Submitted to the AFRO by Dr. Marvin ‘Doc’ Cheatham, Sr.
The recent declaration of support given by several Maryland Black pastors for the reelection of Larry Hogan as Governor has generated mixed reactions in the Black community. Persons already favorably inclined toward Hogan are surprised, but consider endorsement by the ministers to be reassuring.
For good reasons, however, skeptics wonder aloud what the Governor has done for the Black community during his first four-year term to deserve such a grand gesture from our spiritual leadership. Seared in their memory are the images of tanks and humvees of the Maryland National Guard the Governor stationed in West Baltimore during the Freddie Gray unrest, asserting that he had to take charge of the City because the elected leadership was not capable of doing so. They bemoan his refusal to allocate much-needed funds to Baltimore City schools, funds that had already been appropriated for such use by the General Assembly. They cringe at the impact upon city residents after Hogan killed the Red Line project so necessary to connect east and west economically and socially. But most significantly, they also speak of the continuing headlines detailing the Governor’s defiance, recalcitrance and resistance to a federal court order requiring the State of Maryland to remedy its unconstitutional and discriminatory system of higher education and invest in the development of new, high-demand and unique programs at each of the four Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) with the associated facilities, faculty and funds for operations.
Undoubtedly, the merits of the ministers’ endorsement will be the subject of considerable question and debate for many years. But the actions of Governor Hogan before the election could inform the debate and provide a window into decisions he might make if reelected to office. Will the Governor drop his fight against and resistance to the HBCUs and display a willingness to comply with and fully implement the Remedial Order of the United States District Court for Maryland or will he continue to oppose and delay in the hopes of having the Court’s decision and Order overturned by a higher court? Will the Governor elect to keep the National Guard on alert for the next unrest in Baltimore or instead build Coppin University as the educational, economic and cultural center for transforming the Sandtown-Winchester area into a community, which makes future unrest far less likely?
These are questions we must ask the Governor before the election and the ministerial group is now duty-bound to demand answers, commitments and action. Even if the ministerial group’s endorsement is considered premature, it is not too late for accountability. In fact, the group has some of the best leaders to make this happen. For example, one of them is among the strongest advocates for Maryland HBCUs and the coalition of students, alumni, faculty and friends that sued the State on behalf of Bowie, Coppin, Morgan and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. He has been on the frontline of rallies in Annapolis, active in letter writing campaigns and engaged in courtroom visitations. Another member of the group has a long family history with HBCUs and is currently serving on the governing board of one of the HBCUs. No doubt there are others with similar HBI affiliations. They too must raise their voices in an effort to influence the Governor to do the right thing.
There is a good possibility that the pastors have already raised the Historically Black College issue with Governor Hogan. If, however, it has not been meaningfully discussed, only three weeks are left to do so.
Settlement of this issue alone would not only create a new reality for many Baltimoreans, it would move the Maryland approach to issues of race, poverty and equal opportunity leap years ahead.
Dr. Marvin L. ‘Doc’ Cheatham Sr. is convenor of the MD HBCUs Matter Coalition.