About 150 high school students and their parents were urged to "continue to excel for the survival of black America" Sunday at the fifth annual special awards program honoring outstanding black students in Montgomery County.
The awards are sponsored by the Iota Upsilon Lambda Chapter of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, the nation's oldest black fraternity. Their purpose, according to chapter president John Diggs, is "to recognize outstanding black students who may have been missed by the system."
John Slaughter, director of the National Science Foundation, delivered the keynote speech of the ceremony. In his opening remarks, he quoted the English philosopher Alfred North Whitehead:
"'In the condition of modern life the rule is absolute. The race that does not value trained intelligence is doomed.' Black people should take that to heart."
Slaughter devoted most of his speech to encouraging the students to go into fields of science, engineering and computer technology. He said only 4 percent of the nation's scientists and engineers are minorities.
The top awards, the four $1,000 Paul Robeson Memorial Scholarships, went to Jan Buckner, Darryl Gwyn and Ravenell Keller III, all 17, and all of Silver Spring, and to Kimberly Gregg, 17, of Rockville.
Buckner was graduated from Springbrook High School and plans to major in journalism at Howard University. She was editor of her school's literary magazine and chaired a fund-raising project for the school's Minority Awareness Club. Since February she has been an executive intern in Montgomery County Circuit Court.
Gregg plans to enter the honors program at the College of William and Mary in July, and will major in psychology. She is a graduate of Magruder High School, where she was active in the drama club, debate team, student government and the school's Black Awareness Club.
Gwyn, a graduate of Paint Branch High School, will major in chemistry at Duke University. He has been employed as a chemistry lab assistant at the Army's Harry Diamond Laboratory. He also is active in his church, and is a member of Who's Who Among High School Students, the Society of Distinguished High School Students and his school's National Honor Society.
Probably the best known of the four top winners was Keller, a graduate of Springbrook High School. He played the role of Raphel, the streetwise youth who pulled a knife on Peter Sellers in the film "Being There." He also has played title roles in "Billie McGhee" and "Benjamin Banneker" on NBC-TV. Keller will be a pre-med student at the University of Virginia.
Other awards in the arts, citizenship, athletic endeavor, academic achievement and versatility were presented to students selected from 126 nominees. Those who did not receive awards were given certificates of recognition.
The Duke Ellington Award for The Arts went to Larry Driver, Rose Eiland, Wayne Harris, Patricia Kirkman, Lori Minor, Jeffrey Waddy and Allan Wiltshire Jr.
Wiltshire performed with fellow members of the Montgomery Blair High School Band for the ceremony. He also sand and played the electric organ as well as a solo on the trumpet.
Other performances came from Brian Diggs, 16, of Silver Spring, who gave as impressive a cappella rendition of "Be a Lion" from The Wiz, and from vocalist Karen Robinson, 14, of Silver Spring.
The Martin Luther King Jr. Award for Citizenship was presented to Brian Argrett, Carl Grant Jr., Shelly Hall, Paula House, Nathaniel Massaquoi Jr., Yolanda Penn and Lisa Webb.
Winners of the Jesse Owens Award for Athletic Endeavor were Rachel Dillard, Lorenzo Gill, David Griffin, Brian Howard Troy Israel, Walter King, Dollie Lee, Valerie Milles, James Mundy, Michael Scott, Granville Thomas and Craig Turner.
The W. E. B. DuBois Award for Academic Achievement went to Elaine Barbour, Luis Bernardo, Henry Boyd, Kenneth Cooke, Sharon Crockett, Kimberly Gregg, Curtis Hubbard Jr., Lisa Johnson, Jacqueline Kelly, Anita Kim, Michael Nelson and Sharon Wilcox.
The Paul Robeson Award for Versatility was won by Elva Bowden, Kevin Brown, Mitchell Fleming, Ravenell Keller III, Luis Navarro, Vincent Rougeav and Margaret Wells.
Ellington, King, Owens, DuBois and Robeson all were members of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.