|From Good Times to Roots,to The District, to Naptown
"They were pretty excited, in a typical laid back, teen-age sort of way," said John Amos, assessing the enthusiasm of high school thespians huddled in the front rows, stage right in Maryland Hall's auditorium.
A man of many roles, Amos is playing guru this afternoon, offering advice and insights to some 40 aspiring actors collected from high schools across the state. It comes naturally. After all, he knows where they're coming from and has been where they want to go: Amos was the father figure of the '70s tv sitcom Good Times; adult Kunta Kinte of 1977's miniseries Roots, based on Alex Haley's novel; and just now Washington's fictional mayor on CBS' new series The District. On the morrow's eve he'll be the old man of Halley's Comet, a one-man play of his own invention now in its 11th year of touring. Up on stage he'll recount the experiences of one man in the lifetime between encounters with Halley's Comet, from wars to the parade of science to the civil rights struggle.
But for now, Amos relaxes in the back row, guru at rest. The students' session is wrapping up, and soon they're breaking for the exit by way of the man in the back. Some are headed home to quiz their parents on who this guy is, but most at least recognize him from reruns. "I'll be on Good Times looking for you," said one passing pupil.
Even television-phobes unfamiliar with Amos' acting credits should recognize him for another role: community activist. Invited two years ago to join Kunta Kinte-Alex Haley Heritage Foundation's cause of establishing the Alex Haley Memorial, Amos has since followed through twice. In December he helped dedicate the Alex Haley Memorial statue by reenacting Kunta Kinte's arrival at City Dock. Most recently, his Oct. 1 performance of Halley's Comet benefited Phase III of the Alex Haley Memorial project. The final phase will complete the memorial with 10 story-telling posts engraved with the words of writers representing America's many cultures.
"It's a tremendous thing that the city of Annapolis has done," said Amos, "in recognizing the contributions of Alex Haley and being so supportive of that memorial." Amos has lent his voice and support to the project, largely because of his connection through Roots.
"As a kid, I integrated two schools in the New Jersey school system," said Amos, who met with no small amount of prejudice. He recalls he and others learning that African Americans had no history to speak of and that Africa was a backwards continent. Roots gave Amos the honor of "being part of the historical legacy of rectifying that so that the next generation does not grow up with the same misconceptions." That this memorial honors the man who forged that legacy attracts Amos to its cause all the more.
As evidenced by his navy blue captain's cap, Amos also lives a role more familiar to Annapolis' nautical culture.
Amos has sailed the West Coast aboard his own pirate ship look-alike - a 68-foot, 42-ton, gaff-rigged catch built of ferroconcrete. It's become the centerpiece of his own Halley's Comet Foundation, a program to rescue troubled youths through sailing. Through that, he combines his roles of sailor and mentor.
"I worked in the institutions, the Brooklyn House of Detention and the Tombs in Manhattan," explained Amos, who started as a social worker after college. "I saw so many young people's lives were over at such an early age because of one or two mistakes."
Inspired by his own eye-opening experience under sail, Amos wants to broaden at-risk kids' horizons by showing them the whole new world he discovered for himself out at sea. At the same time, he wants to break down old barriers of prejudice through the cooperative act of keeping a ship on course and afloat.
For all his roles, John Amos stays busy. In the foreseeable future, much of his landlubbing hours will be spent as actor, working on The District, and touring as far as Brazil with Halley's Comet. As activist, he'll continue his work with the Kunta Kinte-Alex Haley Heritage Foundation. As sailor, he's a big fan of Annapolis. As mentor, he has high hopes of expanding the reach of his Halley's Comet Foundation. Eventually, it's these last two roles that will probably outlive the others.
Sailing's in his blood. "I'm looking forward to spending the rest of my life and career doing just that," he said. "I love sailing. I love being at sea. And I love seeing young people experience that for the first time and watching them develop a thirst and love for all things nautical."
Register Now - Or Lose Your Rights
If losers turn out to be winners in the November 7 General Election, you lose your right to complain if you waste your right to vote. And there'll be plenty to complain - or crow - about. Ballots are full, from president almost to dog catcher.
To vote at your polling place on election day, you must be a registered voter. If you're not already registered, time is running short.
Through Friday, Oct. 13, you can register by mail. You'll find registration forms at libraries, post offices and state agencies, including Department of Motor Vehicles. They're also on the Web: Find and print your own at www.elections.state.md.us. Either way, you'll have to submit your form by snail mail, postmarked by the U.S. Postal Service before midnight, Oct. 13.
Don't trust the mail? Register in person any weekday through Oct. 13 at your county election office or the State Board of Elections: 151 West Street, Annapolis. Weekday hours are 8am-5pm in Anne Arundel (4:30pm in Calvert). Both county election offices stay open to 9pm Oct. 13 only. In Anne Arundel, that's 7320 Ritchie Highway, Room 200, Glen Burnie. In Calvert, it's 150 Main Street, Suite 107, Prince Frederick.
Anne Arundel countians have another easy in-person option: Oct. 13, registrars will be at work until 5pm at every Anne Arundel County library to sign you up as a registered U.S. voter.
The New Millennium's Finest
They are driven to do whatever it takes to achieve the seemingly unattainable. Enflamed or obsessed, they forge ahead, never reckoning on the time or effort achieving their goal takes. Their passion draws others to their mission. Another park is kept open, a pet finds a home, a child is saved from abuse, a river cleaned, a senior encouraged to smile.
For 14 years, citizens from Maryland's 23 counties and the city of Baltimore have nominated friends and community members to be recognized for their outstanding volunteer efforts. A panel of local judges chooses from among them 24 Volunteers of the Year.
Anne Arundel's first volunteer of the new millennium is convenience store owner Kap Lung Park, chosen from a field of 200 exceptional nominees.
In 1988, Park organized a cultural exchange camp at the Korean Methodist Church of Love in Severn. The free eight-week summer camp for children ages five to 12 brings 100 Korean-American and African-American children from Baltimore City and Anne Arundel County together to meet and learn of one another's cultures.
Park has remained the backbone of the camp. He serves as camp counselor and volunteers wherever he's needed. In his spare time, he runs his own business, is a husband, dad and Sunday school teacher.
"I've been blessed by God with a supportive wife and two beautiful children. I wanted to do something for society," said Park, a Korean American who came to this country in 1981. "I think most tensions between communities come from lack of communication and knowledge of other cultures. Through interaction and education, my hope is this camp will make a difference."
Anne Arundel Community Service Specialist Shelia Raynor thinks it will.
"I'm thrilled Mr. Park was chosen," said Raynor. "It's such a wonderful, educational and unique camp, and it's free."
Park was honored at a special program complete with dance and poetry and County Executive Janet Owens at Anne Arundel County Community College Sept. 14.
Patuxent High School teacher Jean Radeackar is Calvert County's first volunteer of the new millennium, chosen from 27 nominees.
Radeackar, who's primarily identified with the Patuxent Animal Welfare Society, gives much of her time and knowledge to animal rescue. She's been a driving force behind the considerable achievements of Calvert's animal community, branching out with an after-school animal education program for children and a visiting-animal program for seniors. She also volunteers with the Calvert County Literacy Council.
As a teacher, Radeackar sees education as the best hope for animals and people.
"I'm very optimistic about the animal educational program," says Radeackar who at 9:30pm is about to walk her own animals. "By educating young people, we are creating future responsible adult pet owners who know how to care for and protect their animals."
Bay Weekly Editor Sandra Martin, a Calvert judge, said, "we liked her diversity, using animals in a circle of benefits with kids and seniors and working for literacy as well as working the very long hours of a teacher."
Radeackar was honored Sept. 5, in a reception and special presentation before the Board of Calvert County Commissioners.
All 24 of Maryland's Most Beautiful Millennial People will be honored at the state ceremony, Nov. 15 at St. John's College in Annapolis.
Killdeer on Mudflat
You can hear the killdeer. They cry out kildee-kildee-kildee in a high pitched voice. I hear them often in the evening. Even after dark, they are common around my house in North Beach. Killdeer are an everyday kind of bird, practically a backyard bird, at least compared to other shorebirds.
To be sure, killdeer are most at home near the shore, on mud flats like the one shown here at the North Beach marsh or along the Patuxent at Jug Bay's marshes.
But you can find them far from the coast, in meadows, fields, lawns and river banks, anywhere that is flat. Even in my old neighborhood, hilly Takoma Park, I would hear the killdeer and see them circling over the trees. They must have been nesting on the flat roof of the neighborhood elementary school. They will do that.
Killdeer are a kind of plover and a part of a large group that includes sandpipers, godwits and curlews, all known for their long migratory journeys. The golden plover, for example, travels thousands of miles from the Arctic Tundra to Patagonia at the tip of South America.
Killdeer don't travel so far. Here in the Mid Atlantic, you'll find them year round. From September until sometime in December, they are especially abundant on tidal mud flats when birds from northern areas are passing through.
The little marsh on the north edge of North Beach is one of the best spots on the Western Shore for shorebirds from late summer to early fall and again in late spring. Look for killdeer and some of their less common, more expeditious, cousins, at low tide.
In Deale, Pulling Strings to Stop Safeway
'Don't it always seem to go,
that you don't know
that you got till it's gone. You paved paradise
and put up a parking lot.
Women sported earrings made from their cut-up Safeway Club cards. Picket signs proclaimed "For Sale: Deale, Anne Arundel County Realty, J.S. Owens, prop." A puppet resembling Janet Owens moved and grooved.
Safeway continues as the biggest issue running through the Deale-Shady Side area since roads were paved. Last week, Anne Arundel County took the podium, explaining in a public information meeting the regulations that governed the Safeway development. This week, Safeway opponents held their pep rally.
"We don't want to believe that our county executive is the puppet of developers," Michael Shay, vice-president of South Arundel Citizens for Responsible Development, or SACReD, had written in a press release before the October 3 'Stall the Sprawl II' gathering. "But if Owens hasn't put the brakes on this project by Tuesday night and made good on her promises of slow growth, we're going to crown her the Queen of Sprawl."
And so they did, topping the yellow foam hair of a papier maché Owens look-alike with golden paper crown to complement its string of cotton-ball pearls and a Queen of Sprawl pageant sash. The promised mystery guest had arrived.
Dwarfed by the 12-foot effigy but present in the flesh, Maryland Senate President Thomas V. 'Mike' Miller proved himself no puppet of developers.
"This is a quality-of-life issue. This is participatory democracy at its best. You won on Franklin Point and folks, you're going to win on this issue as well," Miller said after a crowd of over 400 people welcomed him with applause.
Joining him on the anti-Safeway side was Del. Virginia Clagett, who had in earlier days had served on the Anne Arundel County Council that zoned the Safeway property.
"We zoned that land for some type of store. Had we wanted to build a multi-use complex on that site, we would have zoned it that way. We did not," said Clagett, to cheers.
After the pep rally, the crowd of Safeway opponents assembled into small groups. Some chose to discuss new ways to antagonize the county executive. Some looked for opportunities to raise money for the cause. Some handed out addresses and phone numbers of politicians. All brainstormed: How do we prevent Safeway from coming to Deale?
In the latest campaign, 11 environmental organizations have united to lobby Owens. They are the Alliance for Rural Business, Anne Arundel County Watermans Association, Center for Health and Environmental Justice, Chesapeake Environmental Protection Association, HazTrak Coalition, Maryland Conservation Council, Maryland League of Conservation Voters, Anne Arundel Sierra Club, SACReD, South County Coalition and the South River Federation.
In a letter dated Sept. 25, the 11 admonished Owens that "the county has a responsibility to, at the very least, conduct an in-depth study as to the environmental and societal impacts of the development. The Deale Safeway project will be a model for other Maryland counties demonstrating how not to develop and will stand as a testament to the consequences of unplanned growth."
Tuesday night many of the opposed organizations' members tried to prevent these consequences.
Way Downstream ...
In Cleveland, a cat named Sinbad is a rich little fellow indeed. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported last week that Ruth Ann Lovett, 72, didn't leave a nickel to her relatives but willed $325,000 to the Humane Society to pamper her 18-year-old Siamese. Lovett's nephews and nieces contested the will, but they lost ..
In California, Gov. Gray Davis signed legislation requiring authorities to notify parents 72 hours in advance of spraying pesticides around schools. The new law also requires schools to identify what pesticides are being used. At the school during the bill signing, kids chanted, "No more pesticides"...
In Paris, there's some bad monkey business going on. Gangs are using Barbary apes to defend their turf, similar to the way pit bills are deployed in the United States. "Kids take them on leashes and even carry baby monkeys around in diapers. But these animals can be very dangerous indeed, said Paris police officer Didier Lecourbe ...
Our Creature Feature comes from New Milford, Conn., where a couple awakened on a recent Sunday morning to find a raccoon tugging at their blanket. When Valorie Kolitz screamed, the raccoon attacked, triggering a hand-to-claw battle between the invader, who was rabid, and her husband, Steven.
Steven Kolitz strangled the raccoon to death but came away with gashes and scratches.
Recounting the battle, Kolitz said he told the raccoon, "All right, you want to fight, you are going to lose." The Associated Press reports that Kolitz is undergoing rabies shots. And the couple no doubt is rethinking the wisdom of a dog door.