Fund-raiser to honor black living legends

June 12, 1996|By GREGORY KANE

Somewhere along her journeys between Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Hawaii, the Caribbean and Asia, Morning Sunday came up with the curious notion to honor black America's unknown and uncelebrated heroes while they were still alive.

"We say thanks to Malcolm [X] and Martin [Luther King Jr.]," Sunday says while relaxing on the porch of her Waverly home. "But we didn't say thanks to the people on our block who contributed just as much."

To correct such oversights, Sunday came up with the idea to honor "black living legends" annually. She has done so every year since 1989, in the form of a fund-raiser to collect money for another of her pet projects: the Junior Black Academy of Arts and Letters.

My heavens! Talk about killing two birds with one stone! Sunday wants me to write a column on the black living legends fund-raiser, the better to let more people know about it. But why should I? The woman won't even tell me her real name. And I'm sure it isn't Morning Sunday. She also refuses to come clean about her age.

"I was born on a Sunday morning" is all she would say about the name. I could forget the age thing as well, she indicates. I sit on the porch and reflect for a few seconds. OK, Ms. Morning-don't-want-to-reveal-my-real-age -or-name-Sunday, I think to myself. You can just forget about my doing a column about you!

But, as it turns out, I've got her right where she wants me. I have to do a column, because this Morning Sunday truly knows what a black living legend is.

"Last year, we honored Alice Pinderhughes and Samuel Banks before they died," Sunday asserts, claiming that neither had received their proper accolades while they were alive. Sunday is justifiably proud she was able to do something during their lives. If the woman recognized Banks as a legend -- living or otherwise -- I figure I could do a column about her efforts. I can't think of anyone in Baltimore -- or Maryland for that matter -- who better deserved the label than Banks.

During his teaching career at Baltimore City College, Banks taught one Kurt Schmoke, who would go on to be a Rhodes scholar and later mayor of Baltimore. A future congressman, Elijah Cummings, also benefited from his tutelage, as did state Del. Tony Fulton. An irascible newspaper columnist who shall remain nameless still regards Banks as the best teacher he's ever had. He kept in touch with many of his former students long after they had graduated and he had gone on to become an administrator for Baltimore's public schools.

Also honored last year were Baltimore State's Attorney Patricia Jessamy and city fire Chief Herman Williams. Some of tomorrow night's honorees include Baltimore police Officer Keith Eric Harrison of the Northeastern District; Norman Ross, former executive director of Baltimore's Eubie Blake Cultural Center; Gertrude Williams, principal of Barclay Elementary School in the city; and Youman Fuller, owner of Yellow Bowl Restaurant, also in the city.

It's easy to see why Fuller made the final cut. Any owner of a restaurant that dishes up food as delicious as the Yellow Bowl serves makes my list of living legends. Fuller will join his co-honorees at the Baltimore Museum of Art in tomorrow night's ceremonies that start at 6.

The selection of honorees "is a secret," Sunday said. Naturally. What else would you expect from a woman who won't give her real name or age? But she did reveal that people in the community nominate those they consider worthy of being called "living legends."

But enough about them. What about the youngsters in the Junior Black Academy of Arts and Letters, the beneficiaries of the fund-raiser? JBAAL is a support network that, Sunday says, xTC serves about 100 children. The support can be a partnership with the Cab Calloway Music Association of Frederick Douglass High School or simply sponsoring trips to museums or having youngsters see a play for the first time.

It may even steer teen-age girls away from pregnancy, Sunday believes. She got pregnant when she was only in the eighth grade. Who got her pregnant?

"[One of] the same guys who are getting eighth-grade girls pregnant today -- guys six to eight years older than they are," said Sunday, who believes society doesn't give girls enough weapons to fight their own hormones and lust-crazed men.

But JBAAL and its annual black living legends awards may just be a very potent weapon.

Gregory P. Kane's column appears Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Pub Date: 6/12/96

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