The National Association for Black Veterans, Inc. (NABVETS) was first introduced to Baltimore in 1980 and became known as the Baltimore Metro Area Chapter (B-MAC) of NABVETS. The organization opened an office at 2117 E. North Avenue and began its outreach, service delivery, and advocacy for Vietnam Veterans. Vacant lots adorned the adjacent area to the office and NABVETS organized community youth to clean up the lots – removing broken glass and other debris to accommodate what was planned to be a playground area. Subsequently, an urban garden (best in the city) arose from the once debris laden lots.
In 1986, several veterans lamenting the lack of appreciation for their sacrifice and service initiated African American Patriots Day to celebrate their service stating that “we don’t need others to appreciate our patriotism, we will pay tribute to ourselves.” The focus shifted to our fathers – WWII and Korean – who had been relegated to obscurity despite their extraordinary service in defense of America. The last Saturday in February was chosen as the annual date to honor Black Patriotism and the relentless effort of black veterans to eradicate “Jim Crow” and other forms of racism, discrimination and subjugation in America. The first honoree was Reverend Parren Sumler, WWI Veteran. There were two others but were physically unable to attend and participate. Rev. Sumler was 106 years old at the time.
In 1990, B-MAC contracted to bring plays and other educational activities to the Baltimore Metro Area. The first play was “Camp Logan” and B-MAC reached out to other organizations to assist and promote these endeavors; thus, the African American Patriots Consortium (AAPC) became the vehicle for enlightenment. Soon, B-MAC/NABVETS lost its identity and was absorbed by AAPC. In 2004, another group of veterans, primarily employees of Baltimore City, came together to push legislation to recognize Veterans Day as a holiday in Baltimore. The group was successful and caught the eye of NABVETS National Liaisons Officer in Washington, DC who encouraged the formation of a NABVETS Chapter. In 2008, NABVETS – Baltimore #0053 was born. Several members of the AAPC who maintained memberships in NABVETS met with the new group and a process began to merge all black veterans’ service organizations into NABVETS creating a strong viable veterans service organization that was a congressionally chartered 501(c)3 non-profit certified to represent veterans’ claims against the Veterans Administration.
NABVETS-Baltimore absorbed AAPC programs – Annual Buffalo Soldiers Banquet and African American Patriots Day Ceremony – since the initiatives were in reality products of the dormant B-MAC NABVETS but carried on by AAPC. THERE IS STRENGTH IN UNITY!
Today, NABVETS members serve on various boards and commissions at the state and local levels of governments in Maryland, academy selection committees of congresspersons, and are called upon regularly to provide consultant services. NABVETS – Baltimore assumed the theme of AAPC, “Save the Children, Save the Nation” and embellished its mission and success. While successful in all of its endeavors, NABVETS – Baltimore views itself as a “Work in Progress” and continues to pursue the maximum of potential from its members to include creating and maintaining positive lifestyles for veterans, their families and communities.