner of the Dream Keepers Award; Congressman John P. Sarbanes, of Baltimore, winner of the Dream Keepers Award; and Dr. Vivian Gist Spencer, of Annapolis, winner of the Drum Major Award.

The awards dinner is presented by the Annapolis-based Martin Luther King Jr. Committee, La Fontaine Bleue, 7514 Richie Highway, Glen Burnie. Dinner tickets are $65 ($70 after January 14). The VIP reception begins at 5 p.m. and includes premium seating and a private reception before the dinner with hors d’oeuvres and an open bar. Proceeds from the event will be used to underwrite the annual Fannie Lou Hamer Reception and the annual Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. Awards Dinner to insure their continued existence in the future honoring Dr. King.

Alan Hilliard Legum Civil Rights Award
M. Eve Hurwitz is the recipient of the Alan Hilliard Legum Civil Rights Award. Hurwitz, who helped organize the Women’s March and is the driving force behind March On Maryland, has worked with the Caucus of African-American Leaders and other progressive groups. She has worked with Delegate-elect Sandy Bartlett, Alderwoman Elly Tierney, Judge Claudia Barber, Reverend Marguerite Morris, and many other inspiring women to empower and improve the Anne Arundel community. Hurwitz recently joined forces with progressive organizations in a successful suit against the State of Maryland. Working with the ACLU’s Debbie Jeon and Amy Cruice, she and the other plaintiffs won monetary damages. Hurwitz has supported numerous causes and community members, including Judge Vickie Gipson, County Executive Steuart Pittman, Councilwoman Lisa Brannigan Rodvien, Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley, Delegate-elect Heather Bagnall, and other progressive candidates.

Drum Major Award
Midshipman First Class Aaron J. Lewis is the recipient of the Drum Major Award. Lewis is active in community outreach efforts, including Harvest for the Hungry, a midshipmen-run food drive to donate food to the Anne Arundel County for Bank, and Mids for Kids, a mentoring program for youth in the Annapolis community. He also volunteers with the Asbury United Methodist Church Food Pantry Program. Lewis is an active member of the Midshipman Black Studies Club and serves as its president.

Morris H. Blum Humanitarian Award
Alderman Marc Rodriguez is the recipient of the Morris H. Blum Humanitarian Award. The first Latino elected official in the City of Annapolis, the Ward 5 Democrat was elected in a hotly contested race. Rodriguez grew up in Mexico with his American mother and Mexican father. After moving to the United States, Rodriguez attended the Key School and received his bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Michigan. He is currently enrolled at the University of Maryland Carey School of Law.

Courageous Leadership Award
National NAACP Board Member, Wandra Ashley-Williams is the recipient of the Courageous Leadership Award. The Louisiana native settled in Anne Arundel County in 2006. She has worked for Merrill Lynch Corporate Real Estate Finance and Turner Construction Company, and has served on several boards and commissions, including as executive director of the St. John Baptist Church Mentoring Program. Ashley-Williams is currently the president of WLA Associates, LLC, a consulting company specializing in business management, event planning, lobbying, and referral partnerships.

In 2013, Ashley-Williams was appointed by Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley to serve on the Maryland Commission for Women. She is a board member for the Maryland Legislative Agenda for Women and serves on the board of directors for the Maryland Clean Energy Jobs Initiative. Currently, Ashley-Williams serves as a National NAACP Board Member and first vice president of the Maryland State Conference of NAACP Branches. For her many contributions, Ashley-Williams is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Maryland State Conference NAACP President’s Award. In 2017, at the NAACP 108th National Convention in Baltimore, Ashley-Williams was awarded the Dr. W. Montague Cobb Award in recognition of her achievement in social and health justice, and health education. She has also received the Johnson and Johnson Community Service Award, the American Heart Association Affiliate Volunteer of the Year, and a Maryland Governor’s Citation, among others.

Peace Maker Award
George Craig “Lassie” Belt is the recipient of the Peace Maker Award. Belt worked with Annapolis-area children at the Stanton Community Center for more than 40 years, counseling young people on the need to resolve conflicts through nonviolence. He is an assistant pastor at the International House of Prayer for All People, located in Harwood, Md. Belt was instrumental in having youth create art, which is now displayed on a state-owned Annapolis building.

Alan Hilliard Legum Civil Rights Award
Patricia Cole is the recipient of the Alan Hilliard Legum Civil Rights Award. Cole has a federal service career spanning more than 35 years. After graduating from Morgan State University, she served as a U.S. Army officer in the Military Intelligence Corps, retiring in 2011 as an Army Colonel. Upon her retirement, Cole began a second career as a Department of the Army civilian working as an investigator for the Army Inspector General. An active volunteer and advocate for social and community causes, Cole became a board member of Hosanna School Museum in 2014, and, in 2016, assumed the role as board chairman for the Havre De Grace Colored School Foundation. Her advocacy for social change is exemplified as a life member of the Morgan State Alumni Association and her memberships in the in the Morgan State University Northern Virginia Alumni Chapter, and other professional organizations.

We Share the Dream Award
Najiba Helmi is the recipient of the We Share the Dream Award. Hlemi is a nonprofit executive with a passion for mission-driven organizations. In 2017, she became executive director of Seeds for Success (S4S), an Annapolis nonprofit charity which helps youth in low-income and public housing communities achieve success in school in life. Prior to joining S4S, Hlemi was the executive director of the DMV-region Food Truck Association, where she worked closely with legislatures to lift restrictive vending prohibitions in various jurisdictions, and develop appropriate regulations to help the mobile vending industry grow and thrive. Hlemi’s previous experiences also included serving as director of the National Bar Association and director at the Washington Teachers’ Union.

Dream Keepers Award
Congressman C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger is serving his eighth term in the U.S. House of Representatives for Maryland’s Second District, which includes Anne Arundel County. He is known for working with members from both sides of the aisle to get results for Maryland. Ruppersberger currently serves on the House Appropriations Committee, including the Defense, the State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs and the Homeland Security subcommittees. The assignment comes after a committee-record 12 years serving on the House Intelligence Committee, including four years as ranking member. Ruppersberger was the first Democratic freshman ever appointed to the committee. Ruppersberger served on the House Government Reform and House Armed Services Committees.

Ruppersberger has served in public office for more than 30 years. He was elected to the Baltimore County Council in 1985 and 1989. He was elected Baltimore County Executive in 1994 and 1998, and, under his leadership, the county was named one of the nation’s four best-managed counties by Governing Magazine. The county achieved three AAA bond ratings and staggering job growth during his administration. Ruppersberger is an active supporter of the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center, serving as Vice Chairman of its Board of Visitors. He also serves on the United States Naval Academy Board of Visitors. A native of Baltimore City, Ruppersberger earned his Juris Doctorate from the University of Baltimore Law School.

Dream Keepers Award
Congressman John Sarbanes is a recipient of the Dream Keepers Award. He has represented Maryland’s Third Congressional District in the U.S. Congress since 2007, and now serves on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, in addition to the Subcommittee on Health and the Subcommittee on Energy and Power. Since 2017, he has chaired the Democracy Reform Task Force, where he fights against special-interest policies in Congress and advances reforms to improve accountability and transparency in government. Sarbanes shares his state’s strong tradition of environmentalism, leading efforts in Congress to clean up the Chesapeake Bay. He is a strong supporter of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and continues to oppose efforts to repeal the ACA. Sarbanes has fought to expand higher education opportunities through financial assistance programs like the Pell Grant and has authored laws to help students repay their college loans after they graduate. Before coming to Congress, Sarbanes served for seven years with the Maryland State Department of Education. He practiced law for 18 years, representing hospitals and senior living providers in their mission to deliver high-quality health care to the people of Maryland.

Sarbanes graduated from Princeton University and studied law and politics in Greece on a Fulbright Scholarship. For more than 20 years, he has served as a board member of the Institute for Islamic, Christian and Jewish Studies, which seeks to promote understanding and dialogue among people of different religious faiths.

Drum Major Award
Vivian Gist Spencer is the recipient of the Drum Major Award. A Chicago native, Spenser moved to Maryland in 1980 where she taught at Anne Arundel public schools and colleges. She established a Repertory Company to help students develop acting skills, and was later a founding members and instructor of Anne Arundel Community College’s Summer Bridge Program for African American students. Spenser has served as a member of the Maryland State Arts Council Advisory Board. For 14 years, she was on the Board of Directors of Chrysalis House, a residential substance abuse treatment center for women and their children. In 2004, Spenser joined Zontas of Annapolis, which works to improve the lives of women worldwide. Since 2005, she has served on the Board of Directors of the Northern Arundel Cultural Preservation Society, which chronicles the lives of African Americans in Northern Anne Arundel County. Since 2010, she also served as board member and secretary of the Kunta Kinte-Alex Haley Foundation, which documents the history of African Americans in Anne Arundel County. Spenser also teaches senior citizens a class in African American history at the O’Malley Senior Center in Odenton, Md.

Spenser’s background in theater led her to performing in Anne Arundel County, the Eastern Shore, and Baltimore, and she ultimately received the Maryland State Arts Council Individual Artist Award in Solo Theater performance in 1994. In 2017, Spenser received the Dr. Thelma Daley Pearl Award by the North Arundel County Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Spenser received her Ph.D. in English and literature in 2000.

The Annapolis-based Martin Luther King Jr. Committee Inc., founded in 1988, hosts two major events each year, the annual Fannie Lou Hamer Reception in October honoring woman of different racial backgrounds who have made contributions to the community, state and nation. The second event is the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Awards Dinner held in January to honor those local citizens whose leadership in civil and human rights has helped keep Dr. King’s legacy alive.
The MLK Jr. Committee has successfully placed three memorials to the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. in Anne Arundel County funded by private donations. A bronze statue of King was erected at Anne Arundel Community College in 2006 after the Committee raised more than $250,000. In 2011, the Committee dedicated a plaque and garden tribute to Dr. King’s wife, Coretta Scott King, at Sojourner Douglass College in Edgewater. Most recently, in August 2013, the nation’s first Civil Rights Foot Soldiers Memorial was dedicated on the 50th anniversary of the “I Have a Dream” March on Washington.( ). The $50,000 memorial is located in Annapolis’s Whitmore Park on the corner of Clay and Calvert Streets. The names of over 500 of the 250,000 ordinary citizens who marched in the demonstration and risked the threat of personal harm to underline support for the civil rights leaders who spoke that day are engraved in the monument.
For further information write MLK Jr. Committee, PO Box 371, Annapolis MD 21404, call 443-871-5656, or Facebook site


Naval Academy Gospel Choir