At Black History Month event, youths urged to dream

History being made now, speaker tells young people at YMCA gathering

History being made now, speaker tells young people at YMCA gathering

February 19, 2008|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

HAGERSTOWN - The message was simple for the crowd assembled Monday at the Hagerstown YMCA to commemorate Black History Month.

"Conceiving, believing and achieving," speaker James Smith said to a group largely comprised of high-school age black children. "In the end, that's what it always comes back to."

About 100 people gathered in an aerobics room at the YMCA for the event hosted by the YMCA Black Achievers, a national mentoring program for children from 6th grade to 12th grade.

As he walked back and forth in front of the crowd, Smith asked kids what they wanted to be when they grow up. The words "teacher," "doctor" and "scientist" rang out, and Smith told the audience members to hold on to their dreams.


He said history is being made right now, citing as examples Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the country's first black and female presidential candidates.

"Do you think with a name like Barack Obama, he grew up thinking he could be president? That started as a dream, and the same holds true for you," Smith said.

Smith, who works for the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services, was the event's keynote speaker. The program also included several musical and dance performances, and a recitation of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech by Pastor Darin Mency of Kings Apostle Holy Church.

The event is in its fourth year, said Deborah Phillips, local director of Black Achievers.

Phillips said it gives children and adults alike "a chance to celebrate their history."

"When people learn about their history and are inspired by it, we believe they will be more productive citizens in life," Phillips said.

For Janine Taylor, 41, of Hagerstown, the program's variety reflected the many ways in which people can celebrate and learn from their heritage.

"You have dancing, you have singing, you have great historical speeches and books and poems. There is so much to explore, and for kids to grab onto any of it is a great thing," Taylor said.

Loretta McFarland, who read a poem written by African-American writer Ntozake Shange for the event, agreed with Taylor.

"It lets us look at how far we have progressed. Different people have different talents, and that diversity lets us see ourselves and our history in different ways."

McFarland's son, Aaron, is a member of Black Achievers who played piano at the event.

Aaron, 12, said Monday's celebration was "a lot of fun."

"It helped people see how much America has changed over the years. I'd say it was pretty good."

To see more photos of Monday's celebration, go to

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