Better late than not at all: events that outlasted snow

March 22, 2003|By GREGORY KANE

SNOW? WHAT snow?

Remember all that white stuff we had in February courtesy of Winter McNasty? Schools were closed (sorry about that extended school year, kiddies) and events were canceled. Foul weather could have wreaked havoc on some well-made plans, if folks had let it.

Here are some kudos to folks who didn't let it.

I got a call from Lucille Williams in early February. She asked me to attend Parkview's fourth annual African-American History Celebration on Feb. 28. Parkview is a Woodlawn apartment complex in the 2000 block of Featherbed Lane.

Snow forced a postponement, of course. So it was on Saturday, March 15, that I found myself headed to Parkview for the occasion. The first time Williams called me, she seemed to have no doubt that I'd show up. The woman must have known I'm a sucker for doing almost anything a group of black senior citizens ask. It must be that "respect for elders" thing I learned growing up.

In my day, the word of black parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts and other elders was law. If they'd told us a Chihuahua could pull a tractor-trailer, we wouldn't have asked them any questions. We'd have just hitched the little sucker up.

Seated in the community room of the apartment complex, Ellsworth Taylor presented a biographical profile of Frederick Douglass. Leo Burroughs did the same for Carter Woodson, who started Black History Month as Negro History Week in the 1920s. Adelbayo Williams paid tribute to W.E.B. Du Bois and Williams told the audience about Mary McLeod Bethune.

Lois Joseph read a short biography of Booker T. Washington, the granddaddy of black conservatives. Minnie McDonald gave an excellent presentation on the life of Nannie Burroughs, founder of the National Training School for Women and Girls, which opened its doors in Washington, D.C., in 1909.

"She didn't put up with any nonsense from her students," McDonald said of Burroughs.

Burroughs is the kind of teacher we could use today, but I get the feeling that no-nonsense teachers don't last long in our educational system.

Vivian Lakes gave a historical overview of this paean to black educators. She went all the way back to 1777, when New Jersey, of all places, opened a public school for free blacks. Lakes then described the efforts of Daniel Payne of Charleston, S.C., who opened a school in 1829. His students were six African-Americans -- three children born free and three adult slaves. White backlash against Nat Turner's 1831 slave revolt in Virginia forced Payne to close his school in 1835, when enrollment had reached 60 students.

Lakes gave some information that poet/essayist Amiri Baraka, speaking at Coppin State College, gave earlier that day. Oh, if only he could have stuck with that! And for those testy e-mailers who demanded to know why I didn't "stay longer" to hear Baraka, the answer is simple: I had something more important to do.

On Wednesday, students, faculty and parents at Graceland Park-O'Donnell Heights Elementary School held their Black History Month assembly, which was also postponed from last month. Each class at the school, which is at O'Donnell and Gusryan streets, gave a performance or reading related to African-American history. Special kudos go to Dave Miceli, who had four of his students read biographical tributes to four black conservatives: Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, economist Thomas Sowell, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and former Oklahoma Rep. J.C. Watts.

Occasionally, even black folks -- OK, especially black folks -- need reminding that black conservatives are African-Americans too.

Some extra kudos go to Carolyn Pritchett and the folks at the University of Maryland, Baltimore for not letting bad weather cancel the Dr. Seuss 99th Birthday celebration originally scheduled for Feb. 27. Organizers bused in about 50 third-graders yesterday from the James McHenry Elementary School and had Ravens mascot Poe, McGruff the Crime Dog and, of course, the Cat in the Hat entertain them.

I was one of the invitees. Things were going along swell there, until they forced me into wearing that Cat in the Hat millinery.

I looked like a perfect dork, of course. In other words, there was absolutely no change in my appearance. But that's not the point. The issue here is juice.

My rep and street credibility are completely shot now.

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