The Maryland Black Caucus Foundation pushes for affordable prescription drugs, economic prosperity and other community initiatives.
The foundation, a nonprofit organization with a focus on legislative priorities for the Black community, held its 24th annual legislation weekend Nov. 14-16 in various parts of the state.
Ivory A. Toldson, president and CEO of Quality Education for Minorities Network in Northwest, presented a keynote address Friday, Nov. 15 in Annapolis. Toldson, a counseling psychology professor at Howard University, also published a book this year, “No BS (Bad Stats): Black People Need People Who Believe in Black People Enough Not to Believe Every Bad Thing They Hear about Black People.”
During a breakfast Thursday, Nov. 14 at the Tommy Douglas Conference Center in Silver Spring, church leaders discussed how state legislation can affect the Black church and communities they serve.
“One of the biggest things that really affects our community is affordable housing,” said the Rev. Charles W. McNeill Jr., faith community liaison in the Prince George’s County executive’s office and pastor of Unity Baptist Church in Northeast. “How can our legislative branch help our faith-based community, which has property, to be able to develop affordable housing? If you look at the housing market, the average house in Prince George’s County [starts] between $300,000 to $400,000. We can start there in helping our people out.”
The City of Joy church in Temple Hills continues to work on helping homeless veterans, but state legislation on workforce development programs could help them find employment.
“We recognize homeless displacement is extremely high and helping person to get back on their feet and become protective citizens is priority,” said the Rev. C. A. Thompson, pastor of City of Joy. “We see not only big numbers in the church, but in the community. They served our country and…should have the opportunity to become protective citizens.”
Before the legislative session began, members of the Black Caucus organized a rally Nov. 13 in Annapolis to end a 13-year lawsuit against the state of Maryland in a fight to provide more money for the state’s four HBCUs.
Organizers reaffirmed their disapproval of Gov. Larry Hogan’s $200 million settlement offer for Bowie State, Coppin State and Morgan State universities and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.
“We want to send a message…that we want more than the $200 million and that we want our HBCUs properly funding and we want those things to happen now,” said Del. Darryl Barnes (D-District 25) of Upper Marlboro and chair of the Maryland Black Caucus.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit have presented a $577 million compromise. Barnes said the legislature could present several pieces of legislation to ensure the HBCUs receive additional money.
Maryland HBCUs Matters Coalition and other advocates have estimated at least $1 billion would be needed to fully and equally fund the four schools.
Michael D. Jones, an attorney with Kirkland Ellis and lead counsel for the plaintiffs, said based on a judge’s 2013 ruling that the state of Maryland’s treatment of “public education opportunities for African Americans were either nonexistent or decidedly inferior to the opportunities afforded to white citizens.”
Part of the ruling stemmed from duplicate programs offered at predominately white institutions that plaintiffs have argued could bring in not only additional students at the HBCUs, but also business partnerships and research dollars.
That’s why several alumni said the estimated and original amount of $1 billion remains the true figure to settle the lawsuit.
“Let’s tell the governor of the great state of Maryland to make history and end the unconstitutional practices of separate and unequal treatment of Maryland’s HBCUs relative to duplication of programs,” said Sharon Blake, a Morgan State alumna who serves on the coalition’s steering committee “Let’s tell our governor to fund high-demand, academic programs for our HBCUs with a down payment of nothing less than $1 billion.”
Hogan spokeswoman Shareese DeLeaver-Churchill released a statement pointing out that former Gov. Martin O’Malley presented a final offer of $40 million to resolve the case.
“The Hogan-Rutherford administration has dramatically increased the state’s offer to $200 million — a 500 percent increase,” she said. “In addition, we have provided historically high funding for Maryland’s HBCUs and … are now better-funded than other state schools. Gov. Hogan has shown real leadership on this issue where others have repeatedly failed over the years.”