Standing at the podium of the Hyatt Regency's Constellation Ballroom yesterday morning, Garland Williamson expressed his wish for the headline that would replace the ones about Baltimore's violence.
"I'd like to see the headlines say `Excellence at the Inner Harbor: seven strong, young black men,'" Williamson said.
Williamson spoke at the 10th Annual Rays of Hope Awards and Scholarship Breakfast sponsored by the group Black Professional Men. The organization awards college scholarships to young black men and honors older black men who have distinguished themselves in various careers.
Williamson, the president and chief executive officer of Information Control Systems Corporation, won BPM's 2003 "Ray of Hope in Business" award. But he chose to pay tribute to the seven scholarship recipients:
Towson High School's Robert Cooper, a shooting guard on his school's basketball team.
Anthony Patrick of Polytechnic Institute, who tutored other students in math and will major in civil engineering at the University of Maryland, College Park.
Tristan Penn, a Carver Vocational Technical High School student who graduated third in his class this month and won several drafting awards. Penn was accepted at several schools, but will major in civil engineering at Morgan State University.
Dunbar High School's Lord Robinson, who was valedictorian at his elementary, middle and high schools. Robinson was accepted at Pennsylvania State University, Carnegie Mellon and Temple, but has opted to attend the Johns Hopkins University on a full scholarship.
Chance Smith, the only current college student in the group, will be a Morgan State University sophomore in September. A civil engineering major, Smith is a graduate of Walbrook High School.
City College graduate Corey Wallace was enrolled in the school's prestigious International Baccalaureate program and maintained a 4.0 grade point average. A member of City's marching band, jazz band and concert band, Wallace won several awards for his musicianship and will major in music education at Penn State.
Justin Womack of Dunbar had no grade point average lower than a 3.5 in the school's biotechnology program. Womack will be a biology major at Gettysburg College.
Each student received a $2,000 scholarship. BPM raised the money through ticket sales for the breakfast and registration fees for the Rays of Hope Golf Tournament, which was postponed to July 28 from Friday because of rain.
In addition to Williamson, the other men honored included: Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele for government; the Rev. Hoffman F. Brown III for religion; Lenneal J. Henderson for education; Dr. Pierre Vigilance for medicine; Dwight S. Warren for community service; and George L. Russell Jr., a prominent Baltimore judge and lawyer, who received BPM's lifetime achievement award.
Most of the older speakers praised the younger men, giving additional accolades to BPM for supporting them.
"BPM is an organization that's out there in the community," Steele said, "touching lives, especially those of young black men." Steele met the scholarship recipients shortly before the breakfast began, lining up to take photos with them, the older recipients and members of BPM.
"This organization is in the right place at the right time," Steele said.
Black Professional Men was founded in 1992 by Edwin Avent, Drew Hawkins and N. Scott Phillips. Hawkins has since moved away, but Avent and Phillips still live in the area. Avent is executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Twenty-First Century Group. Phillips is a manager of IBM's minority business programs.
Seventh District Rep. Elijah E. Cummings told the group he was impressed with BPM's record of mentoring and supporting young black men.
"You give them hoping skills," Cummings said. "A lot of young men where I live, North Avenue and Madison Avenue, have no hope."
Lamar Dixon, a 1998 BPM scholarship recipient who is now a member of the group - he won the Rookie of the Year Award yesterday - echoed Cummings.
"It's crucial that young black men see what [BPM has] done and where they're from. It speaks volumes about what black men can accomplish."