Actor André De Shields, left, and Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young hold the actor’s key to the city. Photo via Mayor Young’s office.
Actor André De Shields, left, and Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young hold the actor’s key to the city. Photo via Mayor Young’s office.

For his first act back in Baltimore with a Tony Award in tow, actor André De Shields demonstrated the acoustic capabilities of City Hall’s rotunda.

“Hallelujah!” he shouted, lifting his hands in the air. “Yes!”

On Monday, the “little fat colored boy from Division Street,” as De Shields referred to himself–“he’s lost the weight,” he added–returned to his hometown to receive the key to the city and a mayoral proclamation, a little over two months after winning a long-awaited Tony for his performance as Hermes in “Hadestown.”

That triumph in June inspired De Shields to shout out his hometown during his acceptance speech.

“Baltimore, Maryland—are you in the house?” he said. “I hope you’re watching at home, because I am making good on my promise that I would come to New York and become someone you’d be proud to call your native son.”

At the podium, Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young assured the star behind such Broadway hits as “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” “The Full Monty” and “The Wiz” that he had more than fulfilled that promise.

Flanked by Young, City Council President Brandon Scott, Comptroller Joan Pratt and City Council Vice President Sharon Green Middleton, and in front of family and friends, De Shields said today’s ceremony proved “you can go home.”

“So thank you for embracing me,” he told the audience, “thank you for lifting me for all these many years, thank you for carrying me all those many years.”

Young, in his remarks, said the acceptance speech shout-out came when the city needed it the most, in the midst of attacks on the city for crime, trash and other issues. (This was before President Trump made the city a target on Twitter, mind you.)

After hearing about it, Young recalled thinking, “Oh my God, we gotta get him to come to Baltimore.”

Reciting parts of his acceptance speech, De Shields went over what he calls the cardinal rules of his 50-year career: “Surround yourself with people whose eyes light up when they see you coming”; “Slowly is the fastest way to get to where you want to be” and “The top of one mountain is the bottom of the next, so keep climbing.”​

Though he now resides in New York, De Shields acknowledged detractors who want to bring Baltimore down.

“We still stand tall,” he said.

There’s still a lot that must be done to fix the city’s problems, he said, “but we also know who is up to doing that work.”

Brandon Weigel is the managing editor of Baltimore Fishbowl. A graduate of the University of Maryland, he has been published in The Washington Post, The Sun, Baltimore Magazine, Urbanite, The Baltimore...