Every day in Maryland, I fight against injustice and work towards the empowerment and advancement of all people of color. I speak to families in the African-American community here in Baltimore and across the state and know firsthand the barriers our children face when it comes to meaningful educational opportunity and access to good jobs and affordable housing. There is much to be done. And I also know that we do not struggle alone. The issues that concern me—public safety, education, employment—are the same issues that galvanize political and community leaders from across the spectrum. And I firmly believe the old saying—“a rising tide lifts all boats.” We can make our communities stronger, healthier, and safer for all Marylanders.

I celebrate with my community when our children graduate high school and pursue higher education, and I talk to young people every day and urge them to stay in school, reminding them of how far they can get with a high school degree and through higher education. But I know that our kids aren’t alone. It’s not just African-American children and teenagers who need to be reminded to stay in school and empowered to succeed. The Maryland DREAM Act would give all our children the incentive to stay in school and excel, to graduate and go on to college, to pursue career goals and build a better life for oneself.

Smart, talented kids should go to college and students who grew up in Maryland, graduated from Maryland high schools, and whose families pay Maryland taxes should pay in-state tuition at Maryland public universities and colleges. The Maryland DREAM Act is the right thing to do and the fair thing to do. Maryland is the only home these kids know and they’re eager to give back and contribute to our state’s economy and society. The NAACP has always advocated for educational access as a basic civil right and we know that this is a value all Marylanders hold. We believe all kids deserve a fair shot at a good education.

It’s not only the right thing to do; it’s smart too. We all know that in order to stay competitive, we need science and technology jobs here in our state and skilled workers to fill those positions. We should bend over backwards to make sure kids like Nathaly, a Glen Burnie student with a plethora of Advanced Placement classes under her belt and a love for medicine and genetics, stay here in Maryland. We need to harness and cultivate the creativity and enthusiasm and dedication of young people and put those talents to work in our state. We need to keep growing our tax base to grow our economy. The Maryland DREAM Act accomplishes all these goals.

At the NAACP, we often look back to the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the victories of the civil rights era of the 1960s. We know from history that without the support of diverse Americans, it would taken much longer for us to secure the progress we did. Without white Americans, Jewish Americans, Hispanic Americans, and others from across the spectrum standing shoulder-to-shoulder with African Americans, we would not have been victorious. And the time has come, once again, to stand shoulder-to-shoulder. Kids who’ve excelled in school and played by the rules should have a bright future ahead of them. They should be able to go to college and get the education they need to be successful and to contribute to our state. These are our kids, every one of them. And it’s time to stand up for them. I hope that on Nov. 6, voters of all different races, ethnicities, partisan affiliation, religions, and geography, will join me in voting “yes” on the Maryland DREAM Act and making these kids’ dreams become a reality.

Gerald Stansbury is president of the NAACP Maryland State Conference.

Gerald Stansbury

Special to the AFRO