By Deborah Bailey
Special to the AFRO

A small, but determined group of Black Marylanders have insisted that the upcoming 2022 gubernatorial race will place issues of concern to the state’s 30 percent Black population at the center. 

Our Black Party hosted the first virtual statewide event recently, introducing Black Marylanders to seven of the state’s Democratic candidates for governor. 

“I want to welcome you to our conversation with Maryland’s Democratic candidates for Governor about their agenda for Black Marylanders,” said Candace Hollingsworth, national-co chair of Our Black Party and former mayor of Hyattsville, in kicking off the organization’s premier event. 

Gubernatorial hopefuls participating in the Our Black Party’s virtual event included former Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker; Jon Baron, former Clinton Administration appointee from Montgomery County; Doug Gansler, 45th Attorney General of Maryland during the O’Malley administration; Ashwani Jain, former Obama Administration appointee; former US Secretary of Education John B. King; and former U.S. Labor Secretary and past Democratic National Committee Chair  Tom Perez. 

The questions immediately called on the five candidates to discuss their distinctive policies aimed toward the persistent problems plaguing the close to one-third Black population in Maryland. 

“What will fundamentally change with the way your administration governs to break the cycle of inequity,” asked moderator, Teslyn Figero virtually, to the five candidates.  

Candidates offered a range of policy alternatives, including King’s proposal that a racial impact statement accompany all state legislation. “We’ve really got to center advancing racial justice as we advance every policy area,” King said. 

I will make sure my administration looks like Maryland,” said Perez, citing procurement reform, and school equity and expansion of healthcare.

“We have to understand that the executive staff has to include Black Marylanders and the ticket itself, a Black gubernatorial candidate and a Latina lieutenant governor, will create lasting change,” said Baker. 

When asked about the early signs of success for the Black students in the state’s new Blueprint for Maryland’s Future K-12 education legislation, candidates again introduced their education platforms. 

“I know the importance of ensuring success for students who are marginalized and left out of the conversation,” said Jain, who advocated for universal pre-K and school construction in low-wealth communities.

“We can begin by building new schools that look like the ones in Towson and Potomac in West Baltimore,” responded Gansler. 

“It’s not just money and resources that are needed. The key is to focus that money on programs that deliver results,” Baron responded, pointing to tutoring, career academies, KIPP charter schools. 

Hollingsworth applauded the six candidates who participated in the virtual debate, which was recorded on the organization’s Facebook and YouTube cites. She promised this is the first – but not the last time- the organization would feature Black community concerns during the 2022 state-wide campaign. 

“There is not a single aspect of a Black agenda, if enacted, will not be good for everyone. It is important for leaders to center the lives of Black folk in their policy-making” Hollingsworth said. 

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