- By MICHAEL REID
The Concerned Black Women of Calvert County welcomed a special guest bearing a special award to its open house Monday when Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot (D) presented the organization with the William Donald Schaefer Helping People Award.
“It’s awesome,” said CBW President Pamela Cousins, who is also a local school board member. “When we got the email [informing us we’d won], I was like, ‘Who nominated us?’ It was so exciting. I still don’t know.”
In his speech before he presented the award, which is made of glass and features an etched portrait of Schaefer, a former state comptroller and governor, Franchot thanked the organization.
“Annapolis is kind of the inside, and we’re on the outside, so we need voices, so thank you, Concerned Black Women,” he said. “You connect us through education, opportunity, wellness and the right relations between people, and the dignity and independence of every individual, so thank you. Thank you for raising money for scholarships, thank you for promoting business opportunities and joining the black chamber of commerce, thank you for the workshop on cancer screening, and thank you for hosting the first women’s conference.”
The accompanying certificate reads in part, “With special appreciation for your steadfast and selfless commitment to eliminating barriers to education, health and economic equality, specially for African American women and families with Calvert County …”
The ceremony was attended by members of the organization, as well as county dignitaries, including Calvert County NAACP President Michael Kent, State’s Attorney Andrew Rappaport (R), Calvert County Commissioner Steve Weems (R), former planning commission member Malcolm Funn, Calvert Collaborative for Children & Youth President Guffrie Smith, Calvert County Register of Wills Margaret Phipps (D) and Gov. Larry Hogan’s (R) Intergovernmental Affairs’ Southern Maryland Liaison Gretchen Hardman.
When he spotted Phipps in the audience, Franchot strode over to greet her and said, “If she ever said something nice about me, I could be governor.”
CBW Vice President Inez Clagett, who serves on the school board with Cousins, spoke about the organization and its beginnings, started in 2004 by Doris J. Cammack-Spencer and the late Annette Funn.
“Early on we realized that something was needed, and fortunately because of our backgrounds and because we’re so similar, we brought that with us,” Cammack-Spencer said. “Absolutely I’m happy where the organization is now and that’s why I want to thank the young ladies that have stepped up, because in order to sustain an organization, you need people to take a leadership role, and fortunately we’ve been able to do that.”
Cousins said the organization now has 41 members, but more are always needed. “We need more hands on deck,” she said. “With more members, we can better serve the community because all of us are volunteers and most have full-time jobs.”
The award is presented annually to an individual or organization in each county. Winners are selected for swiftly solving a citizen problem through effective government intervention, directly aiding the most vulnerable in society or creating a public/private partnership to improve lives of Marylanders.
Franchot said organizations such as the Concerned Black Women of Calvert County are vital to the country, as well as the economy.
“Why is the United States of America the greatest country in the history of the world?” he asked. “It’s because we’re one of the very few countries that ever allowed women [to have their say]. And it was a struggle, trust me, they had to grab men by the throat and say, ‘Let us in.’ But women are part of our economy, more than 50 percent of our economy. And that’s new talent, new energy, new perspectives. So when we talk about concerned black women, we’re talking about concerned women, too, because women are the future of this great country.”