Over the course of my lifetime, America has changed. We have embraced diversity while expanding opportunity and justice for millions of our fellow citizens. We have broken down barriers to public service from City Halls to the White House. And while candidates of color continue to face higher and tougher hurdles in their attempts to serve their communities, President Obama proved that when people come together, it’s possible to abandon outdated, hurtful ideas of what is possible and make history.

Our country’s history can be a heavy, complicated burden to bear. Each of us carries our family’s struggles and challenges with us wherever we go. When I eat lunch in my office in downtown Baltimore, it often strikes me that my father was arrested just blocks away as an activist helping to make it possible for professionals like me to work there.

Our efforts to make our voices heard through the ballot box are part of that struggle; there have been just two elected African American governors in our country since Reconstruction, with just one of those serving in the former Confederate states.  But young African-American leaders like Kamala Harris and Cory Booker are changing our political story. And it’s a new day in the South, where the next generation of political leaders is poised to usher in a new era of progressive action and equal rights below the Mason-Dixon: leaders like Michelle Nunn and Stacey Abrams in Georgia, Steve Benjamin in South Carolina and Alvin Brown in Florida.

And of course, Anthony Brown here in Maryland.

On June 24th, we will have the opportunity to make history by electing Anthony Brown to be Maryland’s first African American governor. He is the best choice, and the right choice for Maryland.

I am endorsing Anthony Brown not because of where we have been, but because of where we are going. By working together, Maryland has become a beacon of progressive action and civil rights. Thanks to the leadership, and partnership, of Anthony Brown and Martin O’Malley, we have expanded voting rights, decriminalized marijuana, made marriage equality a reality, and ended the death penalty – a fight that the great Marylander Frederick Douglass started more than a century ago. And whether it was leading the effort to pass the bi-partisan Veterans Full Employment Act, protecting victims of domestic violence, or working with local non-profits and faith leaders to dramatically reduce the number of children in foster care, we Maryland has made progress because Anthony is a consensus builder – a proven leader who is capable of bringing people together and finding solutions.

Working with the NAACP in communities throughout Maryland, I saw the impact of Anthony’s leadership first-hand. I saw it in safer streets and safer homes. I saw it in new jobs and new hope for so many families.

Looking forward, Anthony is the champion we need to continue that progress. If you believe in universal Pre-K for all of our children, environmental justice throughout our state, expanded career and technology education for our students, and more job opportunities for our neighbors, then Anthony is the leader to support.

If you believe in investing in our state’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities, supporting our women- and minority-owned businesses, and reducing recidivism by taking a “smart on crime” comprehensive approach to criminal justice, then Anthony is a leader you can believe in.

If you believe in our young people, who are excited to live in a state where with a strong economy and bright future – a state where our small businesses, universities, and state and local governments are eagerly embracing the technology and jobs of tomorrow, then Anthony should receive your vote for Governor. He has a plan to get more of our young people the training and skills they need to compete for jobs in our most in-demand fields.

Maryland can be – and must be – a place where our leaders are chosen not by the color of their skin, but by their qualifications, aptitude, and experience. Anthony Brown is that leader, and I am proud to stand with him today and on June 24th.

Ben Jealous is a Partner at Kapor Capital, which has an office in Baltimore, and is former President and CEO of the NAACP. He is also a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress.