April 14, 2000
Bea Gaddy, Advocate for the Homeless and Baltimore City Councilwoman, to
Receive Regents' Frederick Douglass Award April 20
University System of Maryland (USM) Board of Regents Chairman Nathan A.
Chapman Jr. announced today that Beatrice "Bea" Gaddy, longtime advocate for
the poor and homeless and a member of the Baltimore City Council, will
receive the University System of Maryland Board of Regents' annual Frederick
Douglass Award during a special ceremony on Thursday, April 20, at 11 a.m.
in the Enoch Pratt Free Library, 400 Cathedral Street, in Baltimore.
The event will be held in the Wheeler Auditorium on the third floor of the
Pratt. Jesse J. Harris, dean of the School of Social Work at the University
of Maryland, Baltimore, will serve as master of ceremonies. Speakers will
include the Hon. Howard P. Rawlings, chairman of the House Appropriations
Committee in the Maryland General Assembly; Carla Hayden, director of the
Enoch Pratt Free Library; Sheila Dixon, president of the Baltimore City
Council; USM Chancellor Donald N. Langenberg; Nathan A. Chapman, chairman of
the Board of Regents; the Rev. Lynwood Hudson Leverette, Sr.; Jacqueline
Dunn, acting director of the Bea Gaddy Family Centers, Inc.; and Frederick
I. Douglass IV, public relations director at Morgan State University and a
direct descendent of Douglass. Music will be provided by the UMBC Gospel
Choir from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. A reading from
Douglass's work will be offered by Frederick Douglass IV.
Since coming to Baltimore from New York in 1964, Gaddy has worked tirelessly
to provide food, shelter, and basic human services to Baltimore's inner city
poor. Gaddy served her first dinner for the homeless in 1981 when she fed 39
neighbors with the money she won from a lottery ticket. Three weeks later,
she incorporated the Patterson Park Emergency Food Center into a nonprofit o
rganization that would earn her national recognition for feeding hundreds of
thousands of less fortunate people in Baltimore.
Langenberg said Gaddy's selection represents the real-world intent of the
"There are many ways that great people have fought in the long struggle for
civil rights," Langenberg said. "Some do it from a lectern, some in the
committee rooms of statehouses, some in courthouses or corporate
headquarters. But others, like Bea Gaddy, do their work in the actual
presence of those who are oppressed. I think that is particularly admirable,
because in every sense of the word it is a difficult job. It's the same
approach that Martin Luther King Jr. took - a willingness to sacrifice one's
own comforts for the sake of the basic rights of others."
Chapman said he has followed Gaddy's career for years, and was very pleased
when she won a seat on the City Council last fall.
"That reminded me that our political system still works - an advocate with
an agenda was elected to carry out that agenda," he said. "We could use a
lot more Bea Gaddys in our public life."
While raising her own five children, Gaddy was laid off from work and became
homeless. In order to feed her family, the young mother borrowed a trash
can, took it around to local storeowners and asked them to fill it with
leftover food. That experience created a clear mission for Gaddy, who has
devoted her life since that time to helping Baltimore's needy. Over the
years, Gaddy's work expanded to include a range of health and human
services, particularly for women and children. She opened the Bea Gaddy
Human Resource and Cancer Center, Inc., a one-stop health facility for the
poor, as well as the Bea Gaddy Women and Children's Center. Today, there are
three Women's and Children's Centers and eight Family Centers.
Gaddy has received 15 major honors and awards including the 1992 "Thousand
Points of Light" award from President George Bush, the Marylander of the
Year (1992), the Family Circle Magazine Woman of the Year Award, and the
Humanitarian Award of the National Council of Negro Women. She received an
honorary doctorate of Humane Letters from Towson State University in 1993
and, in 1994, she was inducted into the African-American Hall of Fame in
Atlanta. Gaddy was elected to the Baltimore City Council's 2nd District seat
in September 1999.
The Frederick Douglass Award was established in 1995 by the USM Board of
Regents to honor individuals "who have displayed an extraordinary and active
commitment to the ideals of freedom, equality, justice, and opportunity
exemplified in the life of Frederick Douglass." Previous recipients include
the Honorable Parren J. Mitchell, a member of Congress for the 7th District
of Maryland (1996); Benjamin Quarles, scholar at Morgan State University
(1997, posthumously); Samuel Lacy Jr., sports writer for the Baltimore
Afro-American (1998); and the Hon. Kweisi Mfume, president of the National
Association for the Advancement of Colored People (1999).
Statesman, publisher and abolitionist Frederick Douglass was the leading
spokesman of American blacks in the 1800s. Born a slave in 1817 in Tuckahoe,
MD, he devoted his life to the abolition of slavery and the fight for black
rights. Douglass's name at birth was Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey,
but he changed it when he fled from his master in Baltimore in 1838. He
ended up in New Bedford, Mass., where he attempted to ply his trade as a
ship caulker, but settled for collecting garbage and digging cellars. In
1841, at a meeting of the Massachusetts Antislavery Society, Douglass
delivered a lecture on freedom that so impressed the society that it hired
him to talk publicly about his experiences as a slave. He then began a
series of protests against segregation, and published his autobiography,
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, in 1845.
Out of fear that his identity as an escaped slave would be discovered upon
publication of the Narrative, Douglass fled to England. There he spoke out
against slavery and was given funds by friends to buy his freedom. He
returned to the U.S. in 1847, founded an anti-slavery newspaper in
Rochester, NY, and took up the cause of economic justice for freed blacks.
He accused American businessmen, including some who were abolitionist, of
hiring white immigrants over blacks. He also fought successfully against
segregated schools in Rochester.
Douglass's home was a station on the underground railroad, which helped
runaway slaves reach freedom. When the Civil War began in 1861, Douglass
helped recruit blacks for the Union Army. He discussed the immorality of
slavery with President Abraham Lincoln on several occasions. Finally, he
wrote two expanded versions of his autobiography - My Bondage and My
Freedom, and Life and Times of Frederick Douglass. He died in 1895.