Racial profiling, minority businesses and higher education will be among the top issues as Maryland's Legislative Black Caucus meets today to hear recommendations from the public on its agenda for next year.
The caucus, formed in 1970 when 17 African-American lawmakers served in the General Assembly, is throwing an extra measure of celebration into its annual legislative weekend as it marks its 30th anniversary.
Now numbering 38 members, the group will hold workshops on such issues as health, the justice system and economic development starting at 10 a.m. at the Lowe House Office Building in Annapolis. The sessions will continue until 3 p.m. and are open to the public.
Del. Talmadge Branch, caucus chairman, said members are likely to push for increased funding for historically black colleges and a possible extension of the program that encourages minority participation in state contracts.
Branch said the caucus also will back legislation to bar police from racial profiling - stopping motorists and others on the basis of their race. He noted that Gov. Parris N. Glendening has said such legislation, which failed this year because of a split within the caucus, will be on his agenda for 2001.
"The governor has made it his priority, and certainly we want to join him on that," said Branch, a Baltimore Democrat.
The caucus launched its two-day gathering with a Youth Summit yesterday that brought together hundreds of students from Baltimore, Prince George's County and other parts of the state. The students took part in workshops on conflict resolution and "Readiness for the World."
In one session, instructor Alfreda Brizan played a segment of popular rap music and quizzed the audience about its meaning. "The music industry paints an image in your mind. If you close your eyes, what would that image be?" she asked.
"Basically, it is money, jewelry, cars, women and actual property," one male student replied.
Eunique Jones, a senior at Largo High School in Prince George's County, said the message from today's female rap artists is "I still need a man, but I need a man who will do for me."
Others heard Ray Sydnor, a former football player for the Philadelphia Eagles, tell about childhood friends who ended up on the street because of drug problems and about his own crack addiction.
"The world wants to steal your dreams," said Sydnor, who speaks on behalf of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. "You're not going to get there by drinking, smoking or getting high."
The gathering will conclude with a reception and party tonight at PSINet Stadium in Baltimore.