Maryland Business Roundtable for Education Hosts Second Annual Youth Congress Day
More than 100 Maryland high school students logged into event from the safety of their homes
By JEN RAIDER
Maryland Business Roundtable for Education
Baltimore (April 7, 2021)—On Wednesday, March 3, 2021, the Maryland Business Roundtable for Education (MBRT) virtually welcomed more than 100 high school students from Allegany, Caroline, Dorchester, Harford, Howard, Kent, Montgomery, Prince George’s and Wicomico counties to its second annual Youth Congress Day in Annapolis. This group of students included representatives from MBRT’s programs, including Next Generation Scholars, Student Ambassador and Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP). The goal of the day was to teach students about the legislative process and inspire students to become active in their communities.
“After a successful launch of our Youth Congress Day initiative in 2020, I’m incredibly proud of the team who worked so creatively together to ensure we could once again deliver a meaningful and engaging learning experience for Maryland students,” said Brian Dulay, executive director of MBRT.
Following warm greetings from Senate President Bill Ferguson (Baltimore City) and House Speaker Adrienne Jones (Baltimore County) who touted the benefits of such an event to the students, the Maryland Visitors Bureau showed a video that took students on a virtual tour of the Maryland State Capitol, including the Senate and House Office Buildings. In lieu of participating in a General Session viewing, MBRT arranged for the students to hold a mock legislative meeting during which the students reviewed and debated Senate Bill 127, Institutions of Higher Education—Use of Criminal History in Admission—Modifications, originally introduced January 13, 2021, by Senators Patterson and Augustine.
Ten of MBRT’s student ambassadors held significant roles at Youth Congress Day. Gabriela Holzer (Prince George’s County) presided over the legislative meeting as Speaker of the House, and Sriya Sogal (Montgomery County) served as President of the Senate. Together, Holzer and Sogal introduced the bill, and Abigayle Spangler (Allegany County) and Rip T. Cornish (Dorchester County) read the bill to the entire student group. The group then split into two breakout rooms with Jenna Dameus (Wicomico County), Ryan Lassiter (Prince George’s County), Syncere Turner (Caroline County), and Heath Hutchinson (Harford County) serving as group leaders to moderate discussion and promote healthy debate among student participants. Gianna Athavale (Howard County) and Ronald Parker III (Kent County) served as secretaries to take notes for their respective groups.
Following a lunch break featuring DJ Heir Raid and a trivia based on legislative questions, students reconvened and each group presented their argument for or against the bill. After Athavale and Parker called for the vote, the students promptly cast their ballots resulting in the resolution being adopted with 89% who voted for and 10% who voted against the bill.
“Through today’s experience, I recognized the potential that my voice has, along with that of my peers, to make a difference and truly change this world for the better,” said Dyanara Daprozaa, a sophomore at Oxon Hill High School. “I learned the entire process of how laws are passed and it made me want to be a part of the process even more,” added Triniti Holt, a junior at Suitland High School. “It takes a lot of patience and guidance to provide for the people.”
For 30 years, MBRT has been connecting the business community with local schools through its Maryland Scholars Speakers Bureau and STEM Specialists in the Classroom programs. In 2017, MBRT added the Next Generation Scholars program, which provides funding through the Howard P. Rawlings Maryland Guaranteed Access Grant, administered by the Maryland Higher Education Commission (MHEC), to enhance education and career awareness as well as college completion for high school students with a demonstrated financial need. The Guaranteed Access Grant provides an award that will help cover the cost of full-time study at a Maryland college or university for low-income families.
MBRT currently serves nearly 1,900 students in six high schools across five counties. The organization is one of several that partner with leadership and school counselors at select schools throughout the state to provide grade-specific services to ensure that students who are part of Next Generation Scholars graduate ready for their next steps in college, career and life. MBRT coordinators help students and parents understand that college is an option for everyone while bridging the knowledge gap that exists for many families about college and their chosen career paths. Learn more at www.mbrt.org.
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To Be Equal:
HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge: A “Seasoned, Experienced and Knowledgeable Leader” Who Will Put Racial Equity at the Forefront of the Nation’s Housing Policies
“We need to make the dream of homeownership—and the security and wealth creation that comes with it—a reality for more Americans. That will require us to end discriminatory practices in the housing market, and ensure that our fair housing rules are doing what they are supposed to do: opening the door for families, especially families of color who have been systematically kept out in the cold across generations, to buy homes and punch their ticket to the middle class. There are so many issues we need to come together to address—everything from bringing capital back to disinvested communities, to increasing energy efficiency in housing, to dealing with the dangers of lead-based paint, to taking on our crisis of homelessness with compassion and resolve. These are only some of the challenges—and I know that many of you have additional priorities as well. These problems are urgent, but they are not beyond our capacity to solve.”
—U.S. Secretary of Housing and
Urban Development Marcia Fudge
Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge has held many roles in her two decades of public service, from Mayor of Warrensville Heights, Ohio, to Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus.
But it was a moment of “Black auntie energy” that endeared her to the Twitterverse. When her cheery “Good morning!” was met with silence from the White House press corps, she pointed to her ear and repeated herself more forcefully. Duly chastened, the reporters immediately returned her greeting, along with a good-natured laugh.
Video of the exchange went viral on social media. Veteran correspondent April Ryan of The Grio, a fellow Delta Sigma Theta sister, wrote, “Soror Madam Secretary @repmarciafudge had me feeling like I was back in church during announcements.”
Aaron Thomas of Raleigh’s WRAL-TV News wrote, “If speak when you’re spoken to were a person …”
It was an apt introduction to the nation for Secretary Fudge, described by those who know her best as “down-to-earth” and “a straight shooter.”
Immediately following her lighthearted moment in White House Briefing Room, she called on Congress to add up to $100 billion to her agency’s budget, saying it does not have the resources to serve the more than half a million homeless people in the country, repair crumbling public housing buildings and eliminate lead in subsidized homes.
Most of the housing measures that lawmakers have passed to address the pandemic crisis should be made permanent, she said.
“This past year has reminded us just how important it is to have access to safe and stable housing,” she said. “But too many Americans are struggling to keep or find an affordable home.”
Demonstrating her commitment to racial equity, her first meeting following her confirmation was with myself and other civil rights leaders, where we discussed fair and affordable housing, access to capital for Black and Brown people, and resources for those at risk of being evicted due the pandemic. The meeting reinforced my confidence that the Department of Housing and Urban Development is in the hands of a seasoned, experienced and knowledgeable leader.
Secretary Fudge and I held the toughest job in America at the same—she was the first woman and first Black person to serve as Mayor of Warrensville Heights, and I was serving my second term as Mayor of New Orleans. As mayor, she was guided by the same commitment to economic justice that she has brought to President Biden’s cabinet, expanding affordable housing opportunities and confronting the foreclosure crisis with a local partnership that helped residents maintain the financial security they needed to buy or keep a home.
She served as Chief of Staff to U.S. Representative Stephanie Tubbs Jones, and was elected to her seat following the congresswoman’s death in 2008. During her 13 years in Congress, she is best known for her role as Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus from 2013 to 2015, where she tackled issues such as job creation and protecting voting rights. Lesser known is her role in founding the bipartisan Rock and Roll Caucus. Secretary Fudge’s hometown of Cleveland is known as the birthplace of rock and roll, and her former district is home to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
“So many people look at what they call ‘politicians’ as such a dirty word,” she said during a speech to honor the 100th anniversary of the National Urban League. “I am a public servant. I get up every day, and every morning when I leave my apartment, I say, I am going to do the people’s work. That is my job. That is what I was brought here to do. I hope there is someone out there who recognizes what we do, who understands the significance of who we are, and they will feel the same sense of pride we feel today talking about all of the people on whose shoulders we stand today.”
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ChildWatch: This Is Not Normal
On April 8 President Biden announced a series of executive actions to curb America’s gun violence epidemic that kills a child or teen every 2 hours and 36 minutes in our nation. These are critical lifesaving reforms and more must follow. Vice President Harris correctly said during the administration’s announcement, “Time and again, as progress has stalled, we have all asked, ‘What are we waiting for?’ Because we aren’t waiting for a tragedy; I know that. We’ve had more tragedy than we can bear.” As our nation continues to allow more and more guns than people—over 393 million in civilian hands and only 5.5 million in law enforcement and military hands—the tragic loss of life and heartbreak never ends. It must!!
When news broke March 22 of a mass shooting in a Boulder, Colorado grocery store, we were still reeling from March 16th domestic terrorism gun violence attacks in Georgia. That day a hate-filled mass killer walked into a sporting goods store in the morning, bought a gun, and immediately used it to target and murder Asian women at the spas where they worked. The shooter killed eight people, including six Asian women, leaving behind heartbroken children, grandchildren, families, and friends.
The Georgia murders were a clarion call to take action against hate, misogyny, violence, and easy access to guns in our nation. Last March, as COVID-19’s impact was beginning to be widely felt, CDF issued early calls to state and local governments to counteract racism, xenophobia, fear of, and violence towards the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities by denouncing all forms of bullying and discrimination. Instead, then-President Trump repeatedly did the exact opposite, deliberately referring to the COVID-19 virus and its origins in racist and unscientific terms. He set an example as bully-in-chief followed by millions around the country. The group Stop AAPI Hate, which tracks incidents of violence and harassment against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the U.S., has reported nearly 3,800 hate incidents since the pandemic began.
Cherokee County, Georgia Sheriff’s Office Captain Jay Baker used his social media to promote racist t-shirts calling COVID-19 an “imported virus from Chy-na,” and in his official role after the shootings described the gunman as a person who had “a really bad day.” Georgia State Representative Bee Nguyen quickly and correctly responded: “It wasn’t a bad day. It was a brutal and violent crime in which racism, misogyny, gender-based violence, and lax gun laws intersect.” It must stop!
Guns lethalize hatred, anger, domestic disputes, mental illness, and despair. Easy access to guns makes expressions of hate and violence devastating. Six days after Georgia’s murders, a Boulder shooter walked into a grocery store with a semi-automatic rifle and within minutes killed ten people, including a Boulder police officer who left behind seven children. Both the Georgia and Colorado suspects were 21-year-old men who became mass killers thanks to readily accessible and often unregulated guns.
After the 1999 Littleton, Colorado Columbine High School massacre, CDF published a series of Protect Children Not Guns campaign ads with brilliant pro bono help from Minneapolis ad agency Fallon McElligott Rice (now Fallon Worldwide), featuring searing images like the student falling from a window into the waiting arms of police officers in riot gear with the caption “Remember when the only thing kids were afraid of at school was a pop quiz?” Every poster said: It is time we protect children instead of guns. But instead children and all of us have learned over and over again there are no guaranteed safe spaces while hate, bigotry, and terrorism continue to collide with unfettered access to weapons of war. Former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, a survivor of a 2011 mass shooting outside a Tucson grocery store, said after the Boulder grocery store shooting: “This is not normal, and it doesn’t have to be this way. It’s beyond time for our leaders to take action.”
The U.S. House of Representatives has passed legislation requiring background checks for all gun buyers and lengthening the time to complete them from three days to 20, closing the “Charleston loophole” that allowed a white supremacist to purchase a gun and kill nine Black Bible study worshipers at Charleston’s Mother Emanuel AME Church in 2015. A completed background check would have shown his ineligibility to own a gun. The Senate must act quickly to do the same. It’s long past time to curb the relentless power of gun lobbyists and manufacturers and to disarm hate.
Following the Georgia attacks, CDF signed a letter by Asian Americans Advancing Justice and the Atlanta and Georgia NAACP that says: “We are heartbroken by these murders, which come at a time when Asian American communities are already grappling with the traumatic violence against Asian Americans nationwide, fueled by the United States’ long history of white supremacy, systemic racism, and gender-based violence . . . In this time of crisis, let’s come together and build just communities, where we are all safe, where all workers are treated with dignity and respect, and where all our loved ones thrive.” Those are the communities all of our children and grandchildren deserve. When are we going to get there?
We must get there now! We must teach all of our children to reject bigoted and hateful violence and rhetoric. We must continue fighting against the violence of xenophobia and misogyny and confront and teach the full spectrum of our history so that a new generation does not carry forth the poison of racial supremacy and white privilege. And we must stop unfettered access to guns that makes hate and violence uniquely lethal in our nation. Please ask your members of Congress to act now.
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