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Date: Feb 5, 2018

Owings Mills Ceremony Celebrates African-American Heritage

Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz celebrated Baltimore County’s African-American heritage this morning by recognizing the 2018 winners of the County’s 3rd annual Louis S. Diggs Award. The ceremony, held at the County Campus in Owings Mills, celebrated Baltimore County’s African-American heritage. This year’s honorees are Jake Oliver, publisher of the AFRO-American Newspaper; Dr. Tim Tooten, WBAL-TV reporter and pastor of Harvest Christian Ministries; and Interim Baltimore County Public Schools Superintendent Verletta White.

“I am proud to recognize these outstanding individuals whose life work represents a commitment to the celebration of the African-American experience in Baltimore County, and whose accomplishments inspire others to strive for success,” Kamenetz said.

Kamenetz created this annual award in 2016 to recognize individuals who demonstrate a commitment to promoting African-American history and culture in Baltimore County. The award was named in honor of local African-American historian and lecturer, Louis S. Diggs, who has researched and published numerous local history books and is President of the Diggs-Johnson Museum in Granite.  “Louis Diggs is truly a Baltimore County treasure, and I am always honored to be in his presence,” Kamenetz said.

"This was a wonderful event and it an honor to recognize these outstanding individuals who are doing important work in the community," said Baltimore County Council Chair Julian Jones. 

John “Jake” Oliver Jr., Publisher and CEO, the AFRO American Newspaper

Distinguished as a visionary leader and trailblazer in the communications field, John, “Jake” Oliver, has been at the helm of The AFRO American Newspaper since 1982. The longest-running African-American family owned newspaper in the nation, the AFRO has served as a catalyst for social change from the post-slavery era, through desegregation, to the present day. As the great-grandson of founder John H. Murphy Sr., Jake has led the AFRO’s transition from being an industry leader in print, to prominence in digital and social media publishing. Jake’s tireless efforts to disseminate information and promote awareness in the African-American community have helped to advance the AFRO and pave the way for many other black-owned newspapers nationwide.

Dr. Tim Tooten, WBAL Education Reporter, Author and Minister

Dr. Tim Tooten, Sr. is an institution in Baltimore County and beyond, both as an Emmy-Award winning journalist and gifted storyteller who has made the news come alive on WBAL-TV (NBC) for almost three decades. As Baltimore’s only full-time television education reporter, he focuses attention on issues that matter – inside and outside of the classroom. Dr. Tooten was awarded the prestigious National Headliner Award for his “Africa’s Maryland” documentary which also earned him a National Edward Murrow award. His “Africa’s Maryland” documentary prompted an extensive cultural and educational exchange between Maryland and Liberia, West Africa.

Dr. Tooten is the founder and pastor of Harvest Christian Ministries in Perry Hall and author of the recent best-selling book, “Leading by Example – A Parental Guide to Teaching and Modeling Christian Faith at Home.” Dr. Tooten is active in the community as an affiliate professor at Loyola University of Maryland. He’s married and is the proud father of three adult children and two grandchildren.

Verletta White, Interim Superintendent of Baltimore County Public Schools

A dynamic, innovative, and proven leader, Baltimore County Public Schools Interim Superintendent Ms. Verletta White describes herself first as a teacher dedicated to strengthening literacy across the curriculum to prepare every student for college and career success. Ms. White leads the 25th largest school system in the nation, with a growing student enrollment of more than 113,000 diverse students, and more than 18,500 employees including 9,000 teachers. 

Ms. White has risen through the ranks of the BCPS superintendent’s senior and executive staffs since 2007, in the capacities of executive director of professional development; area assistant superintendent for the northeast area; and assistant superintendent for elementary schools. Her first central office position was coordinator of leadership development, where she utilized her classroom teaching and mentoring experiences to foster the professional growth of teachers and administrators on a system level. She has served as principal, assistant principal, and teacher mentor in BCPS. Ms. White began her teaching career in 1992, as an elementary school teacher in Baltimore City and transitioned to a teaching position in Baltimore County in 1995. Ms. White is the first woman to lead the Baltimore County public school system.

Revised September 11, 2017