Dr. Joanne Martin Receives Baltimore Visionary Award

As founders of The National Great Blacks in Wax Museum, Dr. Joanne Martin and her husband, Dr. Elmer Martin, were always cognizant of the importance of having a dream fulfilled.

Their dream and vision led the couple to use the money they saved to buy a house to purchase wax figures, which they carried around to schools, churches, shopping malls and many other places where they would set up an exhibit.

A short time later in 1983, the couple opened a storefront museum with 21 wax figures. Today, the museum counts as America’s first wax museum of African American history and culture that features more than 150 lifelike was figures. It stands among the nation’s most dynamic cultural and education institutions and it’s among the reasons why Baltimore continues to attract millions of tourists each year.

It’s also a primary reason that Dr. Joanne Martin is the 2018 recipient of The William Donald Schaefer Baltimore Visionary Award from Visit Baltimore.

“The award means that Visit Baltimore, which is responsible for promoting tourism in this city and creating opportunities around the nation and the world to bring tourism to Baltimore, recognizes the role that Great Blacks in Wax plays in all of that,” Dr. Martin said.

Presented on September 25, 2018, at the Hilton Baltimore Hotel, The William Donald Schaefer Visionary Tourism Award “is reserved for a select group of visionaries whose leadership and commitment to growing Baltimore has lifted all residents up and strengthened Visit Baltimore’s ability to sell and promote the city as a great destination,” said Al Hutchinson, the President and CEO of Visit Baltimore.

“This year, we wanted to recognize Dr. Joanne Martin, who had a vision over 30 years ago and continues to expand and grow that vision today,” Hutchinson said.

During the ceremony, Hutchinson cited a New York Times article that glowingly reported on the viability of Baltimore’s tourism and the attractiveness of the city’s African American story. The article called The National Great Blacks in Wax Museum a “museum like no other.”

“Those kinds of things are very, very important and Visit Baltimore recognized that and recognized that Great Blacks in Wax is at the heart of African American tourism in this city,” Dr. Martin said.

As proud as she is of those facts and the award, Dr. Martin says what stands out for her is that the museum is in the heart of an African American community. “Where naysayers said nobody was going to come and we’ve been there for decades,” she said.

Bestowing the award on Dr. Martin was a no-brainer, Hutchinson added.

“Dr. Joanne Martin is the founder of one of America’s most dynamic cultural and educational institutions that we should all be proud is right here in Baltimore City,” he said.

“This past year, her institution joined us in celebrating the tremendous bicentennial of Frederick Douglas’ birth by commemorating a new wax figure in his honor.

“Dr. Martin and The National Great Blacks In Wax Museum continue to move forward with aggressive plans for a transformational expansion of the museum’s campus. We thank Dr. Martin for her devotion to Baltimore and look forward to watching her museum educate and enlighten visitors for years to come.”

Dick Gregory Remembered, Lionized By Mourners

— Civil rights activist and comedian Dick Gregory packed several lifetimes into his 84 years. He was many things: groundbreaking, pioneering comedian; persistent critic of America’s policies and practices of racism, discrimination and oppressor; marathon runner; a guru around issues of nutrition and good health; political candidate for mayor of Chicago and president; author of 20 books.

Gregory, father of 10 and husband to wife Lillian for 58 years, died August 19 after a brief illness.

On Saturday, September 16, 2017, at City of Praise Family Ministries several thousand mourners listened for more than six hours as friends, family and admirers celebrated the man described as a legend. The memorial service brought together a constellation of local, national and international celebrities and luminaries from the Arts, entertainment, politics and sports as well as ordinary people, all whose lives Gregory touched over the course of his 84 years. These included boxing promoter and TV host Rock Newman, actor Joe Morton, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Stevie Wonder, Bill and Camille Cosby, MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell, members of the American Indian Movement and The Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II.

Nation of Islam leader Min. Louis Farrakhan – who was introduced by his friend of more than 40 years, the Rev. Willie Wilson of DC’s Union Temple Baptist Church said Gregory was “was from the dark womb of space that God produces to create stars of immeasurable quality and beauty” who was always among ordinary men and women working.

“We experience the loss not of a comedian but the loss of one sent from above to be a guide, a teacher, a friend, a teacher, an activist, a giver, a sufferer, one of the most marvelous human beings I have had the privilege of meeting during my 84 years of life on this planet,” he said. “I want to thank Mother Lillian and the Gregory family for the great honor and privilege that you have given me to ask me to be the eulogist for a man that is so difficult to describe, But I’m going to try in a few words to say what I think and I believe about man who lie there but is not here.”

Crowd reaction was palpable when several children of slain Civil Rights activists and Rain Pryor, daughter of comedian Richard Pryor, came to the stage to pay tribute to Gregory. Renee Evers-Everette, Martin Luther King, III, and llyasah Shabazz, the third daughter of Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz talked about the many ways Gregory touched their lives.

“Baba was part of my Pryor life of laughter and that special attention he gave you,” said Pryor. “He said that truths were soul food and a map to live by. He told me to always choose my words wisely. Today, as we honor our newest Ancestor, we are reminded not to morph, not to imitate, but to speak the highest truth. We have to keep them lifted in our actions as we become the change they sought.”

Evers-Everette said she initially refused strenuously when asked by Ayanna Gregory to speak but … “There’s no way I could not be here,” she said. “My father and Dick Gregory were brothers of the spirit and the hearts … They (her father and other slain Civil Rights activists) spilled the blood of truth for our freedoms. The words, wisdom and spirit they powered out in us was given to the world. The time given may have been small but it was enormous. They made the most impact on our minds and hearts.”

Shabazz said Gregory fought for people trapped on the periphery of economics and justice.

“He challenged the social climate and challenged a superpower that has been systematically and historically unjust to certain populations,” she said. “I’m honored to be here today for my parents and Ancestors. The Ancestors are lining up to welcome Baba in anticipation of a progress report on the status of life down here.”

“When it came time to say who took Malcolm’s life he rose to the occasion. He clarified Martin Luther King Jr’s death and raised his voice for those slain by bullies and bigots,” Shabazz explained. “And when this new generation reminded the world that Black Lives Matter, he stood up with them and spoke truth to power.”

Waters, who has eagerly embraced her role as an outspoken and acerbic critic of President Donald Trump, promised that she would continue to be “this dishonorable person’s” worst nightmare.

“I’m so pleased that you organized a real celebration where you’re not ending quickly and trying to shut people up. I’m going to take as long as I want,” she said to a mixture of laughter and applause. “I have talked to Dick for hours. We would talk— no, he would talk— about things going on in the world. He brought me to this time and place in my life.”

“I’ve decided I don’t want to be safe. I’m not looking for people to like me. It’s time for us to walk the walk. If you cared about him, loved him, stop being so weak. It’s time to stop skinning and grinning. It’s time for us to have the courage to do what we need to do, especially at this hour.”

President Barack Obama

Barack H. Obama is the 44th President of the United States.

His story is the American story — values from the heartland, a middle-class upbringing in a strong family, hard work and education as the means of getting ahead, and the conviction that a life so blessed should be lived in service to others.

With a father from Kenya and a mother from Kansas, President Obama was born in Hawaii on August 4, 1961. He was raised with help from his grandfather, who served in Patton’s army, and his grandmother, who worked her way up from the secretarial pool to middle management at a bank.

After working his way through college with the help of scholarships and student loans, President Obama moved to Chicago, where he worked with a group of churches to help rebuild communities devastated by the closure of local steel plants.

He went on to attend law school, where he became the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review. Upon graduation, he returned to Chicago to help lead a voter registration drive, teach constitutional law at the University of Chicago, and remain active in his community.

President Obama’s years of public service are based around his unwavering belief in the ability to unite people around a politics of purpose. In the Illinois State Senate, he passed the first major ethics reform in 25 years, cut taxes for working families, and expanded health care for children and their parents. As a United States Senator, he reached across the aisle to pass groundbreaking lobbying reform, lock up the world’s most dangerous weapons, and bring transparency to government by putting federal spending online.

He was elected the 44th President of the United States on November 4, 2008, and sworn in on January 20, 2009. He and his wife, Michelle, are the proud parents of two daughters, Malia, 14, and Sasha, 11.

Allen West

Former Congressman, retired Army Lieutenant Colonel, Author

What is the significance of Black History Month to you?

“The significance of Black History month is immeasurable. When I look at who I am, it is all about black history. When I first put on my army uniform, I go back and remember the 54th Massachusetts Regiment because those were the first black soldiers that was able to wear the uniform of the United States of America. I think of all of the black soldiers, sailors, airmen marines that went on and enabled me to be able to put on that uniform.”

What was the most poignant moment in black history for you?

“When I think about the most poignant moment in black history, it’s very simple. My elementary school was right across the street from Ebenezer Baptist Church. Every single day, I walked by Ebenezer Baptist Church. Every single day, I got to see the resting place of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. His impeccable words that he would hope for a country where young men and women would not be judged by the color of their skin, but the content of their character; that’s the most poignant moment, the most poignant memory that I have when talking about black history month. I was walking, each and every day, looking at black history when I walked past Ebenezer, when I walked down Auburn Ave, I saw black history. So that’s why we have to have this month. That’s why we need to have this reflection.”

Growing up, who were the African-American icons that you looked up to for inspiration and why?

“I think about Henry O. Flipper, the first black graduate of West Point. I think about Dorie Miller at Pearl Harbor. I think about the 361st Infantry Regiment during World War I. I think about the Tuskegee Airmen. I think about my own dad serving in World War II or my brother serving in Vietnam. I think about the Montford Point Marines.”

Allen West was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia in the same neighborhood where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once preached. He is the third of four generations of military servicemen in his family.

During his 22 year career in the United States Army, Lieutenant Colonel West served in several combat zones: in Operation Desert Storm, in Operation Iraqi Freedom, where he was a Battalion Commander in the Army’s 4th Infantry Division, and later in Afghanistan. He received many honors including a Bronze Star, three Meritorious Service Medals, three Army Commendation Medals and a Valorous Unit Award. In 1993 he was named the US Army ROTC Instructor of the Year.

After his retirement from the Army in 2004, Allen taught high school for a year before returning to Afghanistan as a civilian military adviser to the Afghan army, an assignment he finished in November 2007.

In November of 2010, Allen was honored to continue his oath of service to his country when he was elected to the United States Congress, representing Florida’s 22nd District. As a member of the 112th Congress, he sat on the Small Business and Armed Services Committees and was instrumental in passage of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act.

He is a Fox News Contributor, a Senior Fellow at the London Center for Policy Research, and regularly writes for numerous media outlets including Communities at the Washington Times and PJ Media.

Allen is an avid distance runner, a Master SCUBA diver and motorcyclist. His wife, Angela, holds an MBA and Ph.D. and is a financial planner. His older daughter, Aubrey, attends college in south Florida, and his younger daughter Austen, is in high school.

Visit www.allenbwest.com, www.allenwestguardianfund.com, www.allenwestfoundation.org

Follow @AllenWest

Stefanie Brown James

CEO and Founder of Vestige Strategies, Founder of Brown Girls Lead, In charge of the African-American vote for President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign.

What is the personal significance of Black history Month to you?

“It’s important to say that black history is American history and it’s global history. I was just in Morocco a few weeks ago and to see the influence of American culture which really is intertwined and often times shaped by black culture was amazing. From music, to dress, to slang to a lot of different elements, and so much of that has been influenced by those who helped to shape the culture and made sure that black people had a voice and were able to be unique in how we are. I’m particularly tied to the more social justice activists of the past. I think one of our proudest moments as it relates to activism was the young people during the civil rights movement that sacrificed a lot and they were only kids and I think it’s really important that we continue to let our children know about black history, where we come from, and continue to try to shape history even now.”

What was the poignant moment in Black History for you?

“The founding of the NAACP in 1909, and it was a multicultural group of people who were committed to seeing the advancement of black people in this country. At that time, the biggest thing they worked on was anti-lynching laws. Just the bravery that it took for these men and women across the country to form this organization and form chapters across the country was significant. These [people] were in the face of real danger and a lot of people lost their lives, many of who we would never know their names or their sacrifices. That bravery element just speaks so much. Almost anything we go through nowadays is nothing compared to what they went through. If they could do it, we could do it too. That’s always something very empowering for me to remember as I try to do the work that I do.“

Growing up, who were the African-American icons you looked up to and why?

“Not a shock that many of them are women. Juanita Jackson Mitchell was the founder of the youth and college division of NAACP and she was also instrumental in cases like the Scottsboro Boys case and was just a real pioneer as it relates to a woman who was involved in civil rights. Women like Ella Baker who helped to find the student non-violent coordinating committee who also was a field director for NAACP. She really helped to mold generations after her to be involved in civil rights.” Present-day, I continue to be enamored with Oprah. My husband’s probably so tired of me talking about Oprah. I love Oprah. I’m hoping to meet her one day. I like her business-savvy and now as an entrepreneur, she is a person who I look up to for being able to really do things her way.

Where do you see the direction of Black History?

“I think one thing that’s great with the space that I’m involved in now is to literally see my peers who are shaping black history every day. It’s very exciting for many unsung heroes who are working very diligently to continue to work towards the advancement of the black community and to work for fairness and justice. I think that there is so many more young people who want to be leaders and they want to make history, American history, world history and our job is to really give back to them. 1) to make sure they know their history and 2) to help them see how they can play a role in shaping what the country is, what we do, and how we’re viewed in the world.”


Growing up in the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio, Stefanie Brown James knew that a career in government affairs and civil rights was the path for her. She started to get involved in civil rights when she joined the Cleveland Youth Council of National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). She then moved on to a prestigious education at Howard University which led to a job opportunity at the NCAAP.

“I’ve always been a real history buff,” she said. “To know where we come from, and all the people who sacrificed to make it possible for us to experience the freedom that we have today, I wanted to be part of that legacy.”

As part of the field staff at NAACP, Stefanie became akin to working long hours and after seeing the dedication of everyday people, she knew that it was truly an honor to be part of the NAACP legacy.

“If you can work at NAACP, you can work anywhere,” she said. “The people I met along the way and who assisted me, the passion, the dedication, and what they taught me is probably my biggest takeaway from my experience at the association.”

In 2012, after a long hiring process, Stefanie was then hired to work for the most powerful man in the world, President Barack Obama, as the National African-American Vote Director for the 2012 Obama for America Campaign.


“To work for the 1st black president, it was an amazing god-given opportunity,” she said. “My experience in working for the NAACP prepared me for the position.”

Her duty was to organize the African-Americans for Obama program and also manage the national strategy to engage African-American leaders and voters to register and re-elect President Barack Obama.

“We worked hard, a lot of effort went into this campaign,” she said. “It wasn’t a fluke that African-American voters turned out in the highest rates ever.”

President Obama’s re-election campaign did not come without difficulties. Many members of the African-American community were perhaps skeptical or felt let down by what they thought the President should have accomplished during the first term. It was Stephanie’s job to change that mindset.

“At the end of the day, you have a choice… black people were energized because they knew how important voting was to their lives and that it made a difference,” she said.

Building upon her career, Stefanie is now the CEO and founding partner of Vestige Strategies that specializes in grassroots community engagement, public affairs and government relations as well as being the Founder of Brown Girls Lead, a leadership development organization focused on building a strong pipeline of collegiate, black women leaders.

Stefanie founded the program after a speaking engagement at her alma mater. The female attendees informed her that a career in government was not ideal because it wasn’t “attractive to men”.


“I was just blown away, this was not our legacy as black women at Howard,” she said. “After talking with my husband, we were able to form Brown Girls Lead to help collegiate women in their personal, professional, and public lives.”

As Stefanie’s endeavors continue to grow, she certainly recognizes the impact and importance of Black History Month to future generations.

Visit www.StefanieBrownJames.com or Follow @StefBrownJames