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Helping his community remains a top priority

Andy Smith

Andy Smith

April 29, 2007|by PEPPER BALLARD

Between his duties as president of the black advocacy group Brothers United Who Dare to Care and his work as an assistant teacher at Head Start, Andy Smith manages to find the time to plan other ways to help his community.

At the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center, which once was the all-black North Street School, Smith divides his day between teaching children of preschool age and tackling projects through the advocacy group.

Although much of his work for the Jonathan Street community has roots in the historic building, Smith said he is considering additional ways - other buildings and other programs - to give blacks and other minorities more opportunities.

"Blacks for so long have been in survival mode and it's time to be in success mode," Smith said.

The 47-year-old Hagerstown native wants to convert the former Coca-Cola bottling plant on Jonathan Street into The Black Multicultural Center, establish a minority affairs office and establish a public access channel.

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"Establishing that center is going to make a difference," Smith said. "If the state wants to diversify education, we'll have a resource not only to learn the history of the blacks, but the history of Washington County."

On top of showcasing black history exhibits, The Black Multicultural Center could serve as a banquet hall or meeting hall, he said.

The minority affairs office would serve as a place where minorities could seek help with economic, health care, education and housing issues, he said.

The public access channel would enable people in the community to voice their opinions, he said.

While those plans are in various stages, Smith oversees the "No Smoking Youth Club," a Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene funded group. The members - children between the ages of 7 and 12 - go on field trips and watch educational videos about health-related topics.

His other group, Brothers United Who Dare to Care, began in the mid-1990s to try to tackle the crack problem in the Jonathan Street community, but it has since evolved, Smith said.

Smith's newsletter for the group, called Speak Up!, has gained popularity since its inception in 2001. Smith is compiling those newsletters into a book, he said.

In the years before Smith became an assistant teacher at Head Start and became involved in the group, he worked for Mack Trucks and was a senior information management specialist in the computer industry.

Smith also drove a County Commuter bus, an experience he said brought with it a "revelation" that cemented in him a desire to work for the community.

The revelation, Smith said, is: "If God allows people to have disabilities, then those of us that have abilities can use them to cancel out disability."




Q&A



Name: Andy Smith

Hometown: Hagerstown

Occupation: Head Start assistant teacher

What was your proudest moment?: Buying a home for his family.

Whom do you most admire, and why?: His grandfather, Caesar Doleman. "I'm hoping I have a lot of his ability and perseverance. I went through nothing compared to what he did at the time ... He maintained his dignity and became successful through hard work."

What is the best piece of advice you ever received and who gave it to you?: "You working there is like putting a Rembrandt in a mission." Smith's late friend Mike Monroe told him that when Smith was working at a menial job. The statement encouraged Smith to find better work.

What is the next goal you would like to achieve?: Establish a minority affairs office, The Black History Multicultural Center, and establish a public access channel.

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