In the footsteps of King

January 16, 2000

AS THE nation marks civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.'s birth in commemorative services tomorrow, questions will be raised in churches, schools and other venues about who's striving for peace and social justice.

We asked some local people to identify such people and to tell why they admire them.

Helen F. London is executive director of the nonprofit Central Scholarship Bureau, a provider of financial aid to college students in metropolitan Baltimore.

Freeman Hrabowski III, the president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County has the same charisma as Dr. King and the same belief in the power of education. He took modest beginnings and used education to give his life power and meaning. I think that's what Dr. King wanted people to do.

UMBC President Freeman A. Hrabowski III marched with King in Alabama as a child and, at age 12, was jailed with the civil rights leader.

My first answer would be the faculty and staff at UMBC -- they truly believe in fairness and focusing on the dreams of every young person and they do it on campus and with children throughout the Baltimore area. And this is going to sound apple pie, but I also think the American people.

I believe Americans believe in fairness. I've traveled from the Deep South to Minnesota and east to west and have seen large numbers of people -- conservative, liberal, black and white -- who want to see all children succeed, particularly in building skills of minority children. This was not the case 50 years ago.

Glenn L. Ross, former president of the McElderry Park Community Association, is now the volunteer director of the nonprofit Clearinghouse for a Healthy Community .

The Rev. Jesse Jackson is still out there doing it -- working with all ethnic groups, going overseas and bringing home hostages. -- He's as important as Dr. King but you don't hear about everything he does. Locally, the Rev. Frank Reid [of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church] preaches fairness and tells his congregation that they could be doing more than go to church on Sunday and sing in the choir. But, in general, when black community leaders are too outspoken, they get [silenced].

The Rev. Frank S. Donio is pastoral director of the St. Jude Shrine on Paca Street.

The Missionaries of Charity [Mother Teresa's order], which runs the Gift of Hope AIDS hospice at St. Wenceslaus on Collington Avenue. It doesn't matter what religion, race or situation a person is in, they always -- always -- present themselves with peace and humanity, but not in a way that forces people to believe what they believe.

By their example, people around them become more peaceful, more willing to work together.

Clif R. Wharton is the librarian responsible for circulation computers at the central branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama. With all the Chinese government has done to destroy Tibet, the man does not hate or want people to hate the Chinese. Nor does he want a violent overthrow of the Chinese government.

Martin Luther King wanted the world to change and he wanted to do it without violence. The Dalai Lama -- with his eyes open -- believes the same thing.

Carl O. Snowden is special assistant for inter-governmental relations for Anne Arundel County Executive Janet Owens.

I'm convinced that there is no one person or institution that represents the spirit of Dr. King. Part of what's wrong now is that his spirit of unselfishness and willingness to sacrifice has been diminished across the country. Dr. King said that if a man hasn't found a cause worth dying for, he isn't fit to live. I'm hard pressed to name anyone who believes in a cause so great that they'd be willing to give their life for it.

Too many of our leaders today are more interested in the corporate boardroom than the streets. Martin didn't become a martyr by accident.

Artist Gigi McKendrick's sculpture of life masks, taken from students, teachers and parents, is on display in the lobby of Cross Country Elementary School.

Dr. King's dream is best exemplified in the American schoolchildren who pledged in individual contracts to be kind and caring to all students in their school, an idea that has spread to schools across the country. These children are our children and they embody the essence of Dr. King.

Maryann Z. Fiebach is a medical researcher and Roland Park resident.

Many people in public life quote the great words of Dr. King, but they don't live by his principles. It's the people I meet everyday who are trying to follow his footsteps.

George L. Winfield is acting director of Baltimore's Department of Public Works.

Nelson Mandela. He was imprisoned for defending his principles and once he was released he bore harsh feelings against no one.

He came out a peaceful man and tried to right what he saw was wrong in his country. It's a difficult situation and he made remarkable advancements.

Ruby R. Winfield, Mr. Winfield's wife, is a public school volunteer and a planter of trees in the Collington Square neighborhood.

Marian Wright Edelman [of the Children's Defense Fund in Washington]. She continues to work hard on behalf of children and King spoke of children in his vision of unity for all races. We're still working on it.

Benjamin Hall is a psychology student at Coppin State College and a founder of Mega-Man, a campus group that puts Coppin students into volunteer positions in the larger community and teaches computer skills to children who can't afford computers.

To me, personally, it would be [state Senator] Ralph Hughes who teaches sociology [at Coppin]. He's from King's era and talks about it a lot. He helped pass a law [in 1988] to ban Saturday Night Specials [handguns] and that was a big deal. The community is on his mind all the time.

Interviews were conducted by Sun reporter Rafael Alvarez.

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