Dana Petersen Moore is Baltimore’s first chief equity officer and the director of Baltimore’s Office of Equity and Civil Rights. (Courtesy Photo)

By Nicole D. Batey,
Special to the AFRO

Dana Petersen Moore, Esq., has been selected as Baltimore’s first chief equity officer. Since January 2021, Moore has served in the dual roles of chief equity officer and director of Baltimore’s Office of Equity and Civil Rights.

Baltimore City Mayor Brandon M. Scott created a cabinet-level position to ensure that all city agencies, boards and commissions operate in a framework of equity.

Moore is also the first woman in Baltimore’s history to serve as the Acting City Solicitor, a role she assumed in March 2020. She led the City’s legal response to the pandemic by helping  convert the Baltimore Convention Center into a field hospital, establishing testing sites throughout the City and negotiating terms to use hotels as respite sites.

Previously Moore served as Deputy City Solicitor, a role in which she also made history as the first woman to serve in that capacity.

Prior to joining the City’s Law Department, Moore owned her own law firm that focused primarily on providing legal services to small, women and minority owned businesses.

This week, the AFRO spoke with Moore about her career and honored her as a Woman Who Wins.

AFRO: What is your responsibility as Baltimore’s Chief Equity Officer and Director of Baltimore’s Office of Equity and Civil Rights?

Moore: The Office of Equity and Civil Rights has been around for about 40 years, we have about five- soon to be six- commissions that really seek to address citizens’ concerns about their rights. We have the Civilian Review Board that receives complaints about police misconduct towards individuals. We also have the Community Relations Commission, one of the oldest commissions in the City, that deals with all sorts of violations: housing, job, restaurant complaints.

The Wage Commission has been really active. We are investigating job sites that contract with the City of Baltimore, regarding complaints of unfair pay and no pay. We have now included investigations into human trafficking and labor trafficking.

The Office of Equity is fairly new, over the last two years. I have been with the Office for about a year and the responsibility is to advance equity in Baltimore City. We’re starting with our agencies, facilitating trainings on unconscious bias and anti-racism. Already, we have trained the Mayor’s entire cabinet. We review policies, old and new, to determine whether they are equitable and to ferret out old policies and laws that aren’t. An online dashboard will be coming soon that will offer comprehensive data concerning the equity of our City.

We’re also reaching out to businesses, nonprofits and other arenas and asking them to take a hard look at their policies and laws to determine whether they are equitable for all. provide educational training.

I have a letter on my desk now, ready to go to about 250 neighborhood associations, requesting a listening session with each community to ask residents about what they think equity looks like for their neighborhood.

We want to hear from the ‘silent’ majority- those who whisper about what’s not right in our City. There are neighborhoods that have been severely affected by our City’s redlining. We acknowledge that Baltimore has a history of inequitable and discriminatory practices and systemic racism, and we want to address those issues. 

I’m really excited about having those conversations!

AFRO: How did you get into law?

Moore: My father, Lieutenant General Frank E. Petersen, Jr., was the first Black pilot in the United States Marine Corp. (USMC) and their first Black general. He passed away in 2015, however this May, the Navy will be commissioning a destroyer named after him! 

Growing up, we relocated several times across the country and then settled in Washington, D.C. It was in D.C., at our kitchen table, that I had conversations with my father about going to law school. He was often preaching about civil rights and how the country needed good Black lawyers to advance civil rights. I was hooked! I decided then that’s what I want to do.

My best job in high school was clerking for Kenneth Mundy, Esq., a dynamic D.C. lawyer, who was at that time, Mayor Marion Barry’s lawyer. He was wonderful to learn from!

AFRO: When you began your own law firm, you chose to focus on small, women and minority-owned businesses. Why?

Moore: I felt like that was my calling. Being able to jump in and not only help save someone’s entire business, but (when they want to) help them expand. It was the perfect way to combine all of my skill sets—litigation, my awareness of business, my contacts, how to market, as well as how to defend yourself. It offered that instant gratification of knowing I helped someone—the joy of seeing my clients so happy and growing!

Later I was asked by then City Solicitor, Andre Davis, to come in and work as his deputy. I had to really think about that because it meant me losing time with my clients to work for the government- and working for someone else again. It was going to be a real change.

AFRO: After considerable thought, you eventually accepted the position and later became the city’s first woman to serve as Acting City Solicitor. What influenced your decision?

Moore: Early on, Judge Davis made it clear that he wanted me for the position and having known him for a long time, I trusted his judgment. He had the vision of expanding my skills from helping small, women or minority-businesses to helping all of Baltimore City and to advocate for what I thought was right. I could speak freely about what I thought about the cases and what Baltimore should be doing. It was a great opportunity that came my way.

Before me, there had never been a woman deputy solicitor in all of Baltimore’s history. That’s not what compelled me in my decision, but after I made the decision, I thought, ‘Oh come on now, Baltimore.  We need to do better!’

AFRO: What do you think can be done to encourage more women, especially of color, to even consider that office as a viable option to choose?

First, we have to make it better known that these opportunities are available—they are a great pathway to purposeful work, meaningful work. The City recently hired Ebony Thompson, Esq., a young African-American woman, who is super smart, super bright and serves as our deputy city solicitor. She is just glorious in the work she is doing! She’s a perfect example of what can happen if more of us are made aware of the opportunity and have the support needed for it.

Awareness and preparation are key. We talk about the pipeline for Black lawyers, especially Black women lawyers. We have to make sure our brothers and sisters know about these opportunities also, and help them be prepared for when they come.

AFRO: What would you say to that young woman who is considering going into law?

Moore: I’ll start with young 29-year old Dana. Young Dana wasn’t very brave or really confident, she allowed people to put names on her that weren’t hers. 2022 Dana would never let that happen. I have two beautiful daughters and tell them, ‘Don’t be afraid. Decide for yourself what your dream is and don’t let others decide for you. You have to hold onto your dream and follow after it. Don’t let anyone shake you from your dream, because you have everything you need to achieve it!’ 

If you start to waver, get support or find a mentor. You don’t need a lot of mentors, you just need one good one—someone who believes in you, that you can be vulnerable with.

Also, trust your gut. Your gut will tell you everything you need to know. You only get in trouble when you don’t listen to your gut. Being a lawyer means making sacrifices, it means deferred gratification, it means hard work and studying long hours. That means a very limited social life, but the rewards will come and be worth it.

Disappointments will happen and it’s okay to cry. It’s all a part of the process. The trick is to not let that disappointment be a deterrent to your dream. Take a moment or a day, if you have to, cry it out, and tomorrow you get back up and get right back at it.

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