Funding promised for Bates school

January 13, 1995|By Ellen Gamerman | Ellen Gamerman,Sun Staff Writer

A Martin Luther King Jr. birthday celebration in Annapolis featured awards, food, music and speeches last night -- and a promise of at least $2 million for the renovation of what was once the city's only high school for blacks.

County Executive John G. Gary said he would provide $2 million in county funding if the state granted a $2 million bond for the renovation of Wiley H. Bates High School. The school, a national historic landmark and fixture in the local black community, would be turned into a community center with activities for senior citizens and neighborhood groups, Mr. Gary said.

Mr. Gary made the promise during a dinner at Buddy's Crabs and Ribs in downtown Annapolis, where nine local people were honored for community and civil rights work.

Promises concerning the Bates school are not new. Two previous county executives have made similar ones. Mr. Gary himself lobbied the state government for the funds nearly a decade ago. But this time, he said, the effort will bear fruit.

"It's time someone takes a leadership role to get it done," Mr. Gary said. "It's time to put this to bed."

Discussions of the school renovation have been marked in the past by disputes over how the old building should be used. Different community groups have proposed such uses as a conference center, a schooling center for drug-addicted mothers and a senior citizens center.

Mr. Gary said that not all of the community groups have approved of using the building as a community center, but that they are closer to agreement than in the past. The renovation, which he estimated would cost $6 million, would be conducted during the next two or three years.

Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins said he had some reservations but was encouraged by Mr. Gary's promise.

Last night's event, organized by Fifth Ward Alderman Carl O. Snowden, was the seventh annual King awards ceremony and celebration.

Those honored included the Rev. Robert M. Powell, a local pastor for the past eight years; Diane Goforth, a member of the board of directors of the Anne Arundel County Economic Opportunity Committee; Joseph S. Johnson, the newly appointed Annapolis police chief; and Margie Bryce, executive director of the Anne Arundel Conflict Resolution Center.

Also honored were local activists David J. Harris, G. Rico McGowan, Rhonda Pindell-Charles and Alfred Blackstone.

An especially long and warm round of applause went to Tavon Johnson, 18, who won custody of his younger brother, Gajuan, after their mother became addicted to drugs and could no longer care for them.

"If I can change the stereotype of what young black males are supposed to be doing, if I can set a positive role model, then I'm happy," Mr. Johnson said.

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