Glen Burnie group goal: empower black women

October 12, 1992|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,Staff Writer

Black women have a "civic duty" to provide leadership and make themselves "a visible force" in the community, said Christine Davenport of Glen Burnie.

That is why she launched last night an organization in the county for black adults to help their community's youth get ahead and flex their political muscle.

Mrs. Davenport was joined by 38 women in chartering the Greater Glen Burnie Chapter of the non-profit National Coalition of 100 Black Women, the fifth Maryland chapter of the 10,000-member national organization. The other chapters are in Montgomery and Prince George's counties and Baltimore.

"We need to be visible. We need to be heard. We need to let our community know we are there and we want to get problems solved," she said.

The fledgling chapter's goal is to become a political and social force in the community, to link black professional women and nurture the coming generation of black leaders.

"African Americans feel like a stepchild" in the county, Mrs. Davenport said. Few hold elected office, few are appointed to boards and commissions, few obtain lucrative county contracts, she said. The group plans to work to change that.

Its first goal is to show that women, especially black women, will take their concerns to the ballot box on November 3.

"The first three hours the polls are open, I want them at that poll. We want you to get out in the first three hours, all women. Our strength and solidarity will be seen," Mrs. Davenport said in an interview.

About 15 percent of the county's population is black.

Nearly half of the chapter's founding members, most of whom attended a dinner chartering the organization last night, are educators in the county. But there are others in diverse fields, such as Pat Handy of Hanover who owns and operates two Little Hammy day care centers.

"We can help the young women in our community. We have a job to do -- it's long overdue -- to enlighten our young women to be our leaders of tomorrow," she said.

"I think it can open up more opportunities for blacks in the county," said Debbie Houston, a seventh-grade social studies teacher at Corkran Middle School in Glen Burnie.

The women spoke frequently of "empowerment."

"This is an organization that seems to be about empowering women in the political arena, in the business arena and in the social arena," said Janice Brown, a fifth-grade teacher at Marley Elementary School.

This is the third organization that Mrs. Davenport, a teacher of gifted and talented at MacArthur Middle School, has founded.

In 1988, she organized the North Arundel County Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta, a sorority of college educated black professional women doing volunteer work in the community. Its 40 members serve as mentors to black girls, taking them to museums, tutoring them in schoolwork and helping them with personal issues.

Two years later, Mrs. Davenport founded the Glen Burnie Chapter of Jack and Jill of America, a family-oriented organization to "inspire kids to get into leadership roles, give them self-respect, self-esteem," she said.

The group of 17 families focuses on giving their 40 children reasons to feel good about their deeds and attain goals. Among its projects is a savings program that has the children making monthly bank account deposits out of their allowances.

But, Mrs. Davenport said, she still saw a gap.

"We still had a lot of things to do," she said.

Some women did not want the sorority life, other women had no families, but "they still had so much talent," she said.

Friends elsewhere introduced her to the coalition, which she felt could complement existing organizations.

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