February 22, 2018 I had an exclusive invite to cover the fifth annual Black History Month Celebration Salutes Black History Heroes Award show held at Maryland Live Casino.
For this event I had to wear an ensemble that worked well for both the office place and for an event so I wore a mauve low neck Anne Taylor Sweater, a black animal print skirt from an Italian designer, and leather boots from Nordstroms. I also wore a new foundation from ULTA called Cover-fx that actually matched my skin tone.
Anyways, so the drive from Baltimore to Arundel Mills was fraught with challenges. The rain down poured that day, and I was stuck in mindless traffic on 695. All I could see was red for miles on my GPS. Once I arrived to Maryland Live Casino, I drove up the steep ramp and found a decent parking spot. The perks of covering an event at Maryland Live Casino is free parking and also a free coat check.
Before the show commenced, I was able to snag an exclusive interview with WHUT General Manger, Jefferi K. Lee.
Before his current role as General Manager of a notable PBS member-station, he also previously served as President of BET. In his 17 year career with the station, he helped transition BET from a 3-hour, one-night a week cablecast to a 24-hour, seven-day a week network.
SD: It’s an honor to meet you! Congrats on being an honoree.I know that you’re not only the General Manager of WHUT, but you have helped with the formation of BET as the channel’s previous President. Can you please tell us more about that?
JKL: My time in BET was enriching. I really enjoyed my time. I was able to help bring the company from a start-up to a publicly traded company that goes the distance. So I really enjoyed the BET experience. I am now doing public media. I am the general manager of WHUT and I am enjoying the mission driven environment that we have in public media.
SD: So what is it about WHUT that you love?
JKL: There are several thing about WHUT that I love. WHUT is the only HBCU that owns a public station in the country. We are proud of that. We are also proud of the overall service of public television that we provide to the community. The station is also a great opportunity for college students to get media experience and to know what it’s like to be in media.
The award show was well adorned with candles, table decorations, and drapery. Seating was boundless, multi-leveled, and awarded a great view of the show. Appetizers were made with distinguished hands– multi-colored olive platters, delicately folded charcuterie platters, sun dried tomatoes, an antipasto salads were centered at the venue.
All attendees were also given complimentary drink tickets and credits to use the casino that night.
First District Representative of Anne Arundel County, Pete Smith, served as master of ceremonies for the night. He did a great job of seguing remarks, presentation of awards, and acknowledgments from notable speakers such as Zed Smith, COO of The Cordish Companies, Wayne R. Frazier Sr., President of the Md. Washington Minority Companies Association, and of the keynote speaker, Lieutenant Governor of Maryland, Boyd K. Rutherford.
Rutherford closed the ceremony with a rousing speech on past, present, and future African American trailblazers.
“We are not just embracing African American History but our current history, ” said Rutherford.
Trailblazers like Harriet Tubman led to freedom (he also added that attendees should check out the newly minted Harriet Tubman museum), Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, was the first African American to serve on the court, and Frederick Douglass was a powerful leader. A week before the awards, Frederick Douglas would have celebrated his 200th year birthday. In honor of this remarkable trailblazer, Gov. Larry Hogan declared 2018 as the year of Frederick Douglass. The Governor will erect statues of Douglass, Marshall, and Tubman around the state capital.
Rutherford urged Marylanders that although February is African American History month, there’s always much work to do and to use today to make a great change.
Moreover, The Lt. Governor is one of many award winners of the night that also includes:
- Cynthia Brooks, Executive Director, Bea Gaddy Family Centers
- The Jonathan Ogden Foundation
- Jonas Edward Brooks, Investigator, Fire Marshal’s Office, Annapolis, Md.
- Jefferi K. Lee, General Manager, WHUT
- Pastor James E. Rollins
- Ramsey L Harris, Vice President, PNC Bank in DMV area
- Jeanne Hitchcock, Special Advisor, local government, community and corporate affairs, Johns Hopkins University.
- Bishop Doctor Abraham Shanklin, Jr., Founder and President, The Center of Transformation.
Travis Lamb, General Manager of Maryland Live Casino, announced that Maryland Jr. and U.S state senators such as Sen. Ben Cardin, Sen. Chris Van Hollen, Anne Arundel Co., and Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford created honorary citations to honor award winners.
After the award ceremony, I was able to snag a quick interview question with the Lt. Governor of Maryland.
SD: Lt. Governor, you have had a very successful career not only in office but overall. What has inspired your career trajectory? Who has inspired you to reach the stars?
LT Gov: My family has been very supportive of me since day one. They have inspired me to go far with my career and my dreams . They are my heroes.
The ceremony was a joyful experience. Each award winning honoree had a touching story on how to succeed despite the odds. The most important lesson from the event is that people can start making history now, in their communities.