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Commentary Election 2022 Government & Politics Justice

Opinion: In Praise of Lawmakers Working on Racial Injustice

The Maryland State House. Photo by Bruce DePuyt.

By Henriot St. Gerard

The writer is a resident of Montgomery County.

Today, our nation continues to confront, among other things, social injustice brought on by the deaths of Black citizens at the hands of police. Unfortunately, in 2022, Maryland is not immune or shielded from these issues.

As an African American with three young children, I worry about injustice and inequality, especially in Montgomery County. It drives and inspires the advocacy work I do for the many organizations that align with my values. It is also the reason I continue to work diligently with our legislators and like-minded community activists to ensure my son and two daughters can live a life not fearful that their race is an impediment or seen as a threat to others.

During this year’s legislative session, I am watching with great interest as the Maryland General Assembly continues to tackle complex issues around police and social justice reform. Historically, state legislators have ignored or only superficially addressed many important issues facing the African American community. I am happy to witness as leaders in the Assembly show great courage in taking up these transformational reforms. This includes legislation related to juvenile justice and civilian oversight of police.

I lived in Sen. Jeff Waldstreicher’s legislative district for over 10 years and worked closely with him in my community. I believe that Jeff, who is the vice chair of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, has lived a life dedicated to service and problem-solving, with an unwavering dedication to racial reconciliation and justice. He walks the walk; he does the work.

That dedication has turned into a record of progressive accomplishments in Annapolis. Joining with Black colleagues on the Judicial Proceedings Committee like Chair Will Smith and Sen. Jill Carter, Jeff has led critical criminal justice reforms, including expanding re-entry opportunities and decriminalizing cannabis. All those issues disproportionately affect Black and Brown residents of Montgomery County and Maryland. Jeff has also fought for record spending for our pandemic recovery ­— including rent relief, utility relief, and protections for vulnerable seniors. Throughout his tenure as an elected official, Jeff’s approach has always been thoughtful, nuanced, and inclusive.

The reforms of 2021 were a great start toward a long-term vision of reforming many aspects of our criminal justice system. Now that the 2022 legislative session is in full swing. The work fighting for racial justice and against inequality continues. Sen. Waldstreicher is one of many individuals I trust who will work tirelessly and help bend the arc toward justice. I consider him a stalwart ally in this fight and know he will stand up for marginalized members of our community during the rest of this session.