Calendar showcases black role models

January 16, 1995|By Dana Hedgpeth | Dana Hedgpeth,Sun Staff Writer

Robert Eades wants young area blacks to look at his calendar each day and see that they can be successful without being basketball star Michael Jordan.

It is a lesson Mr. Eades, a former drug dealer, had to learn himself.

"I looked in the mirror one day and said, 'I'm going to make changes in this world and in my community, but first I'm going to make a change within myself and believe in myself,' " said Mr. Eades, who has served time in jail.

Now he is selling about 1,000 of his calendars to help raise money for two area youth groups. Each month on the calendar is dedicated to a black male professional from Annapolis.

The calendar, called "Black Male Role Model Calendar of Annapolis," features a black-and-white picture of each man and a three- to four-paragraph biography with highlights of his accomplishments.

"I choose men who have led successful lives in Annapolis and who were there for me to lean on throughout my life," Mr. Eades, 38, said.

"I wanted to show young black men that instead of always reaching out for instant money, they could work hard at school, graduate and go to college and then come back to their community and be a success like these guys."

Mr. Eades said most of the men pictured in the calendar, including 5th Ward Democratic Alderman Carl O. Snowden; Maj. Norman Randall of the Annapolis Police Department; and Leslie Stanton, human relations specialist for the county school system, were his role models.

A historic achievement, event or birthday is noted for almost every day on the calendar. For example, the New Orleans Tribune, the nation's first black daily newspaper, began publishing July 21, 1864. Integration came to Washington, D.C., and Maryland public schools Sept. 7, 1954.

The calendar represents Mr. Eades' dream to "give back to his community."

He is also fulfilling his requirements as an AmeriCorp volunteer to help community groups raise money for youth programs. He earns about $600 a month as a service volunteer.

Reasoning Inc., a nonprofit group that teaches children how to compromise and control their anger, and the Annapolis Youth Services Bureau have sold about 400 of his calendars for $6 each and have 400 left.Mr. Eades has sold about 200.

All the profits go to the two programs.

"The choices I made in my life were mine," said Mr. Eades. "Yes, they were the wrong choices at times, but I don't want to see any other young child follow the steps I did."

Mr. Eades, who has been convicted of six drug possession charges and four assaults in the past 20 years, said he was "fascinated by fast-paced street life," despite his mother's teachings and guidance.

His fascination began simply enough. One day when he was 11 years old, he made $4 from a handful of candy he had bought for $1.

"That was the first day I realized how giving people what they wanted gave me power, and I eventually became obsessed with that power," he said.

"I always had a desire back then to get it easier than anyone else. I never saw sitting back working hard, working for someone else as the way to make it," he said.

"I learned later just how wrong I was."

Soon he was dealing drugs and selling liquor to alcoholics. By age 15, he was expelled from school. He could barely read, but already was a well-known drug dealer in Annapolis.

The next few years were spent in and out of Anne Arundel County jails.

Four years ago, while serving an 18-month sentence for probation violation and drug dealing, he found himself in jail with 15 people from the neighborhood where he grew up.

He said each one told him their childhood memories of him "parading through the neighborhood in silk pants, flashy diamonds and expensive snakeskin boots, dealing drugs." Eight of them -- 17- and 18-year-olds -- said he had been their idol.

"They all had memories of calling me Santa Claus. . . . I would tip the ice cream man $100 so kids could just walk up to the truck and say my name, Robert H. Eades, and get something," said Mr. Eades, who has two sons, ages 10 and 11. "My name meant free to them.

"I realized the damage I was doing to the community and to my race by being a drug dealer. "By supplying the community with drugs, I was tearing it down," Mr. Eades said.

He finished his sentence and joined six community groups dedicated to helping youths and rebuilding communities in Annapolis.

Many of the men pictured on the calendar said they were impressed that Mr. Eades not only talked about publishing the calendar, but finished the project.

"It [the calendar] sends a message to kids not give up, whatever situation they're in," Mr. Stanton said. "If you try hard enough and look up to someone who can help you out, you too can turn your life around like Robert has done and lead others."

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