BGE celebrates Black History Month with events honoring diversity

— Baltimore Gas and Electric Company (BGE) and parent company Exelon’s African-American Resource Alliance (EAARA) Baltimore Chapter are celebrating Black History Month by supporting local arts, educational and diversity events in February that honor those who have shaped the past and those who are continuing to shape the future. This year’s programs and events highlight the contributions of African Americans to the Greater Baltimore, central Maryland and Washington, D.C. regions. This year’s events include:

Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2015 – “Corporate America’s Responsibility in Community Engagement” with keynote speaker Roland Martin. Martin is the Host/Managing Editor of TV One’s daily morning show, News One Now, Senior Analyst, Tom Joyner Morning Show, Author, International Speaker and CEO, Nu Vision Media.

Monday, Feb. 23, 2015 – Career Development Insights from Susan L. Taylor: Nurturing Your Passion Along Your Career Path – This event exclusively for BGE, Constellation and Exelon employees will feature Susan L. Taylor, founder and chief executive officer of National CARES Mentoring Movement and Editor in Chief Emerita of Essence Magazine.

In addition, BGE is a sponsor of the Baltimore Concert Opera’s presentation of “This Little Light of Mine,” in honor of Black History Month. “This Little Light of Mine” was originally commissioned by Cincinnati Opera and written and performed by soprano Adrienne Danrich. This poignant, multimedia “live documentary” is an inventive one woman musical tribute honoring the groundbreaking careers of two African-American opera legends who overcame many racial barriers from the Jim Crow era through the Civil Rights Movement to become international opera stars. Marian Anderson became the first African-American singer to perform at The Metropolitan Opera House and Leontyne Price would take that torch and carry it to The Metropolitan Opera and the most prestigious opera houses around the world.

EAARA is one of Exelon’s Employee Network Groups (ENGs), which support diversity and inclusion, bring insight to Exelon’s strategies and goals and serve as a resource to the corporation and its employees. The groups are self-initiated, voluntary, corporate-wide and inclusive. Current ENGs represent various communities, including African-Americans; Latinos; Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered Individuals; Women; Military/Veterans; and Asian Americans.

BGE proudly celebrates diversity year-round through charitable giving and volunteer support to programs and organizations that support diversity in the communities the company serves. To learn more about BGE’s charitable and volunteer efforts, visit bge.com/giving.

Envisioning Emancipation: Black Americans and the End of Slavery

— In honor of the 150th anniversary of Maryland Emancipation, the Reginald F. Lewis Museum presents renowned photo historian Dr. Deborah Willis on Saturday November 1, 2014 at 1 p.m. Her critically acclaimed book, “Envisioning Emancipation: Black Americans and the End of Slavery,” co-written with Barbara Krauthamer, tells the visual story of the period before, during and after emancipation and its effect on African Americans. It won the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Nonfiction, 2014.

Dr. Deborah Willis' critically acclaimed book, “Envisioning Emancipation: Black Americans and the End of Slavery,” co-written with Barbara Krauthamer, tells the visual story of the period before, during and after emancipation and its effect on African Americans.

(Courtesy Photo)

Dr. Deborah Willis’ critically acclaimed book, “Envisioning Emancipation: Black Americans and the End of Slavery,” co-written with Barbara Krauthamer, tells the visual story of the period before, during and after emancipation and its effect on African Americans.

While history is often told from one perspective, “We were interested in using collective memory” to document the era, Dr. Willis says, since emancipation was “a collective experience.”

The book contains rarely-before seen images from the Antebellum period through the 1930s. “Not only do these images offer rare glimpses into the lives of African Americans of the time, but the images are also testament to the qualities of pride and unending courage,” says Dr. Skipp Sanders, Executive Director of the Reginald F. Lewis Museum.

Other poignant realities are uncovered. Before emancipation, historic photographs show women holding slave master’s children. After emancipation, women are posing with their own families, with grandchildren on their laps. They, like other newly freed individuals, eagerly commissioned portraits to document and create a history of their survival and freedom.

Visitors on November 1 are also invited to the Reginald F. Lewis Museum’s Resource Center. The Resource Center provides genealogical research tools and assistance to members of the public who wish to trace their family history.

Dr. Willis is University Professor and Chair of the Department of Photography and Imaging at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. She was a 2005 Guggenheim Fellow and Fletcher Fellow, and a 2000 MacArthur Fellow. Professor Willis has pursued a dual career as an art photographer and as one of the nation’s leading historians and curators of African American photography.

Museum Heritage Tour planned For jubilee celebration

— As the 150th Anniversary— or Jubilee— of the Emancipation Proclamation approaches, Joanne Martin, founder of the National Great Blacks in Wax Museum on E. North Avenue in Baltimore says this year’s celebration will include programs answering those very questions about slavery and freedom.

“We will do this like you’d do a lecture,” said Martin, who also serves as the president of the museum. “We will also look at the aftermath of the emancipation.”

The museum is one of three that will act as hosts for the Baltimore Legends & Legacies Heritage Tour, which celebrates the inspiring lives and achievements of everyday people who changed the course of history.

“The Jubilee is hugely important and we’ve had a program to commemorate Maryland’s emancipation since 2007,” said Lisa Crawley, the resource center manager at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture on E. Pratt Street.

The Reginald F. Lewis Museum will join the National Great Blacks in Wax and the Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park in Fells Point as hosts for the heritage tour.

“We are looking forward to being a part of the Legends and Legacies Heritage Tour,” Crawley said. “It’s important to educate our local community about Maryland’s emancipation. You must remember that Maryland wasn’t effected by the Emancipation Proclamation because we were in the Union and when the state constitution changed they had to vote on it and the vote was very close, I believe it was something like 30,174 in favor of freedom and 29,7999 against.”

The Emancipation Proclamation, signed on January 1, 1863 by President Abraham Lincoln, declared that all held as slaves within rebellious states shall be free. However, like many other states, Maryland kept slavery in place until officials amended the state’s constitution on November 1, 1864.

To honor Maryland’s emancipation, a series of events, festivals and exhibits marking the end of slavery in the state are planned, including the Legends and Legacies Heritage Tour and a Civil War reenactment featuring African American Union soldiers on October 25.

An opening week reception follows on October 27 with exhibits, lectures and a play titled, “Four Women of Annapolis,” with performances throughout the week.

Officials at the Benjamin Banneker Historical Park and Museum in Catonsville will launch its “From Banneker to Douglass: The Quests for Freedom and Equality” exhibit on November 1 through February 28, 2015.

The exhibit will commemorate the early efforts of Maryland’s African Americans and their allies in their pursuit of freedom and equality for all. Those efforts took on many forms that include protest literature, conventions, enslaved people seeking freedom, and educational initiatives.

“As a state that played such a large and poignant part in our nation’s history, we are excited about the opportunity to celebrate and share this special moment for Maryland, when slavery was abolished for good,” Margot Amelia, executive director, Maryland Office of Tourism, said in a news release.

“Baltimore is proud to participate in the state-wide Jubilee 1864 commemoration,” said Tom Noonan, President and CEO of Visit Baltimore. “Through the Legends and Legacies Heritage Tour participants will be able to experience and engage in a living history tour with visits to our three noted African-American heritage museums with character actors from the Jubilee time period.”

In addition to the heritage tour, the National Great Blacks in Wax Museum plans to feature what they call an unforgettable Middle Passage exhibit, including its famous replica slave ship, and more than 100 life-size wax figures of prominent African-Americans.

The Reginald F. Lewis Museum plan programs where stories of African-American Marylanders who made an impact on American history, art and culture will be shared.

The Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park will celebrate the lives of its namesakes and the first African-American Shipyard, the Chesapeake Marine Railway & Dry Dock Company founded in 1868.

“We will also have a children’s program, a play about the emancipation and we will have our annual gala,” Crawley said.

Martin of the National Great Blacks in Wax Museum said it’s important that the Jubilee is properly observed.

“We get to clear up a few things,” she said. “We will look at what the Emancipation Proclamation did and didn’t do.”

For more information and a complete schedule of Jubilee celebration activities, visit www.visitmaryland.org or www.Baltimore.org.

67 Minutes for Mandela

“Mr Mandela has spent 67 years making the world a better place. We’re asking you for 67 minutes.”

Nelson Mandela’s birthday is on 18 July, and the call is out for people everywhere to celebrate his birthday by acting on the idea that each person has the power to change the world.

The idea of Mandela Day was inspired by Nelson Mandela at his 90th birthday celebrations in London’s Hyde Park in 2008 when he said: “It is time for new hands to lift the burdens. It is in your hands now.”

The United Nations officially declared 18 July as Nelson Mandela International Day in November 2009, recognising Mandela’s “values and his dedication to the service of humanity” and acknowledging his contribution “to the struggle for democracy internationally and the promotion of a culture of peace throughout the world”.

The celebration of Mandela Day aims to serve as a global call to action for people to “recognise their individual power to make an imprint and help change the world around them for the better”, says the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

“Nelson Mandela has been making an imprint on the world for 67 years, beginning in 1942 when he first started to campaign for the human rights of every South African. His life has been an inspiration to the world,” the foundation said.

By devoting 67 minutes of their time – one minute for every year of Mandela’s public service – people can make a small gesture of solidarity with humanity and a step towards a global movement for good. Take action, inspire change, make every day a Mandela Day – find out about volunteer opportunities or pledge some of your time: www.mandeladay.com

Mandela said at the time of the campaign’s launch that he would be “honoured if such a day can serve to bring together people around the world to fight poverty and promote peace and reconciliation”.

Former US president Bill Clinton said the core of Mandela’s example was that “the power of public good does not require public office, just a well-placed heart and a determined mind.

“In return for everything Madiba has taught us, we each owe it to him to support his work and legacy by doing and living our own as best we can, not just on this day, but throughout our entire lives.”

As City Press editor Ferial Haffajee wrote in June 2013, “The excellent Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory has already made clear what the icon wants by way of legacy … he does not want a legacy cast in copper, concrete or marble, no monuments or highways, but a living legacy of volunteerism and service.

“What better direction can we ask for as a nation? As we begin the long clamber up his shoulders to work out how we complete the long walk to freedom, Mandela has shown us how. It is ours to do, to serve, to give and to complete the work of freedom.”

For more information, visit www.mandeladay.com

Source: SAinfo reporter/ www.southafrica.info

Ruby Dee was a formidable force on screen, in civil rights movement

— Ruby Dee, the award-winning actress whose seven-decade career included triumphs on stage and screen, has died. She was 91.

Dee died peacefully Wednesday at her New Rochelle, New York, home, according to her representative, Michael Livingston.

Dee — often with her late husband, Ossie Davis — was a formidable force in both the performing arts community and the civil rights movement. The couple were master and mistress of ceremonies at the 1963 March on Washingon, and she was friends with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. Dee received the Frederick Douglass Award in 1970 from the New York Urban League.

As an actress, her film credits included “The Jackie Robinson Story” (1950), “A Raisin in the Sun” (1961), “Buck and the Preacher” (1972), “Do the Right Thing” (1989) and “American Gangster” (2007).

Dee earned an Oscar nomination for her performance in “Gangster.” She won an Emmy and Grammy for other work.

Broadway star Audra McDonald paid tribute to Dee when she accepted a Tony Award on Sunday, crediting Dee, Maya Angelou, Diahann Carroll and Billie Holiday for making her career possible. McDonald won a best actress Tony in 2004 for playing the same role Dee created on Broadway in 1959 and in the 1961 film version of “Raisin.”

In a statement, Gil Robertson IV of the African American Film Critics Association praised Dee’s contributions.

“The members of the African American Film Critics Association are deeply saddened at the loss of actress and humanitarian Ruby Dee,” said Robertson. “Throughout her seven-decade career, Ms. Dee embraced different creative platforms with her various interpretations of black womanhood and also used her gifts to champion for Human Rights. Her strength, courage and beauty will be greatly missed.”

Dee was born Ruby Ann Wallace in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1922, and moved to New York’s Harlem as a child. She took the surname Dee after marrying blues singer Frankie Dee two decades later. She divorced Dee after a short marriage and was wedded to Davis in 1948. Davis preceded his wife in death in 2005.

Her acting career started in New York in the 1940s, first appearing onscreen in the 1946 musical “That Man of Mine.” A role in “The Jackie Robinson Story” brought her national attention.

Dee became known to a younger generation with roles in two Spike Lee films. She co-starred with Davis in Lee’s “Do the Right Thing” and in his 1991 film “Jungle Fever.”

First lady Michelle Obama tweeted that she was “deeply saddened” by Dee’s death. “I’ll never forget seeing her in ‘Do the Right Thing’ on my first date with Barack.”

Dee’s television work included 20 episodes of “Peyton Place” in 1969 and the role of Queen Haley in the 1979 miniseries “Roots: The Next Generation.”

‘The finest performance I have ever seen’

She was regularly praised for her acting.

In the 1961 film version of “Raisin,” Lorraine Hansberry’s play about a working-class black family trying to move up in the world, she played Ruth Younger, the wife of Sidney Poitier’s striving Walter.

“Miss Dee is quietly magnificent as the angry young man’s hard-working wife,” wrote Bosley Crowther in The New York Times.

Her stage work was equally lauded.

“Ruby Dee as Lena is giving the finest performance I have ever seen,” wrote The New York Times’ Clive Barnes in 1970 of Dee in Athol Fugard’s play “Boesman and Lena.” “Never for a moment do you think she is acting.”

She won an Obie for that performance in 1971.

Other awards included a 1972 Drama Desk award for “Wedding Band,” a 1991 Emmy for “Decoration Day,” a 2007 Grammy for spoken-word album and a Golden Globe for “American Gangster.”

Actor Samuel L. Jackson, who was in “Jungle Fever” and “Do the Right Thing” with Dee, tweeted: “We Lost A Jewel Today, Mrs Ruby Dee, So Great, So Loved! R.I.P. All sympathy to her family.”

Director Spike Lee tweeted that he was “crushed” by the loss of Dee, whom he called “‘spiritual mother.”

Always an activist

Dee and Davis — the two, who were married 56 years, always seemed connected — were an odd couple in some ways: She from New York, he from Waycross, Georgia. She was small and stylish, he was big and bluff. But their beliefs were often as one, and they practiced what they preached.

“We shared a great deal in common; we didn’t have any distractions as to where we stood in society. We were black activists. We had a common understanding,” she told Ebony in 1988.

Dee and Davis met while acting in the 1945 Broadway play “Jeb” in 1945. He proposed three years later with a telegram he sent from Chicago, where he was touring in a play, according to their joint autobiography “With Ossie and Ruby: In This Life Together,” published near their 50th anniversary. The telegram to his girlfriend said he “might as well marry” her. Dee wrote back, “Don’t do me any favors.”

Their book revealed the challenges of their long marriage, including a phase in the 1960s in which they agreed they could sleep with others when work separated them. The arrangement lasted only a short time, they said. “We ultimately decided that what we had chosen as a possibility didn’t really work for us,” Davis said in 1999.

“You have to learn how to be married,” Dee said. “You have to learn to love somebody.”

There was no television in their home for years, The New York Times observed in a 1995 profile, because “television represented an industry that refused to hire black people in significant numbers or in anything other than stereotypical roles.”

They appeared at protest rallies and took their children with them. She admitted to a fiery temperament: In a famous “American Gangster” scene, she slaps star Denzel Washington across the face, noting she put everything into the motion.

“It’s not far from my nature to whack,” she told USA Today. “There’s a streak in me.”

Dee and Davis were arrested in 1999 while protesting outside New York City police headquarters against the police shooting of an unarmed African immigrant, Amadou Diallo. Dee told reporters the shooting “reminds me of when there were lynchings all over the country.”

“We’ve got to start saying ‘No further. This must stop,’ ” Dee said.

Even before the appearances in Spike Lee movies made them famous faces again, Dee and Davis were always working, always pushing, whether it was producing a 1986 PBS special on King or creating a two-person show drawing on the work of African-American writer Zora Neale Hurston.

The two also shared a lot of laughter.

“The life is the fun,” she told the Times in 1995.

“We walk in the middle of humor every day, and we laugh,” Davis responded.

“And we fight, too,” Dee replied. “Yeah. I win.”

Dee is survived by three children, Guy Davis, Hasna Muhammad Davis and Nora Day Davis.