Cardin Statement on Hispanic Heritage Month 2021
WASHINGTON (Sept. 15, 2021)—U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) today released the following statement in recognition of Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from September 15 to October 15.
“This month, we especially celebrate and honor the Hispanic and Latino community for its culture, history, and indelible contributions to our country. Maryland has a vibrant Latino community of more than 550,000 residents, who play vital roles throughout our communities, such as teachers, health care heroes, essential workers, small business owners, and so many who are undeniably important to the makeup of Maryland.
“For the second year in a row, we are celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month during a pandemic. COVID-19 has had a disproportionate effect on the American Latino community in terms of cases and severity. According to the Centers for Disease Control, Hispanic/Latino persons are nearly twice as likely to be infected with COVID-19, 2.8 times more likely to be hospitalized and 2.3 times more likely to die compared to white, non-Hispanic persons. This disparity is shocking, but not surprising. We must fully commit to breaking down the systemic obstacles to health care that have contributed to diminished access to care and higher rates of chronic disease for the Hispanic and Latino communities and other communities of color.
“The pandemic has taken a financial toll on the Hispanic community as well, deepening long-standing economic disparities. Thanks to President Biden’s Build Back Better plan and legislation passed by Democrats in Congress, the current unemployment rate for Latinos has dropped to 6.4 percent, which is a huge improvement from the start of the pandemic, when the rate peaked at 18.1 percent. It still does not match the economic rebound that white Americans have experienced. We have more work ahead.
“The United States stands for equality, prosperity, and justice for all. We continue to work to make these ideals reality. As a nation of immigrants, we must stay committed to making the American Dream attainable, including increasing access to affordable health care and housing, closing the wage gap, and enacting a reasonable and compassionate immigration system.
“During Hispanic Heritage Month and year-round, I join all Marylanders in recognizing the tremendous impact the Latino community has made on our state and our country.”
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Statement of Senate President Ferguson on the More Than 10,000 Marylanders Lost to COVID-19
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (Sept. 16, 2021)—Today is a solemn day for the State, as we mark the deep loss of more than 10,000 of our fellow Marylanders to COVID-19 since March 2020.
I, along with the entire Senate of Maryland send our most heartfelt sympathies to every friend and family member who has had to endure without their loved one by their side, due to this pandemic.
We have learned so much in the last year and a half, and we shall not let their memories be in vain. I will continue to fight for the health of all Marylanders, which includes vaccines and common-sense safety measures. We should all remember the over 10,000 Marylanders and endeavor to do our parts to finally stamp out COVID-19.
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To Be Equal: Responding to Hurricane Ida: We Are Not Trapped to Repeat the Sins of Katrina Recovery
“In the wake of Katrina, contractors charged the same amount to rebuild a three-bedroom house, whether it was in the Lower 9th Ward or on high ground Uptown. But rebuilding grants didn’t take that into consideration. The state-run Road Home program devised a grant formula based not upon rebuilding costs but on pre-storm home values. Since majority-black neighborhoods had lower property values, white homeowners received a markedly higher grants than black homeowner with comparable houses. The end result was that more white homeowners were able to rebuild, while more black homeowners couldn’t afford to do so.”
—Politico Magazine, “The Dark Side of Katrina Recovery”
Almost three weeks after Hurricane Ida made landfall in Southeast Louisiana before barreling up the east coast thousands of homes remain uninhabitable, industrial sites are shut down, businesses are shuttered and at least 46,000 homes and businesses remain without electrical power.
As recovery from the storm continues around the nation, the National Urban League and our affiliates are mobilizing relief efforts on the ground while urging state and local elected officials to avoid the missteps that hindered recovery after Katrina and ground their programs inequity and racial justice.
A recent FEMA Advisory Committee Report, based on a Rice University study, found that federal recovery funding after a disaster disproportionally benefits white entrepreneurs. When major disasters strike and significant federal resources are invested, there is an increase in white net worth and a corresponding decrease in net worth for Black people.
I pointed to this report in a letter I sent last week to the governors of Louisiana, New York, and New Jersey, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell, and presidents of the several Louisiana parishes.
I reminded them that we are not trapped to repeat the sins of the decade-plus recovery from Katrina. We are not required to continue policies that, since Katrina, have led to inequitable recovery for Black families and unequal opportunities for Black businesses to thrive and contribute to the recoveries across all communities.
While Ida did strike on Katrina’s anniversary, our federal, state, and local elected officials have the power to make sure the recovery in no way resembles the slow, inequitable, and imbalanced recovery in Louisiana; a recovery that has left many white neighborhoods thriving and white-owned businesses expanding and left too many Black communities behind.
The National Urban League recommends that the following guidelines to level the playing field and contribute to a recovery in which we all can take pride:
Make the earliest funding for impacted citizens truly and equally available. Due to FEMA’s application and compensation process, Black families often receive fewer funds. To remedy this injustice, FEMA damage assessments should no longer be done solely in-person or over-the-phone, but with the flyover and digital imagery technology used by insurance companies. Not only would this save time and money, but it would also strip unconscious bias from the process and lead to equitable and accurate compensation. Furthermore, because of decades of redlining and racial bias in-home appraisals, FEMA should prohibit appraised home values from being used to determine compensation.
Improve the timeliness and methodology for Community Development Block Grant funding. A year after funding that drives most post-disaster residential recovery. Congress still has not allocated any funding for recovery from Hurricanes Laura and Delta, and other storms that devastated American communities last year. The process is much more efficient in states that reimburse homeowners for CDBG-eligible rebuilding work. A Recovery Acceleration Fund model would make the reimbursement pathway accessible to all CDBG-qualifying homeowners.
The billions of dollars that will be invested into the region must be made available to Black-owned businesses. The labyrinth of paperwork, onerous requirements and high costs effectively screen out small and mid-sized Black businesses in the very communities that are impacted. When and where large contracts are deployed, they must be held accountable to ensure they provide sub-contract opportunities for Black-owned businesses in a real and meaningful way.
There is generational and life-altering impact when recoveries don’t work and are not equitable. Since COVID, the importance of home and community has been reinforced for all of us.
In Louisiana, the hardest-hit region, the Urban League community is taking on its traditional role of economic first responder.
The Urban League of Louisiana, along with Thrive New Orleans, Convoy of Care, PepsiCo, and National Urban League, has organized a Hurricane Ida Relief Giveaway on Saturday, Sept. 18, to distribute food, water, baby formula, diapers, clothing, feminine products, cleaning supplies, and tarps.
The affiliate also has partnered with the Foundation for Louisiana to establish the Black Business Works Fund to help businesses stand back up in the aftermath of the storm and be stronger on the other side. Many Black-owned businesses are anchors in their communities, often hiring those who many others don’t and won’t. Creating supports that allow these businesses to remain competitive not only helps them but also helps the community to rebound.
For more information or to contribute to these efforts, visit https://urbanleaguela.org/ida/
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ChildWatch: Happy 100th Birthday to the Great Constance Baker Motley!
On September 14, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF) celebrated the great life and legacy of trailblazing lawyer and judge Constance Baker Motley on what would have been her 100th birthday. She argued some of our nation’s most important court cases to end racial segregation in public schools and accommodations along with a small band of brilliant and visionary lawyers led by Charles Houston including Thurgood Marshall, Jack Greenberg, and James Nabrit, Jr. Their work resulted in the landmark 1954 Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education.
She was the first African American woman to serve as a federal judge and a role model, heroine, and inspiration for me and many others, including Vice President Kamala Harris, who said in her introductory remarks at the LDF celebration: “Constance Baker Motley spent her life defying expectations . . . She showed us the power of the law to effect change. And she taught us to see what can be, unburdened by what has been.”
Connie Motley was the ninth of twelve children born to Caribbean immigrants in New Haven, Connecticut, home of Yale University. Her father worked as a chef at Yale’s Skull and Bones Club, a secret society for the most privileged students like Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. After graduating from her predominantly white high school with an excellent record, Connie Motley dreamed about becoming a lawyer but had to take a job as a domestic. How many brilliant Black boys and girls like her have stories that end there? But she found another job with the National Youth Administration, and while she was giving a speech at a local community center a wealthy white philanthropist heard her and offered to pay her college tuition.
She went to Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee because she was eager to see the South, but transferred to New York University and earned a degree in economics in 1943. She then went on to Columbia Law School where she met Thurgood Marshall. He offered her a job as a law clerk in LDF’s New York office, and when she graduated she began her work with LDF full-time.
Constance Baker Motley soon became a leading civil rights attorney and made history in the 1950s and 1960s opening doors and crumbling the walls of legal apartheid. She helped craft the argument against “separate but equal” in Brown v. Board of Education and was the lead attorney in many desegregation cases, including successfully representing James Meredith in front of the U.S. Supreme Court when he sought admission to the University of Mississippi in 1962. She was the first Black woman to argue a case before the Supreme Court and the first Black woman lawyer many people across the South had ever seen, who were often caught off guard by the tall, elegant, brilliant woman with the powerful presence. She later said Thurgood Marshall chose her for key assignments in the South because he felt a Black woman lawyer would be safer than a Black man. As the first Black woman admitted to the bar in Mississippi I too found I could get away with statements and actions Black male lawyers may not have dared. She argued ten cases in front of the Supreme Court during her career and won nine.
Connie Motley then decided to become involved in New York politics, and became the first Black woman elected to the New York State Senate in 1964 and the first woman borough president of Manhattan in 1965. As a politician she championed opportunities for underprivileged groups, but her political career didn’t end her brilliant legal career. In 1966, President Lyndon Johnson appointed her a United States district judge for the southern district of New York, making her the first Black woman ever appointed to the federal judiciary. She became the chief judge of the district in 1982 and assumed senior status in 1986.
Constance Baker Motley was a very special lantern in my life. When I graduated from law school, I went to work at LDF in New York City where Julius Chambers and I were the first two Earl Warren fellows—a program designed to train and support young lawyers seeking to practice civil rights law in the South. Julius went to Charlotte, North Carolina where he tried groundbreaking civil rights cases and succeeded Jack Greenberg as head of LDF. I went to Mississippi. I will never forget the first day I walked into segregationist Federal District Judge Harold Cox’s chambers. All the white male lawyers sitting around the table froze in shocked silence as I, a 24-year-old Black woman lawyer, entered the chambers. It was if I were an alien from Mars. As I walked around the table extending my hand to each white lawyer, none shook it. I sat and remembered Connie Motley, who had gone before to try cases in that closed violent society and racially segregated state.
At the close of the LDF celebration honoring Constance Baker Motley’s 100th birthday, LDF alumna Kristen Clarke, our nation’s Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights at the Department of Justice, said: “For generations Black women like her have been the backbone of our national fight for progress, insisting again and again on the true meanings and values of democracy. And far too often our contributions have been ignored or diminished. But it is simply impossible to diminish the accomplishments of Ms. Motley . . . With determination and a keen legal mind, Ms. Motley turned the gears of justice, and when those gears did not exist she built them herself.” Thank you Connie!
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