On Martin Luther King Holiday, a coalition of Maryland clergy, community organizers and civic organizations will hold a rally and march at the state capitol in Annapolis to call on lawmakers to address social justice issues facing the African-American community.


The Jan. 19 rally will begin 6 p.m. at the First Baptist Church of Annapolis, where there will be a brief prayer service, followed by the march to the State  House.

“Religious leaders, pastors, and civil organizations across the state are coming together to ensure that the social justice agenda we are presenting will be taken up by our legislators,” said the Rev. Dr. Lisa Weah, pastor of New Bethlehem Baptist Church in Baltimore and member of The Maryland Coalition for Justice and Equality (MCJE).

The MCJE will present a social justice legislative agenda to the Maryland General Assembly on issues surrounding police brutality and criminal justice reform, strengthening Maryland’s HBCU’s, minority business initiatives and foreclosure practices.

“We’ve got to do a better job of defining and presenting to lawmakers the issues that our community cares about,” said the Rev. Delman Coates, pastor of Mt. Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton and organizer of the coalition, in an interview with the AFRO.

And the community also needs to hold their representatives accountable, Coates added. At the end of the legislative session, the group plans to publish a social  justice report card to “communicate to the public where our legislators stand  on these issues.”

Organizers say the march is being called in response to national and statewide  concerns regarding police brutality and low voter turnout in the November 2014 election. Coates said it is fitting that they would bring attention to those issues on MLK Day.

“We are at a time when people have reduced Dr. King’s legacy to the pursuit of racial reconciliation. But his legacy was primarily about social and economic justice and equality,” he said. And, Coates added, King’s approach was fundamentally about changing laws. “Certainly, the movement affected people’s hearts, but ultimately, it had to lead to systematic change.”