Welcoming Ceremonies: Unifying Our Movement From Where the Federation Flag Flies Highest

President Riccobono: Great. Thank you, Bennett and Kenia. We'll see you soon. I know there are many other prize groups. I saw the list of door prizes. It's pretty impressive. We have a lot to give away. It's pretty great. Stay tuned in and listen for your name. We're going to move now to the official welcoming in of the convention. Our welcoming ceremonies. Unifying our movement from where the federation flag flies highest to every corner of our nation. Of course, again, I am here with a small group of folks in the NFB in the Utah auditorium at the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute, just a couple miles west of Fort McHenry, and it's been our headquarters now for over 30 years, and, well, yeah, over 30 years. I had to think about it. 40 years. How many years? 40 years. I should know. I was born two years before that, right? I'm trying to make myself younger, you know? 

So, for over 40 years, and our host for this convention is our Maryland affiliate. So, here to guide us through the welcoming ceremonies are the co hosts for our 2021 National Convention Host Committee. The President of the National Federation of the Blind of the Maryland, from Baltimore, Maryland, Ronza Othman, and the secretary of the Maryland Association of Blind Students, Juhi Narula. Take it away. 

SPEAKER: Good evening, fellow federationists. As President Riccobono said and as you've heard many times this week, my name is Ronza Othman. My pronouns are she/her/hers and I serve as the President of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland and co chair of the NFB of Maryland National Convention Host Committee. 

SPEAKER: I'm Juhi Narula. My pronouns are she/her/hers and I serve as the secretary of the Maryland association for blind students as well as the co chair of NFB of Maryland national host committee. 

SPEAKER: We are so pleased and honored to be able to host the 83rd annual convention of the greatest and largest advocacy organization for and of the blind. This is our third time in our organization's history where Maryland has been privileged to serve as the host for hopefully this year is the best so far. 

SPEAKER: You hopefully participated in one of our fun and interesting four tours, or maybe you laughed out loud during our LOL comedy night. Or maybe you were one of the delegates who received an elite squeezable crab to ensure your convention was as trust free as possible. 

SPEAKER: Or maybe you are rocking your NFB convention scrubs. Limited supplies. Still available. Or maybe you participated in numerous contests. Or maybe you read one of our blog posts at NFB.org/convention. 

SPEAKER: We've had such a great time sharing our state and our affiliate with you all, and we hope that you've gotten to see that the heart of Maryland rings true with federation pride. And tonight we want to share a bit more about our state's history and how it connects with the federation pride with you all. So, we're going to give you guys one more tour. We're going to embark on what we call the Clockwise Tour of Maryland where you'll get to learn more about Maryland's history, our culture, and the things that matter most to us. But, of course, in classic Maryland fashion, we're going to have a contest. Identify 10 songs or sound effects that you hear in the Clockwise Tour and email them to [email protected] or call or text your answers to 443 426 4110. And if you're the first person to do this, you'll receive what I said before, an elite high-end squeezable crab. Along with $20. 

SPEAKER: We are the Maryland affiliate, and we are where the headquarters of the life-changing organization resides. Though the federation flag flies highest here, we're so similar to our 51 sister affiliates in so many ways. As we cake the take the Clockwise Tour, we hope you'll think about and honor our differences while celebrating our shared experience as members of the National Federation of the Blind. As our tour guides, Christina Jones, Chris Danielson, Julie McKennedy, and Desmond Jackson lead us along this tour, we know while we reflect on our history, we must focus forward. And with love, hope, and determination, we are stronger together. 

>> The host committee of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland Wildcats you to our state, whose nicknames include the old line state, the free state, and our personal favorite, Little America. 

SPEAKER: We call it Little America because the geography and history share so much in common with the rest of our great nation. 

SPEAKER: Of course not everything in our history is positive. 

SPEAKER: However, stick with us, and you will see that many Marylanders have paved the way for pursuit of freedom, just like the rest of the nation. 

SPEAKER: Do you want to get to know Little America with us? Okay, great. Let's go!

SPEAKER: We'll start at the southern part of Maryland, west of the Chesapeake Bay, which is where it all started for Little America. This used to be the home of an Algonquin speaking people native American who lived along the west bay. 
SPEAKER: Historians think this and other tribes disappeared because epidemics of newly introduced diseases as well as pressure from European settlers and is other Native groups. Definitely not the shiniest part of our history, but it does get better. I promise. Just not quite yet. 


SPEAKER: Yeah, so, whenever I chow down on some Maryland crabcakes, I think of the Chesapeake. Remember John Smith, the guy who married Pocahontas? Incidentally, he drew the first known map of the Chesapeake when he landed in Maryland at Potomac River in the early 1600s. 

SPEAKER: Going back to the settlers, though, the first European settlers of Maryland landed in what we now know of as saint Mary's County in the mid 1600s, Cecil Calvert, second lord Baltimore, established the colony of Maryland under a royal charter granted by King Charles I of England. 

SPEAKER: Like the rest of Baby America, agriculture was a way of life for so many people. And, unfortunately, like the rest of our nation, Little America's  agricultural business used the labor of enslaved people. 

SPEAKER: However, here is something to chew on. The southern counties of Maryland were part of the tobacco belt. Growing the most common and flourishing crops in demand at the time. Some of the descendants of these enslaved people ultimately transformed the counties into one of the largest and most successful predominately African American counties in the country. 

SPEAKER: Today, the County has government agencies like Andrews Air Force Base and the US Census Bureau. There is even NASA's Godard Space Flight Center. 

SPEAKER: Did you know Prince George's County gave land to D.C. to form part of the nation's capital? 


SPEAKER: Yeah. The next part of Little America we're heading to did the same exact thing. One of its connections to Washington, D.C. is the road we now call Georgia Avenue, and it was built in the mid 19th century. It was originally called the Southern Street Turnpike, but for now, let's head up the Potomac and get off at Cabin John in Montgomery County. 

SPEAKER: This County was followed in the late 17th century or so, after Maryland was first settled by Europeans. Like the rest of our country, it was mostly farmland in in the beginning. Are you getting the idea that there's a theme here? Even now, Montgomery County has the agricultural reserve, which is a huge amount of designated farmland protected and preserved by the County. It also happens to be the most famous emulated and studied farmland protection program in the nation. So, the next time your dinner party goes stale, feel free to drop that knowledge, and they'll never think you forgot how to socialize after over a year of COVID induced isolation. I know I love to compare farming projects at cocktail parties. 

SPEAKER: I know, right? 

SPEAKER: But it's not all about farmland, though    

SPEAKER: Uh huh. 

SPEAKER: No, seriously. This County turned into a suburban area in the middle of the 20th century. Also, more government agencies, including the National Institutes of Health, the NOAA. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The headquarters of the Marriott Corporation and several biotechnology companies are based here, too. 

SPEAKER: With such a rich history of agriculture, you might not necessarily think it would be as diverse as it is. The population here includes 4 of the top 10 most ethnically diverse communities in the US. You can find amazing food and music from El Salvador. 
(Music). Ethiopia. 
And many more cultures. One of the most diversities here is rockville, which is where we are right now. Why don't we jump on the B & L railroad, which you hopefully learned about on our virtual tour of its museum and make our way to the narrowest part of the state, the panhandle. 

SPEAKER: Well, check this out. The panhandle is only 2 miles wide. We got this. Let's grab the mules and saddle up. We'll be able to cover lots of ground. 

SPEAKER: Mules? Really? 

SPEAKER: Right. The northern border of the state is completely straight because it's the Mason Dixon Line. Does that make Maryland a northern or southern state?

>> . 

SPEAKER: Depends on which Marylander you ask. 

SPEAKER: Right. We are sandwiched between two states. To the north, Pennsylvania, and to the south, West Virginia. 

SPEAKER: And can you guess what this part of Maryland was known for? Agriculture. 

SPEAKER: Shocking. 

SPEAKER: And mining. And the great outdoors. 

SPEAKER: That's something. 

SPEAKER: More specifically, nature lovers should visit Deep Creek Lake and the Appellation Trail. You might think such a small spot might not be able to hold so much history, but Boomsboro is where the Washington Monument originated. 
SPEAKER: Also, is in Sharpsburg you can experience the battlefield where Robert E. Lee's first invasion of the north ended. This area also features our first national highway called, wait for it, Old National Road. Also known as US route 40. Let's keep heading east on route 40, stop at this lovely Inn, and hopefully borrow a horse and carriage like people crossing west used to do, because I really don't know if I can take riding on this mule for much longer. 

SPEAKER: Seriously. 

SPEAKER: Whoa, girl. Good girl!

SPEAKER: This Inn, The Castleman, has operated for almost 200 years and served many of those people crossing these trails. Instead of going west, though, let's pop east to the Frederick and Carol County areas. 
SPEAKER: Frederick County was formed from parts of Baltimore and Prince George's County. How about that one? There's a decent amount of history, including National Road, which we are indeed still on, the canal, and the B & L Railroad, which we hopped on earlier. Keep it moving. In this area, you can visit some Civil War related museums. This area's also known for local wineries and breweries, which you can tour. I know the place I'll be coming back to. Right? By the beginning of the 19th century, Frederick was the leading mining County in the US. Producing marble, gold, limestone, iron, copper, and other minerals. Mirroring other parts of our country, the agriculture here was mostly fruit, vegetables, and wheat. 


SPEAKER: If you still want to veg out, this part of carefully County that we're passing through has the Carol County Farm Museum. 

SPEAKER: It's not just farming. 

SPEAKER: So you keep telling us. 

SPEAKER: I know. I know. But it's not just about farming, drinking, and mining, though. These communities value the arts. 

SPEAKER: They do? 

SPEAKER: There's the Wineberg Theater and the Met. 
Okay. No, not that one. The Maryland Ensemble Theater, as well as way off Broadway Dinner Theater, there is also a Fiddler convention hosted in Carol County annually. 


SPEAKER: A famous dude named Francis Scott King lived in Kem remarks. What came first, the name or the guy? In Frederick County. But we'll talk more about him later. So much history and so many charming places to stay, it's no wonder Camp David is in Frederick County, giving presidents a lovely retreat close to D.C.. Speaking of places to stay, there's another famous Inn we should visit before we leave Carol County. Antrum in Tawney Town used to be a historical plantation. We're coming across another part of our nation's less than admirable history again, but as we keep going up the Chesapeake and down its other shore, we'll see a part of Little America that saw the end of slavery for many. 
(Water rippling)

SPEAKER: The eastern shore is known for a few things. One of which is the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad. Do you remember learning about that in school at one point? Well, as a refresher, enslaved people used these routes to escape to freedom. The route we are taking now is called the Jane Cane Escape Route. Jane Cane became Harriet Tubman's sister in law. She escaped from Dorchester and paddled to freedom up to Carolina    

SPEAKER: If you want to know more about these routes, check out the Harriet Tubman Highway. It's a self guided driving tour with landscapes, waterscapes and historic sites relevant to the Underground Railroad. Tubman herself lived and worked here, and she ultimately helped over 300 of the enslaved to freedom. You might be wondering how. Well, she mostly passed messages through song, hidden messages like escape routes, and warnings of danger. Or places and ways to hide. Clever, right? 


SPEAKER: Gospel, jazz, hip hop, rap, and so much highly influenced by those spirituals and work songs. Some of it happened right here in the eastern shore. How cool is that? 
SPEAKER: This area of Maryland is separated from the western shore by the Chesapeake Bay. There is also an area of land that includes the state of Delaware and a portion of Virginia known as the Delmarva Peninsula. The eastern shore is generally relatively flat with several islands, marshes, beaches and inlets, including Ocean City and Chester Town. In Chester Town, freedom riders protested against segregation during the civil rights era. It's also the home of Washington College, which was founded by our nation's first President, George Washington. 

SPEAKER: As we said earlier, Ocean City is right here. Stretching along several miles of beautiful beach, it's definitely a favorite destination for visitors from all over the eastern seaboard. It has a classic wooden boardwalk nearly 3 miles long. Unfortunately, there's no time to stop at the Carousel Hotel where for many years we held our affiliate conventions. Anyway, given that our state conventions got to be too big for this once grand old venue, it would be hard to fit all 10,000 of our national convention participants. 


SPEAKER: But if you ever want to go to the beach and then ice skate when you get too hot, the Carousel Hotel is your place. The Ocean City Boardwalk has some of the finest restaurants, shopping and other amusements in the region, and I'm sure you'll be able to eat some great blue crab, the feature food of the area. 
SPEAKER: Since this area is known for its blue crabs, there's a huge local culture of boating, fishing, and obviously catching blue crabs. 

SPEAKER: Did we mention blue crabs? I'm just making sure. 

SPEAKER: I think so. The eastern shore is a community of farming and small town life a lot of people from the eastern shore consider themselves southerners because of their proximity to and shared border with Virginia. 

SPEAKER: How about that? We've covered the perimeter of Little America, but what about the middle bits? Let's go up to Queen Anne's County. In this area, we can cross the famous Chesapeake Bay Bridge. Did somebody say crab cakes? Next time you're on "Jeopardy," here's the $10,000 answer. This bridge's eastbound stand was finished in the mid 1900s and it was the world's longest continuous over wall steel structure at the time. Jeez, try to say that ten times fast. 

SPEAKER: Hey, um, let's go on this bus and go across the bridge to  Anne Arundel County. 

SPEAKER: Remember when we talked about Cecil Calvert earlier? Founder of Maryland. Ringing a bell? 

SPEAKER: Oh, yeah. 

SPEAKER: He was happily married to Anne Arundel and this County was named after her in the mid 17th century a year after she died. Lord Calvin envisioned it a refuge for Catholics, the first settlements in Anne Arundel County was founded by Puritans. Known as Providence, it was near the site of present day Annapolis. It then changed its name to Anne Arundel Town in honor of the aforementioned lady. Which gave way to the present city of Annapolis, named Maryland's capital in the late 1600s. 

SPEAKER: Not to confuse everybody, but Annapolis was not named for Anne Arundel, but for the then Princess Anne of England. Our buddy Cecil Calvert probably wasn't happy about that. Sorry, man. The Annapolis Statehouse, where the Maryland General Assembly meets is the oldest operating Capitol building in the United States. Annapolis was also briefly the capital of our nation and in that capacity the location of the signing of the Treaty of Paris, ending the Revolutionary War in 1783. This beautiful, uniquely designed city is also home to St. Johns College, the third oldest college in the United States. Of course, you may also recognize Annapolis as the home of the United States Naval Academy, but the Army has a home in Anne Arundel County as well. Fort Meade was accomplished in World War I and continued to expand afterwards. 

SPEAKER: Historically, the rural parts of Anne Arundel County consisted of tobacco fields until slavery was outlawed. Then farming of fruits and vegetables and Canning and fertilizer plants took over. 

SPEAKER: Again, with the agriculture. 

SPEAKER: You got to have your veggies. Let me tell ya, the counties 533 miles of Chesapeake Bay shoreline were a happening place for resorts. One of these, Highland Beach, was established by Marriage Charles R. Douglas, son of the former freed slave and abolitionist Frederick Douglass. A vacation spot. Important figures like Booker T. Washington maintain houses here. 

SPEAKER: In the mid 1900s, President Harry S. Truman dedicated friendship International Airport. At the time the most modern airport in the country. It's now Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport and still one of the major entry points to the Baltimore and D.C. regions. Okay. Let's see. Iconic civil rights leader. Air travel. Yeah, those go together. 

SPEAKER: Well, see, so, from Annapolis, we can hop on a commuter bus to Baltimore, which is Maryland's largest city and the only one that isn't part of any county. Baltimore was established in the early 1700s and named for the Irish Baron of Baltimore, the seat of the Calvert family. Remember our old pal Cecil? 


SPEAKER: Great. It was created as a port for shipping tobacco and grain. More agriculture. 

SPEAKER: At the outbreak of the American Revolution, it was a bustling seaport and ship building center. Baltimore Clippers plied the seas and trade extended to the Caribbean. 

SPEAKER: The US Navy's first ship, "The Constellation", the last all sail "Worship" build for the Navy in the mid 1800s has resided in the city's harbor since the 1900s. If you're ever in town, hop aboard for a tour. 

SPEAKER: The Continental Congress met in Baltimore through September 1776 through to March of the following year because people were concerned that the British would attack Philadelphia. The national capital at the time. And the British didn't stop making trouble for Baltimore either. 

SPEAKER: No, they did not. During The War of 1812, the British tried to capture the city. The successful defense of fort McHenry in 1814 was the inspiration for Francis Scott Keys' poem, The Star Spangled Banner. Told you we'd mention him again. 

SPEAKER: The charter of the B & O Railroad, yes, like on the monopoly board, was an important milestone in the city's history. And its original train station is now the B & O Railroad Museum. We hope you enjoyed the virtual tour. 
SPEAKER: You'll be interested to know this. The first telegraph message was sent Samuel Morris of Washington, D.C. to Baltimore in 1844. 

SPEAKER: What's a telegraph? 

SPEAKER: I think I'll stick to text messages for now. 

SPEAKER: Yeah, same here. 

SPEAKER: Edgar Allen Poe died and is buried in Baltimore. His death, like his spooky stories, was very mysterious, and possibly related to the city's infamous political gang violence. The Raven, one of the author's most famous poems, is, of course, the inspiration for the name of Baltimore's two time Super Bowl Champion NFL teams. Go Ravens. And its three Raven mascots are named what else? Edgar, Allen and Poe. 

SPEAKER: Of course. The city recovered pretty quickly from Union occupation during the Civil War, and became a major industrial center. Although the great Baltimore Fire of 1904 definitely set it back some. The resilient Baltimoreans rebuilt quickly, though, and in the 20th century, famous citizens includeded slugger Babe Ruth, journalist HL Menken. Blues singer, Billie Holiday, Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi. 
(Music) and filmmaker John Waters, whose movie "Hairspray" also became a hit Broadway musical. 
 Good morning Baltimore 

SPEAKER: Stop, stop, stop. 

SPEAKER: Julie. Julie. 

SPEAKER: If I can't sing, you can't either. 

SPEAKER: I think the folks are still here for the career fair. Today, the city is a major hub of business, medicine, learning and culture. It's where the National Association for the advancement of Colored People, NAACP, was founded and played a pivotal role in the civil rights movement. 

SPEAKER: And, of course, it's home of the NFB Jernigan Institute, the headquarters of the National Federation of the Blind. 

SPEAKER: So, now you know just a bit more about Little America. 

SPEAKER: Like the rest of our country, Maryland has faced challenges and made mistakes. 

SPEAKER: But Maryland has also given our nation great champions of freedom, great food, and many important cultural contributions. 

SPEAKER: And is now the home of important parts of our government and of the headquarters of the nation's transformative membership and advocacy organization on Blindness, run by, of course, the Blind. 

SPEAKER: Maryland has a thriving NFB affiliate that helps Blind Marylanders live the lives they want through education, advocacy, and outreach. 

SPEAKER: Like Maryland, reflects the culture and history of the rest of the nation, the NFB headquarters embodies the history and culture of the entire organized Blind movement. 

SPEAKER: The NFB headquarters flies the NFB flag high and proud, as does the Maryland affiliate. 

SPEAKER: All 52 affiliates are critical to the success of the movement. 

SPEAKER: We are proud of our state, proud of our organization, and proud to host the 2021 Convention of the National Federation of the Blind. 
(In unison)
We know that we are stronger together. Through love, hope and determination, we will transform and unify our future.