ST. MARY'S CITY, Md. - It was standing room only in the Great Room at St. Mary's College of Maryland (SMCM) when Lt. Governor Anthony G. Brown came to speak at the third annual Southern Maryland Martin Luther King, Jr. Prayer Breakfast on Monday, Jan. 15. Both Brown and U.S. House of Representative Majority Leader Steny Hoyer addressed the crowd of 475 about the reality of today's racial issues and reflected on King's legacy.
Brown's topic "How are we doing, Dr. King?—America's failure to achieve economic opportunity and social equality for all" carried a personal message and staggering statistics. After greeting the many political and civic leaders in the audience, Brown talked about what Dr. King meant to him and what problems King might address if he were alive today.
Brown said, "Dr. King led an army to secure the democratic principles of a free nation. He summoned volunteers 'to serve in what he called a non-violent army' in which going to jail was the badge of honor."
The lieutenant governor used the podium to remind the audience that at the time of King's death, his chief goal was to end poverty. Brown said, "Nearly 37 million Americans lived in poverty in 2004, an increase of 11.6 million since 1968."
In answering his topical question to Dr. King, "How are we doing?" Brown listed areas of concern. "Genuine equality of opportunity is not true today, when the typical African-American family earns just 60% of what the typical white family does."
Brown's interest in health care was also included, as he said, "African Americans are less likely to have health insurance, be vaccinated or receive prenatal care." "Genuine equality of opportunity is not true, when a black man is 40% more likely to die of cancer than a similarly diagnosed white man."
"We all know that racism still exists in Southern Maryland," said Mac McClintock, chairman of the St. Mary's County Human Relations Commission and co-emcee of the event. Bringing a call to ac-tion, the breakfast also served as a springboard for the community to continue this dialogue. Kelsey Bush and Honora Batelka, both SMCM alumni, and Jim Hanley, a retired human resources director, talked about being trained as race relations study circles leaders. Race relations study circles are groups of 8 to12 people from different backgrounds and viewpoints who meet over six weeks to explore race relations in St. Mary's County.
During the breakfast, over 75 people signed up to join in race relations study circles meetings to begin in February and address local race relations issues and solutions. The racial percentage of the group as identified by the individuals was 50% African-American, 44% white, and the remainder Indian, Asian, and Hispanic/Asian Pacific.
"We are pleased that approximately an equal number of whites and African-Americans attending the breakfast chose to take action to end racism in St. Mary's County by signing up for the Febru-ary race relations study circles," said Marc Apter, St. Mary's College of Maryland's Associate Vice President for Marketing and Public Relations. For more information about the program or to sign up, contact Apter by phone at 240.895.4381, by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail at Calvert Hall, Room 101, 18952 E. Fisher Rd., St. Mary's City, MD, 20686-3001. The St. Mary's County Board of Education, St. Mary's College of Maryland and the St. Mary's County Human Relations Commission are sponsoring the race relations study circles.
The breakfast was well attended by community and religious leaders of Southern Maryland. Rever-end Roderick W. McClanahan from the First Missionary Baptist Church of Lexington Park gave the invocation and benediction. Two gospel choirs performed: the St. Peter Claver Gospel Choir of St. Inigoes and the St. Mary's College of Maryland Gospel Choir.