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Government & Politics Justice

On MLK Day, Lawmaker Draws Line From Dr. King to Speaker Jones

Del. Nick J. Mosby (D-Baltimore City) delivered the annual Martin Luther King Jr. speech in the House of Delegates Monday night, as Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County) looked on. Photo by Danielle E. Gaines

Del. Nick J. Mosby (D-Baltimore City) on Monday drew a direct line between the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County), saying Jones’ ascension to the top job in the chamber last year “is in no small way the manifestations” of the work of King and other civil rights leaders.

“You are a historic figure and a game-changer,” Mosby told his colleague as he delivered the annual King Day speech in the House. He thanked Jones ― the first African-American and the first woman to hold the speaker’s gavel ― for being a role model for his daughters and other girls of color throughout Maryland.

Mosby, who is 41, recalled growing up “in a three-bedroom rowhouse in West Baltimore with six women,” where portraits of Jesus, President John F. Kennedy and King hung from the wall.

Mosby said his family mourned King’s murder more than a dozen years after it happened and “we are still in the same mourning we were in back then.”

But Mosby said political leaders all across the country ― and in the Maryland House of Delegates specifically ― should follow King’s lead and “grow comfortable feeling uncomfortable.”

“There’s still so much more work to do, in America, in Maryland and in this chamber,” he said.

Mosby laid out an agenda for this legislative session that he said could help fulfill King’s dream: Pushing to improve Maryland’s public schools; ensuring that walls of institutional racism come tumbling down; working for equality in the medical and recreational marijuana industries; fighting for funding for the state’s historically black colleges and universities; promoting environmental justice; and developing public transportation that provides Marylanders “a vehicle for upward mobility.”

Meanwhile, Sen. Malcolm L. Augustine (D-Prince George’s), who delivered the upper chamber’s annual King message, described how over 300 years worth of oppression brought rise to King and his message that “‘injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.'”

Sen. Malcolm Augustine (D-Prince George’s) speaking of the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in the Senate Monday night. Photo by Danielle E. Gaines

Augustine’s speech centered around America’s stained history, starting with 2019’s “symbolic marker” of the 400th anniversary of enslaved Africans landing in Jamestown, Va., before moving on to the roots of racism in the Constitution, citing the three-fifths compromise penned by its Southern framers and the Dred Scott Supreme Court decision of 1857 that determined that people of African ancestry weren’t full U.S. citizens.

“Let this be a lesson to us and all legislators that our words matter and they matter for our day, and for the generations of Marylanders to come,” Augustine asserted. “Who in this chamber would stand by such unequal language today?”

The Maryland General Assembly produced its share of discriminatory Jim Crow legislation, Augustine reminded his fellow lawmakers, referencing an early 20th century state law that mandated segregation in train cars. Augustine urged colleagues to consider the impact that their decisions during this session will have on the future for pressing issues like education and criminal justice reform ― the same way the founding fathers who penned the three-fifths compromise did.

“We senators are part of the tapestry of American life and history,” he said. “Our written words and legislative decisions in this chamber will be judged over time, and we as individuals and as a collective body will be judged as to whether we were on the side of righteousness or if we were not.

“It takes time to undo 400 years of history.”

Danielle E. Gaines contributed to this report.

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On MLK Day, Lawmaker Draws Line From Dr. King to Speaker Jones