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YMCA program performances honor Black History Month

February 21, 2006|by KAREN HANNA

HAGERSTOWN

karenh@herald-mail.com

During a morning of solo performances and remarks, YMCA program director Joseph Summers had a message for an audience gathered to commemorate Black History Month.

"It's not about me," said Summers, who has worked with the Black Achievers program at Camp Curtin YMCA in Harrisburg, Pa.

About 150 people, including a large contingent of small children in the YMCA's day-care program, gathered Monday in an aerobics classroom at Hagerstown YMCA to hear keynote speaker Summers and numerous musical performances.

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Striding out from behind a podium, Summers quizzed audience members about famous black Americans, then asked the crowd what men such as Dr. Charles Drew, who developed techniques for storing blood plasma, and peanut farmer George Washington Carver had in common.

"Is there something unique about what they did (it) was for somebody else?" Summers said.

Summers and Ed Dorsey, president of the steering committee for Hagerstown YMCA's Black Achievers, told youngsters at the event they should dedicate themselves to helping others.

"As I said before, I enjoy the fact that Martin Luther King did what he did, that Malcolm X did what he did, and the others, but the fact of the matter is I am today writing history," Summers said.

For Marcus Nicholson, 38, the diversity of the crowd at the event was a hopeful sign.

"I like the mix of white Americans and black Americans in the audience. I thought that was very informative that the 'I have a dream' speech is actually coming to pass," said Nicholson, who moved with his family from a suburb of Baltimore about a year ago.

During brief comments toward the end of the event, Hagerstown City Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said he has a fairly simple response for people who ask what the need is for a month honoring black history.

"When we start teaching about the pride of the Pilgrims at the same time we talk about the enslavement of Africans, then we won't need Black History Month," Metzner said.

Hagerstown City Councilwoman Alesia Parson-McBean attended a portion of the two-hour event. A representative from Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski's office also was on hand.

Gregory Walton, 15, who performed a rap called "Young, Gifted & Black" at the event, said participating in the Black Achievers program has helped expose him to opportunities.

"Like it says in the song, there's more things for you to do if you're young and black besides drugs and rap," the South Hagerstown High School freshman said.

As black professionals, Nicholson and his wife, Stephanie, said they still feel the effects of prejudice and stereotypes.

"It's amazing to us, although we're both registered nurses, people will automatically assume we're not professionals," Stephanie Nicholson said.

She said she and her husband decided to home-school their two children because they were concerned about how black children, especially boys, fare in larger school settings. They teach the children, ages 6 and 8, to judge people by their character, not their color, Marcus Nicholson said.

"We prayerfully know that things are going to be different for our two kids," Stephanie Nicholson said.

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