By Megan Sayles,
AFRO Business Writer,
Chrissy M. Thornton is the new CEO and president of Associated Black Charities (ABC), a Baltimore nonprofit organization that works to remove racial barriers in public policy and the workforce for Maryland’s African-American families.
Thornton was chosen for the position through a national search led by the organization and began her role at the end of January.
“I’m an advocate for equality. I’m an advocate for liberation. I’m an advocate for calling out disparities and the ways that they impact people’s access to success and living their best lives,” said Thornton.
“When the opportunity at Associated Black Charities came forward, to me it was a unique positioning at a time when I know this work is needed the most for me to integrate myself into it.”
Thornton, who hails from New York, came to Baltimore in 1993 on a full academic scholarship from Morgan State University. There, she received a bachelor’s degree in sociology, and later, she obtained a master of business administration degree with a concentration in organizational management from the University of Phoenix at the Lutherville-Timonium campus.
“My career has taken a lot of turns although I would say most of those turns have involved working with marginalized communities, working as an advocate and working in case management,” said Thornton.
The daughter of New York state civil servants, her first profession was serving as a probation and parole officer in York County, Pa. From there, she became a vocational rehabilitation specialist, helping formerly incarcerated individuals re-enter the workforce.
In 2007, Thornton began her work in nonprofit management with the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI), the largest grassroots mental health organization in the country.
After quickly transitioning from the nonprofit’s Maryland office to its national office, she spent eight years spearheading fundraising efforts and working with NAMI’s affiliate organizations on board development, onboarding for new executive directors and event planning and execution.
Recently, Thornton served as the executive director of the Myositis Association, which provides information, support and research to individuals living with myositis.
“I’ve had the opportunity to work across so many communities of people who needed support, who needed encouragement and who needed someone who was able to stand up and advocate for them, whether it’s been equity in the workforce, equity in health access or equity in opportunity,” said Thornton.
“Somewhere along the career journey and, specifically, working for nonprofit organizations, I developed a real passion and love for being able to amplify the voices of people who are sometimes disenfranchised and not considered.”
Although Thornton formally began her role in January, she has been observing ABC’s work since last October.
She intends to ensure that Black community members have a voice in the organization’s strategies, in addition to strengthening the nonprofit’s footing as a convener and advocate of other organizations that are committed to dismantling racism and promoting equity across Baltimore and the rest of Maryland.
Thornton said what ABC needs most from the community is engagement, whether that’s through providing resources, capacity building or community collaboration.
“Top of mind for me is to make sure that we become Baltimore’s voice, Maryland’s voice and the nation’s voice on equity. I think we’re well-positioned,” said Thornton.
“We have the capacity and expertise to lead the charge there and to increase accountability around what’s happening on the diversity, equity and inclusion landscape and to make sure that we do it from a racial equity framework, specifically.”
Megan Sayles is a Report for America Corps member.