A storied past, hopeful future for MLK Jr. event

NAACP President Benjamin Jealous to speak at Jan. 11 event

Image caption: The 2012 recipients of the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Service Awards are, clockwise from left, Eric Holmes, John McConnell, Helena Zec, Anthony Gladden, Jane Marks, Scott Gottbreht, Abby Ferretti, and Amber Jefferson.

Image credit: Keith Weller

Many of those who've stood on the dangerous front line of the civil rights movement, organizing sit-ins and marching for racial equality, have something in common besides their convictions: From the Rev. Jesse Jackson Jr. and Andrew Young, to Julian Bond and Rep. John Lewis—even Rosa Parks and Coretta Scott King—a good number of them have been keynote speakers at the Johns Hopkins Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration.

Delivering the address at this year's 31st annual event at noon on Friday, Jan. 11, in Turner Auditorium on the East Baltimore campus is another kindred spirit, albeit of the next generation: Benjamin Jealous, national president and CEO of the NAACP. Though he did not personally experience those 1960s struggles, Jealous is well-aware of the impact, as the son of civil rights trailblazers and a fifth-generation member of the NAACP and former community organizer for its legal defense fund.

"Ben Jealous symbolizes a younger generation of civil rights leaders who still address the issues that Dr. King fought for, such as equality and justice for the underrepresented minorities of America," says Levi Watkins Jr., associate dean for postdoctoral programs, School of Medicine, who founded the event in 1981 as a way to encourage diversity at Johns Hopkins.

Four years into his tenure, Jealous is credited with reinvigorating the century-old civil rights organization, inspiring expanded membership and online activism. The NAACP's efforts to abolish the death penalty, halt voter suppression, and support marriage equality and immigration rights epitomize this year's MLK commemoration's theme, Justice and Equality for All: King's Still-Timely Message.

The program, which always plays to a capacity crowd, will feature a video of the King Memorial in Washington, D.C., and Unified Voices, a high-spirited choir, made up of Johns Hopkins employees and members of the East Baltimore community, who will perform gospel and patriotic selections.

In what's become a highlight of the commemoration, faculty, staff, and students representing Johns Hopkins University and the Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System receive Martin Luther King Jr. Community Service Awards. These honors recognize outstanding commitment to volunteer community services and humanity in the spirit of the life that King lived. The 2012 recipients are:

  • Abby Ferretti, an art content specialist in Marketing and Communications, Johns Hopkins Health System, who volunteers with a veteran-guided nonprofit working to revitalize the Oliver community in East Baltimore by organizing community cleanups and farmers markets. She's also a volunteer coordinator for Back on My Feet, an initiative through which volunteers and men transitioning from homelessness run as teams to encourage the men's sustainability.
  • Eric Holmes, a senior patient service coordinator with JHH, who visits the sick and shut-ins at hospitals and nursing homes, serves at Our Daily Bread soup kitchen, and volunteers as an ordained licensed minister with Pastoral Care at the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center.
  • Anthony Gladden, a protective services officer with JHH, who coaches baseball in an inner-city recreational league for teenage boys in the summer, volunteers with his son's high school baseball team, and provides transportation for the elderly and younger members of his church.
  • Scott Gottbreht, a Krieger School of Arts and Sciences' graduate student studying political philosophy theories, who teaches writing skills to clients of Our Daily Bread, organizes events at which the homeless can get resources, and helped start Word on the Street, a newspaper for the homeless.
  • Amber Jefferson, a materials management manager at JHH, who is active with the Order of the Eastern Star, volunteers at White House events, and has led Girl Scout Troop 3221 and helped in the kitchen at the Helping Up Mission for homeless men.
  • Jane Marks, associate director of the Johns Hopkins Geriatric Education Center at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, who collects food and personal care items for patients and residents of elderly housing and speaks to high schools about health issues that affect the elderly.
  • John McConnell, a midrange and mainframe manager, who teaches boys about nature, conservation, and community service as Scoutmaster for Boy Scout Troop 427 and serves as assistant Cubmaster for Pack 722. He also teaches self-defense and self-confidence as a karate instructor for Edgemere Sparrows Point Recreation Council.
  • Helena Zec, a biomedical engineering graduate student in the Whiting School of Engineering, who mentors underperforming high school students in their studies and personal growth as part of the Incentive Mentoring Program, and oversees 40 volunteers in the program.

The MLK Jr. Commemoration event will be simulcast to Arellano Theater on the Homewood campus. Additional venues may be added; go to insidehopkinsmedicine.org/mlk.

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