A veteran professor/activist discussing Thurgood Marshall. A local youth choir harmonizing on inspirational songs. A medical school professor who urges under-served minorities to pursue higher education. A Universitywide student group that promotes a more inclusive campus environment.
Put them together and the result is a program Martin Luther King Jr. would be proud of. Which was the intent as the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) celebrated the late Dr. King and Black History Month Feb. 7 in the Medical School Teaching Facility auditorium.
The keynote speaker was Larry Gibson, LLB, professor at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, who was described as "one of our own for almost 40 years" by University President Jay A. Perman, MD, moderator of the program.
Gibson's address focused on his new book, Young Thurgood: The Making of a Supreme Court Justice. He regaled the capacity crowd with stories of his experiences with "Mr. Civil Rights" and from his extensive research for the book, which was more than 10 years in the making.
Gibson also dispelled some false stories about Marshall. "He was a much more serious student than some have suggested," Gibson said. "He never contemplated being a dentist. He did not have repeated disciplinary problems. He did not apply to the University of Maryland School of Law, although he would have been rejected [due to racial segregation laws] had he applied."
Rather than it being about what Marshall did, Gibson says, the book is about the influences that shaped who he was. "There were two main characters, a person and a place," Gibson told the crowd. "The person was Thurgood Marshall and the place was Baltimore and Maryland. I've tried to convey how all this helped shape the man who then helped shape the nation."
Molding others also describes Gregory Carey, PhD, who was presented with the first of two MLK Diversity Recognition Awards by the University. Carey, assistant professor and director of student summer research and community outreach in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the School of Medicine, was lauded for being a passionate and committed mentor to minority students and postdoctoral fellows at the University.
The University's Pride Alliance, which promotes a more inclusive campus environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning students while mobilizing support for equality throughout Maryland, won the Outstanding Student Group Award.
At the beginning and end of the program, those assembled were entertained by The Golden Voices of Booker T. Washington Middle School for the Arts, a neighbor of UMB's whose alumni include Gibson. The nine students, directed by Ronald McFadden, lived up to their name with three uplifting songs and then led the crowd in "We Shall Overcome."
"We are here to celebrate the work of Dr. King," Perman said in describing the program, "and to honor all who work for a free and just society."