All roads led to Annapolis for HBCU alumni, students, supporters, and Legislative Black Caucus members across the state this week. This year’s Legislative Black Caucus sponsored HBCU Night focused on rallying support for SB-712, The Blount-Rawlings-Britt HBI Comparability Program. The bill would give additional state funds to Maryland’s four HBCU’s in an effort to make them comparable and competitive with Maryland’s other state universities and colleges.
Former State Senator Larry Young, center sitting, Legislative Black Caucus Chair Cheryl D. Glenn, right sitting, and a host of Maryland General Assembly members and HBCU supporters at HBCU Night in Annapolis. (Photo by Deborah Bailey)
With just weeks left to go before the 2017 session of the Maryland General Assembly adjourns, Legislative Black Caucus members are counting on the full house of supporters attending HBCU Night to make their collective voices heard in Annapolis. Legislators who came to support the event also reflected on the need to work collectively to move proposed legislation to signed law before the scheduled session ends in mid-April.
For Cheryl Glenn and other members of the Maryland Legislative Black Caucus, the historic underfunding of Maryland’s HBCU’s is an urgent concern. Glenn’s top job is to marshal support for SB-712 across both the Maryland House of Delegates and Senate.
“It’s a political fight; it always has been,” said Glenn, (D – 45), at the rally. “Thank God we have a Black Caucus 50 members strong and counting. Those of us who are here are solidly united on our priority agenda and HBCU’s are at the top of our agenda,” Glenn said.
“No matter what else we’re doing, our HBCU’s come first,” Glenn said.
Senator Joan Carter Conway, (D-43) primary sponsor of SB-712 spoke to the gathering about what it will take to move the HBCU state funding equity legislation through the General Assembly process.
“You’ve got to stand united here,” Conway told her colleagues in the House of Delegates and the general audience. “We’re not always united and that’s what takes a little long,” she said.
“You need to be calling Budget and Tax every day like they call me about fracking,” Conway said. “You gotta’ call and call and call and call. From this day forward and every day until the day they bring the bill,” Conway instructed both fellow legislators and supporters. The Senate Budget and Tax committee must refer SB-712 to the full Senate body for the bill to remain under consideration in the current legislative session.
“In order to do the right thing, they need to do the right thing,” she said urging the Senate Budget and Tax Committee to move SB-712 forward. “But you need to call them every day. Every African-American, Black, Hispanic, ethnic, cultural, anybody. Call the Budget and Tax and the House Appropriations Committee,” Conway emphasized.
Delegates like Jay Jalisi, MD, from Baltimore County, (D-10) doesn’t have an HBCU in his district, but came because equity for HBCU’s supports the overall higher education profile in the state.
When asked about colleagues who have been slow to openly support SB-712 Jalisi added, “Look at the number of people who are here. It’s not about favoring one over the other, it’s just about being just and that’s why I support HBCU’s.”
HBCU equity legislation has been introduced unsuccessfully in the Maryland General Assembly each year for the past 12 years, said. This year, coalition building may be the key to helping move the bill forward.
Elizabeth Proctor(D-27) Prince Georges and Charles County, said that the Black Caucus is reaching out to work with other legislative caucuses this year. “We’re now joining with the Hispanic Caucus and the Asian Caucus. We’re attempting to pull everyone together which will give us more than the number of votes needed. If we can get everyone to work together we’ll be in a very positive place,” she said.
“When I look at the other colleges in Maryland and the way they come down. They’re not asking, they’re demanding for their colleges. We don’t have the same level of demand from the colleges here. We’re too accustomed to going along to get along,” Proctor said.
“Here, it’s all about the numbers and we have the numbers,” Proctor commented about how the General Assembly works. “I think Senator Young is right,” Proctor said referring to comments made by Former State Senator and WOLB Host Larry Young.
“I don’t think we realize our power.”