An enthusiastic throng of about 300 well-dressed folks gathered at the Center Stage area of Maryland Live! Casino in celebration of Black History Month on Thursday, February 20, 2020. Ten Maryland and District of Columbia business and community leaders were recognized for their contributions to their communities in a positive way at the 7th Annual Black History Heroes Awards.
Hosted by Live! Casino & Hotel along with the Maryland-Washington Minority Companies Association (MWMCA), the special affair saluted Luther “Luke” Atkinson, Former Negro league Baseball Star, Satchel Paige All Stars; Adrienne A. Jones, Speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates, District 10; David L. Gadis, CEO and General Manager, DC Water; Joseph T. Jones, Jr., president and CEO, Center for Urban Families; Roz Hamlett, director of Multimedia Communications, Anne Arundel County; Le Gretta Ross-Rawlins, Baltimore Postmaster, United States Post Office; Bert J. Hash, Jr.’ former president and CEO, Municipal Employees Credit Union (MECU); Warner H. Session, Esq., principal and board member, Session Law Firm, P.C./Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA); Janice Hayes-Williams, coordinator, Cultural Resources, Department of Planning and Zoning, Anne Arundel County; and Dr. David Wilson, president, Morgan State University.
Each honoree received a special plaque denoting their individual awards.
In a special commendation letter Maryland Governor Larry Hogan stated: “This celebration seeks to honor and recognize Black History Heroes. Maryland is steeped in African-American history.
Numerous African American leaders have called Maryland home, includ- ing Frederick Douglass, Benjamin Banneker and Harriet Tubman. We are proud to celebrate these and other historical heroes here in Annapolis, and across our state.”
The Rev. Jerome Stephens, community outreach director for Senator Benjamin Cardin, delivered the prayer and described the ceremony as “a worthy tribute to our leaders, past and present.”
Several of the honorees gave remarks during the ceremony, including the Speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates, Adrienne Jones, who discussed the importance of educating future generations about influential African-American leaders in our nation’s history. She urged the crowd to take time to visit the two newly unveiled statues of Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass in the Old House of Delegates Chamber at the Maryland State House.
Former Negro League infielder Luther “Luke” Atkinson, 82, served as keynote speaker and offered insight into his playing days under the tutelage of legendary Hall of Fame pitcher, Leroy “Satchell” Paige. Atkinson also discussed the racism that he and his teammates faced on a daily basis, the poor playing conditions and the meager salaries that players of his generation had to endure.
“Although my teammates knew what we were up against, we persevered. We all played for tomorrow and for the love of the game,” Atkinson said.
Atkinson now volunteers for the Hubert V. Simmons Museum of Negro League Baseball Inc., located in Owings Mills, Maryland where Rayner “Ray” Banks is exhibits manager and hall of fame co-founder. He pointed out that 2020 as the 100th anniversary of Negro Leagues Baseball.
Live! Casino & Hotel, part of The Cordish Companies is committed to
diversity and inclusion is recognized as one of the top corporate philanthropists in the region. The Cordish Companies is committed to being a leader in the areas of diversity and inclusiveness. We embrace the diversity within the communities we serve nationwide, and we work with non-profit groups, civic leaders and civil rights organizations that, like us, are committed to ensuring the growth and
vibrancy of their communities, according to the company’s website.
“We are incredibly honored to host the seventh installment of the Black History Heroes Awards at Live! Casino & Hotel, honoring African-American community leaders across Baltimore and DC,” said Zed Smith, COO, The Cordish Companies. “Commitment to diversity and inclusion is core to our company culture, so this event is very special for our team. The honorees being recognized are influencers that are impacting change for
future generations and creating lasting legacy as we enter into a new decade. This celebration is just a small token of our appreciation for all of their efforts to positively impact the lives of others.”