MARYLAND CONVENTION SETS NEW RECORD
Almost everyone I talk to is saying similar things but in slightly different words. The bottom line is that this has been the best convention ever. Prior to this year’s convention, there was much talk about the Delaware convention of 2013. Does this means that it gets better by the year? The answer will be determined by the outcome of the upcoming Delaware convention and those of subsequent years.
The weekend of August 15th through 17th, 2014 was truly a memorable one. To tell you how it all went down, let’s start with how it ended up in Maryland in the first place. The 2014 convention was originally scheduled to convene in the Tampa Bay, Florida area. Up until the first quarter of 2014, it appeared that everything was on track to have a successful Tampa convention. Meeting after meeting our Florida hostess had assured us that the plan was on target to exceed the Delaware convention. It was not until then interim president Patrick Williams made a personal inquiry out of curiosity, when things appeared to be falling apart. He learned that the convention was on the verge of becoming the worst financial disaster for the association and immediately jumped into action to do something about it. The options were very limited, but thanks to our industrious Board Chairman, who upon learning of the problem, singlehandedly decided to rescue the convention. Within a matter of weeks, he assembled a team of dedicated committee members and the results indicated that everyone played their part well. Two major things were to our advantage: Time and finance. Chairman Reeves was able to overcome the two biggest huddles, securing a facility and obtaining financial help from generous donors. This made it the first convention in recent times that did not use any funds from the treasury. The preparation went so well that everything was ready well before the convention date.
With everyone staying at the same hotel, the weekend got underway Friday evening with a bus transporting participants to the home of Nuku and Bunchie Reeves for the meet and greet social. This afforded people to have a few more drinks than usual as they didn’t have to worry about driving. Mrs. Reeves and her team had the most delicious food prepared. There was so much talk of the potatoes greens that everyone wanted to try some. During the course of the evening, Chairman Reeves welcomed everyone and highlighted the plans for the weekend: A time of reconciliation, renewal, and togetherness; to rejuvenate the spirit of the earlier days of our association and to desist the personal attacks and back biting that has plagued the organization in recent years. DJ Ernest Johnson spun a perfect mix of music and everyone danced the night away, almost to the point of losing track of time. The night ended with everyone heading back to the hotel to retire for the evening. Several persons were in attendance for the very first time or first in a long time. Among them were the Lloyd sisters, Davidetta and Vel, Dr. Butscher, Rev. T. Ron Weegar, Beatrix York Flah, Charles & Joko Nagbe, Sylvester Grant, Anna Konah, Calvin R. Johnson, and James Harris. One noticeably regular duo not at the event was the Caulcricks (Esther & Mother Joanna). Shirts, tank tops and travel mugs sale started on Friday evening and went on well into the night.
Saturday’s events got off to a rather late start. Folks dragged downstairs for breakfast what appeared to be one at a time. Breakfast provided by the hotel was good with a variety of items on the menu. The usual Board meeting preceded the general business section. Although the business meeting started off somewhat late, the discussions were very civil. No personal attacks were recorded neither were there a lot of dialogues. The president exemplified a great deal of leadership capabilities. Valuable contributions to the discussions were made by Chairman Nuku Reeves, Board member Berma Findley, Dr. A. Joel King, former interim VP Calvin R. Johnson, new Board Co-Chair Victor, Dr. S. Obediah Butscher, webmaster Charles Nagbe, former president Tommy G. Logan, Financial Secretary J. Alexander Morris, Treasurer Ida Lloyd, permanent member Oscar Barnard, legal counsel Johnny Barnard, Mrs. Joko Nagbe, and Mrs. Diana Harmon, among several others. The discussions covered everything from scholarships to fundraising, membership drive, projects, and constitutional technicalities. At the end of this year’s business meeting, we emerged with newly elected president, vice president, chaplain, and a new Board Co-Chairman. Delicious home cooked meals were available during the discussions. There were a variety of dishes: Cassava/eddoes and a choice of fish or chicken gravy, check rice and similar choice gravy, corn bread, meatballs, fruits and vegetables, and several other goodies. The meeting ended shortly after 3:00 PM.
A number of persons were fortunate to take a brief tour of historical sites in downtown Washington, DC on the bus after the business meeting. Others who either had too much to eat, drink or stayed up very late the previous night opted to catch up on some sleep to prepare for the night’s big event. A firsthand report praised the quality of the tour.
The dinner and ball got on to a good start following a slight delay awaiting the arrival of the president. The evening was masterfully emceed by Board Co-Chair Victor D. King. Prior to the official start, he threw in a joke comparing the tardiness of President Williams to that of the late long time serving president of Liberia, William V. S. Tubman. In it, Mr. King noted that throughout his 27 years in office, Tubman was never on time for a function. Mrs. Lucinda Nagbe kicked off the evening by leading the singing of the Bassa High School ode, following prayer given by new elected Chaplain, Rev. T. Ron Weegar. The hotel’s catering staff served delicious and healthy meals with plenty to go around. Everyone had enough to eat, even those that came in late. One highlight of the evening was the privilege to hear from one of our own, Dr. A. Joel King. He delivered a well written and delivered address on the topic, “Commitment, Accountability and Transparency: The key to success.” During the address, Dr. King called on the organization to take several immediate major steps, including the urgent renewal of the 501 C (3) status to legally help increase contribution; the development of a well-defined and concise business plan to drive the BHS brand and help increase external financial contribution; recruit a professional fundraiser; improve accounting practices; think sustainability (the maintenance of projects we implemented). Dr. King did not stop there. He put his money where his mouth is by pledging an annual contribution of $250, far exceeding the due of $100. He pointed out that this will be done in conjunction with his family. Throughout the address, Dr. King emphasized on the motto, “if everyone does a little, no one will have to do too much.” He finally called on the association to reach out to the thousands of alumni and former students throughout the United States and around the world to join in as union is strength.
The program featured the honoring of three past presidents, Tommy G. Logan, B. Wilmot N. Howard (longest serving president), and the late Hawa Kpakah (first female president). Wilmot was unable to be present due to health condition, Mr. Gbessie Kpakah received the plague in honor of his late sister, and Tommy Logan was the only one present to receive his plague. He gave a brief background on the founding of the organization.
As is customary for the keynote speaker to install the elected officials, Dr. King installed the newly elected president, vice president, and chaplain.
Next, the queen contest got underway. Representing the months of January thru April was the reigning queen, Ida Lloyd. Annie Wright represented the months of May thru August. The lovely Dekontee Alice Taylor represented the months of September thru December. The contest lasted three short rounds. At the end of it all, the reigning queen was dethroned financially by Dekontee Taylor. She was crowned by outgoing interim Vice President, Calvin R. Johnson. He crowned her in a unique way (similar to an oath of office). Shortly thereafter was the raffle. The first prize of $500 was won by mother Luvenia Kilby with Renee Nukie Reeves receiving the second prize of $250. The final prize, a boombox worth a cash equivalent of $150 was won by Mr. D. Brown.
To kick off the part everyone was waiting for was a grand march led by Board members Victor D. King and Berma M. Findley. Ms. Findley’s colorful attire stood out as she danced to the beautiful tunes played by famous Disc Jockey, Alvin Hoff. Other participants in the grand march included Board Chairman and Mrs. Nuku Reeves, James and Shirley Harris, Dr. Joel and Margaret King, Calvin Johnson and Anna Konah, Rueben Brumskine & Pearl Knowlden, Queen Dekontee Taylor and her husband, Chris, as well as several others. This was followed by an all out dancing with Johnny Barnard and others keeping the dance floor alive most of the night. Dr. Butscher performed his unique diplomatic style dance moves to some of the best music around. Richmond Matthew and Kay Ann Thomas danced the night away with their unique style. Board member Findley played a dual role of dancer and dance instructor (especially to an old school Candid Staton tune called “Victim.”) I am more than certain that some of our first time attendees, Jeannie, Val and Davidetta Lloyd had a really good time. Rueben Brumskine exhibited dance moves that show he still got what it takes. Treasurer Ida had a good time while still keeping her eyes on the door traffic. She vowed to have everyone pay that came in. Even up to the last fifteen minutes, she was seen asking people out for failing to pay. The fun time came to an end on schedule at 3:00 AM.
It still did not stop there. Pockets of individuals flocked into rooms to continue the evening of fun. Food more drinks and lots of jokes and fun dominated the night. I can recall that I left one such place for bed at about 6:15 in the morning only to wake up for breakfast and check out by 9:30AM.
The weekend festivities came to an end on Sunday when people started departing at all hours of the day for their respective destinations. Thanks to everyone who made all efforts to show up and support in every way. The financial report supports the claim that this year was the best ever convention. Start making plans now for the Delaware convention of 2015.