By James Wright, Special to the AFRO, Jwright@afro.com
Hundreds were captivated as famed television Judge Greg Mathis delivered a stirring keynote address at the recent Prince George’s County NAACP gala.
The Prince George’s County branch of the NAACP held its Hester V. King 30th Annual Freedom Fund Awards Dinner at the Camelot by Martin’s in Upper Marlboro June 8. Mathis, as the primary speaker, didn’t disappoint the audience of 300, including Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker III, as he talked about the ills of Black America and what should be done about it.
Judge Greg Mathis is a television judge with a syndicated show. (Courtesy Photo)
“Those who are blessed with a public platform should shine the light on injustices,” Mathis said. “I know it is tough for athletes and entertainers to speak up because of financial commitments that they don’t want to lose but they have to do the right thing.”
Mathis is a retired 36th District Court of Michigan judge and has his own television show, “Judge Mathis.” His show is the longest running show starring a Black judge and the second longest, only surpassed by Judge Judy Sheindlin of “Judge Judy.”
A native of Detroit, Mathis had scrapes with the law early in his life but rebounded to get a bachelor’s degree from Eastern Michigan University and his juris doctor degree from the University of Detroit Law School. He was elected a judge in 1995 and debuted on his show in 1999.
Mathis said he isn’t afraid “to tell it like it is” because of the support he has in the civil rights community. “I can speak up because the Rev. Jesse Jackson, the Rev. Al Sharpton and the NAACP have my back,” he said. “We need social services and social justice for Black people, and Black celebrities and those who have made it must understand that.”
He praised former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James and Miami Heat standout Dwayne Wade as examples of pro athletes who speak their mind on various issues pertaining to Blacks without fear of retaliation from business interests.
Mathis said African-American men are under attack and the Black community must deal with it.
“Black men are portrayed in the media as angry, violent, sexual predators,” he said. “Black men are portrayed as demons and that is why many policemen think it is okay to kill Black men.”
However, he had advice for African-American males.
“Black men, lay down your guns and pick up some books,” he said to applause. “We can’t punk out on the corner and just go to the liquor store and the crack house.”
He said Black men should fight for educational opportunities and “come back and fix the hood.”
“We need to stop killing ourselves,” he said. “We know they took out jobs in our communities and replace them with guns but we still need to fight.”
In other action, the branch honored MGM President Lorenzo Creighton, Baker chief of staff Glenda Wilson, and chairman of the Prince George’s County Planning Board Elizabeth Hewitt with the Hester V. King Award. Maryland Del. Darryl Barnes (D-District 25) received the “Community Service Award” for his work with Black males in the county and in Annapolis, the state capitol.
Branch President Bob Ross honored Harvey Dickerson and June White Dillard with the President’s Award for their years of work.