Schmoke plans summit to 'energize' blacks Daylong workshops, speeches will stress community service

March 26, 1996|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,SUN STAFF

Hoping to recapture the spirit of last fall's Million Man March, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke yesterday announced plans for a summer summit designed to empower African-Americans and mobilize black men to be more responsive to their communities.

Called "Baltimore's Men of the March: A Day of Commitment," the June 29 summit at the Baltimore Arena will have workshops that focus on community involvement, manhood and economic development for African-Americans.

"The idea is to energize our own community," said Mr. Schmoke, one of an estimated 50,000 black men from Baltimore who attended the Million Man March in October in Washington.

"It's geared towards public service and the uplifting of this city. It's men and women who come together in the spirit of the march," he said.

Unlike the Million Man March, the summit will not be for males only but for all African-Americans, said Ricky Smith, chairman of the Mayor's Commission on African American Males and one of the coordinators.

He said the summit hopes to attract at least 50,000 men, women and children from the metropolitan area for the daylong event. In addition to workshops, the summit will feature speeches by local and national leaders.

"We'll call on African-Americans to commit to serving nonprofit organizations and gain control of commercial ventures in our neighborhoods," Mr. Smith said.

The Rev. John L. Wright, one of the organizers, said black families will be a theme at the summit.

"This is about self-supporting, self-dignity and self-pride," Mr. Wright said. "People are looking to see what we did after the march."

Immediately after the Million Man March, many black males -- especially those in their teens or early 20s -- returned to their communities with a more positive outlook and sought to become involved in bettering their neighborhoods, Mr. Wright said.

However, for many the spirit was short-lived, as community activism dwindled and drug corners flourished again, he said.

Michael Johnson, a community activist from Northwest Baltimore, said the key to keeping the spirit of the Million Man March is to hold summits or other programs on a regular basis.

"I want to make sure this is consistent. This is something to make sure it's ongoing," Mr. Johnson said. "I don't want to wait seven months after this one for another one."

Pub Date: 3/26/96

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