More than 200 people walked the red carpet on Jan. 20 at Mo’s Seafood in Little Italy to celebrate the one year anniversary of the historic swearing in of President Barack Obama.

The event, the only one of its kind in Maryland, was organized by the Arts Culture & Entertainment Group to honor 20 outstanding citizens with “Yes We Can” Awards and to benefit the young adult advocacy group SWAGGNATION.
According to Larry Young, ACE president and award-winning talk show host on WOLB 1010 AM, these individuals “epitomize the renewed spirit of community service and dedication to uplifting humanity that the entire country celebrated with the election of Barack Obama.”

The lavish event gave old friends the opportunity to reconnect and introduced many of the city’s up-and-coming political, business and community leaders.

Among the evening’s honorees was legendary civil rights pioneer and ground breaking cardiac surgeon Dr. Levi Watkins who said, “As you grow older and see many of our new leaders like President Obama emerge, you begin to feel comfortable with the idea that you may have done something that contributed to the environment in this country that made his election possible.” He added, “It feels good to know that the years of sacrifice and service by so many people in this room tonight really has made a difference in America.”

Also honored was Dr. Phil Leaf, the director of the Johns Hopkins Center for the Prevention of Youth Violence. “I am humbled by this award. I accept it in the spirit of encouragement to keep trying to make a difference in the lives of young people and the entire community,” he said. “There still remains a lot of work to do to create a society where all people have the resources and opportunities to live up to their full potential.”

Famed attorney and Oriole’s owner Peter Angelos accepted his award and will make a financial contribution to support the work of SWAGGNATION.

“I am so grateful to everyone who came out tonight to honor these champions in our community and to help raise funds for SWAGGNATION,” said Ian Yearwood, president, CEO founder of SWAGGNATION. The organization is still working to reconcile expenses incurred during last year’s Young Adult Expo held at the downtown Hilton.
In addition to the presentation of the awards, the evening featured upbeat jazz, comedians Ms. Mabelle and Tree, and a mini fashion show.

Although this is the first “Yes We Can” Awards, Larry Young said there is a focus on the future. “As we gather each year to recognize individuals in the community, the hope is that it will continue to grow and after four years, who knows, we may even welcome President Obama to the awards ceremony within the next three years,” he said.
Seventeen of the 20 honorees were present for the event: Dr. Levi Watkins, Dr. Harold A. Carter Sr., Ms. Helen Dale, Dr. Anne Emery, State’s Attorney Patricia Jessamy, businessman Mo Manochah, State Sen. Joan Carter Conway, Congressman Elijah E. Cummings, Chief Judge Robert Bell, Deputy Housing Commissioner Jacquelyn Cornish, labor leader Sen. John Jeffries, 92 Q personality Konan, cardiologist and internist Dr. Larry Perry, Dr. Phil Leaf, Radio One General Manager Howard Mazer, Martin Resnick, Peter Angelos, Judge Lewyn Garret, chair of Black Men Matters George Arnold and educator Dr. Barney Wilson.

Konan asked those in attendance to make donations to SWAGGNATION to erase their deficit. SWAGGNATION is a young adult advocacy movement that encourages full participation in the nation’s call for government of the people, by the people and for the people.

For more information about SWAGGNATION, call 443-417-8498.


A.W. McCarthy

Special to the AFRO