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Family Advocate Highlights UMB's Black History Month Event

The importance of fathers in the home, community service, and the promise of our young people were all themes of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr./Black History Month celebration at the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) on Feb. 10. The keynote speaker was Joseph T. Jones Jr., president and founder of the Center for Urban Families (CFUF), a West Baltimore organization that seeks to halt family disintegration in part by offering a fresh start to absentee fathers.

Jones admittedly had a tough task at the event at UMB's filled Medical School Teaching Facility auditorium, following two entertaining songs by the Southwest Baltimore Charter School Fourth-Grade Chorus. "Dr. Perman, you set me up because nobody should have to go behind those kids," Jones joked to University President and host Jay A. Perman, MD, who opened the event with a moment of silence for Willard Hackerman, longtime president of the Whiting-Turner Contracting Co. and UMB benefactor and board member, who died Feb. 10.

Jones, who, like many of those he now helps, grew up without a father, spoke of the importance of role models, mixing in humor and audio and visual clips. The first sound clip was of Dr. King himself.

"One of the great problems of history is concepts of love and power have usually been contrasted as opposites," King said, "so love has been identified as a resignation of power and power as a denial of love. What is needed is a realization that power without love is reckless and abusive and love without power is sentimental and anemic."

"Very simple words but so profound," said Jones, who also mentioned Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali as role models. He admitted his own failings, saying, "At the age of 13, I picked up a hypodermic needle and I injected it into my arm and for 17 years I used heroin and cocaine and was in and out of incarceration. I had my oldest son out of wedlock and was not responsible for his upbringing. After battling through my addiction, in 1986 I entered a drug treatment program and I asked God, my mother as her only child, Dr. King, Malcolm X, and Muhammad Ali to forgive me for being so selfish. I promised myself I would dedicate the remainder of my time on earth in service to my community. In 1999 I founded the Center for Urban Families [CFUF] and we've since served over 27,000 Baltimoreans."

The lessons sometimes are hard. Jones showed a film clip of one young man who overcame drug addiction and with the help of CFUF's parenting, job training, and building strong families classes is a major part of his child's life and has nearly completed college. The facial tattoo that once was 'war paint' when he was dealing drugs, he now dabs makeup on to cover it up.

"We have to find a way to reach back deep into our community and grab these young men," Jones said.

Jones closed with a story about his mother, who is nearing her 80th birthday. "Go back 80 years and think what she's been exposed to in terms of civil rights," Jones said. "One day at the Center for Urban Families we were fortunate to have a gentleman come visit us and my mom was there. And this gentleman said, 'Joe, get your mom. We're going to take a photo.'"

A picture then appeared on the stage screen of Jones, his mom, and President Barack Obama. Jones, who is on Obama's Task Force on Responsible Fatherhood and Healthy Families, added "think about what that must mean to her. Her knucklehead son who matured out of his madness of addiction and the first African-American elected president of the United States."

Jones, who graduated from college at age 50, is proud of his own wife and three children. His daughter, Mikki Coleman, served a military tour in Iraq and now works at the School of Nursing on UMB's campus. He's reunited with his older son and his younger son is completing his engineering studies at Morgan State University.

After Jones received a standing ovation for what Perman called "his inspiring words and efforts to make Baltimore better" and all of us better, the University gave out its MLK Diversity Recognition Awards for individual and/or group achievements in the areas of diversity and inclusiveness.

The JACQUES Initiative, a program of the Institute of Human Virology at the School of Medicine, received the Outstanding UMB Staff Award. JACQUES employs a multidisciplinary, expert staff to address HIV primary care and outreach in Maryland.

Yolanda Ogbolu, PhD, RN, CRNP, assistant professor and deputy director of the School of Nursing's Office of Global Health, received the Outstanding UMB Faculty Award for her 20 years of working across local, state, national, and international levels to address issues of health disparities and cultural competency, especially among newborns.

The University's Hispanic Dental Association chapter, which was named National Student Chapter of the Year by the National Hispanic Dental Association in September, received the Outstanding UMB Student Award for its service, leadership, education, and advocacy in Baltimore's Hispanic community.
Posting Date: 02/20/2014
Contact Name: Chris Zang
Contact Phone: 410-706-2074
Contact Email: czang001@umaryland.eduz