On July 8 and July 9, Marylanders, consisting of community and faith-based leaders and social activists attended a conference at Morgan State University, Crisis in the Black Community Conference. (Stock photo)

By Nicole D. Batey,
Special to the AFRO

Experts, community and faith-based leaders, along with social activists, youth,  government officials, and other concerned Marylanders rallied together on July 8 and 9 for the Crisis in the Black Community Conference, hosted by Morgan State University (MSU) in partnership with the Caucus of African American Leaders, Maryland State NAACP Conference, and the Black Caucus Foundation.

The two-day conference, held in MSU’s Earl G. Graves School of Business & Management, sought to strategically address the challenges and social justice issues many African-American Marylanders face today. 

Leading experts came together in one setting to discuss education, criminal and social justice, economics, politics, business, and healthcare, as well as, identify commonalities that often hinder opportunities and create barriers to individual and community success.

“This conference is a means to promote awareness and fruitful conversations for all in attendance in order to provide viable, long-lasting solutions to those challenges which are significant and not constructive to the development and growth of the Black community,” said Robert Johnson, executive director of My Brother’s Keeper for the Prince Georges’ County Network.

Other topics included civic engagement, protecting voting rights, and developing the next generation of community leaders. 

One session was led by two women from Black Girls Vote, Kristen Sweets and Selena Wheatley. They focused on how  young people can become leaders in community action. At first the group seemed disengaged—slow in response to questions posed—perhaps this was due to shyness or concern about their peers’ responses. 

Midway through the session, some of the youth began to open up about their desire to lead, but felt they were inadequate to do so because of lack of leadership development and representation in mentorship at their schools. The youth also expressed a desire to see more Black and Brown government officials and congressional leadership take a more active approach in hosting small groups sessions to address civic engagement with youth at area high schools, especially in Baltimore City.

Presentations at the conference also included “Advancing Justice through Fiscal Policy” and “The State of Housing Policy in Maryland” by the Maryland Center on Economic Policy. 

“We want to have a blueprint that will identify common challenges that we have and recommended solutions that we will be able to present to elected officials to help identify resources to assist our communities across Maryland. We want to unify our communities across the state…We no longer want our communities to feel isolated and divided, we want everyone involved,” said Johnson. “This is not a one-time event. There will be multiple conferences to follow.”

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