State bar association gives students shot at internships

June 27, 1999|By GREGORY KANE

MUSINGS, thoughts, observations and reasons for high dudgeon: Here's something for those of you addicted to lawyer jokes. Who has established a summer internship program that gives summer jobs to 42 Baltimore school students from 11 public senior high schools?

Lawyers, that's who. Specifically, the Maryland State Bar Association, through Law Links, a program it developed in 1994. Fifty-two law firms or "law-related agencies" will hire the 42 students and 10 from Howard County to work for eight weeks. The 52 were selected from 350 students who applied. They had to fill out a three-page application form, submit three letters of recommendation and their grades. Then they had to go through an interview. The process is extremely competitive. And aren't you glad there are students in Baltimore's much maligned public high schools who don't shy away from the competitive process?

One student each from Southwestern and Patterson made the final cut, as did two each from Baltimore City College, Walbrook and Dunbar. Three Lake Clifton/Eastern students were selected. There are four students from Forest Park, five each from Mervo and Baltimore

Polytechnic Institute. Eight made it from Northwestern. Leading with nine students making the program (drum roll, please) was Western High School. Anyone surprised? I'm not.

How did the National Basketball Association finals degenerate into a rancorous debate about the history of slavery in the United States? An Associated Press story about a war of words between New York Knicks player Larry Johnson and former NBA star Bill Walton quoted Johnson as implying that Walton is descended from slave owners. This followed on the heels of Johnson's comparing the Knicks to "a bunch of rebellious slaves."

"I'm going to be cute with my slaves quotes, which is 100 percent true," the AP quoted Johnson, who was speaking to a group of sportswriters. "Y'all know it. Damn Bill Walton. Tell him to trace his history and see how many slaves his ancestors had. Y'all trace y'all history and see how many slaves y'all ancestors had. Come on, now. That's a touchy subject. But why does the truth always hurt?"

It seems like Johnson has been sitting in front of Spike Lee -- the Knicks' most ubiquitous and obnoxious fan -- a bit too long. Careful here, L. J. You're a basketball player, not a historian. Walton may check his history and find that not only did his ancestors not own slaves (most whites didn't) but may have been anti-slavery. They may have been those who risked their lives and freedom by helping blacks escape slavery via the Underground Railroad. They may have defied a federal law -- the Fugitive Slave Act -- that required the jailing of anyone caught helping fugitive slaves.

And what about your ancestors, L. J.? Checking your ancestors might reveal one was a slave overseer, one of those cruel, bilious brutes whose job was to keep slaves in line. An alarmingly high number of overseers were black and saw to it that slaves didn't rebel. That's a "touchy subject" blacks don't like to talk about. But remember, L. J., you brought the topic up.

Just play ball, L. J. Play ball. Or get your grandmama to do it for you.

Those activists who picketed the Canaan Discount Food Outlet nearly three years ago have some explaining to do. In November 1996, they marched in front of the store, holding signs that read "Bad Food" and pointing the finger of guilt at the establishment owned by Eun Lee, who just happened to be Korean. The black activists denied that their picketing was racially motivated. It was a health issue, they declared. Canaan eventually went out of business, to the cheers of the activists who took credit for the closing.

Health department officials temporarily closed Canaan early in the controversy, and, the allegations of the protesters notwithstanding, didn't cite "bad food" as a reason. They cited Lee for not cleaning floors, shelves and equipment. Canaan's foods, the report noted, were at the proper temperatures within freezers and "looked to be in sound condition."

This week, the city health department closed the black-owned Super Pride store on West Belvedere Avenue between Park Heights Avenue and Reisterstown Road -- a mere 10-minute walk from where Canaan used to be. The violations cited were far worse than the ones the health department noted at Canaan in 1996. Where, exactly, were the activists when it came time to picket the Super Pride in Pimlico?

Some of the protesters may not have had a racial agenda. But one suspect who definitely did is the person who called C. Miles, departed talk-show host at Radio One, and claimed that the Korean store was selling "bad food." Apparently for this guy, "bad food" being sold at the black-owned Super Pride is perfectly acceptable.

Pub Date: 6/27/99

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