‘State of Black Montgomery’ Addresses Changing Community (Video)

It was standing room only at the first annual State of Black Montgomery forum in Silver Spring where community engagement was the topic surrounding discussions on political, economic and social justice issues close to the African American community.

As residents, activists and politicians came together, the message was clear – they said there’s still a lot of work to do.

“We have a very diverse Black community,” said Silver Spring resident Jean Bailey. “We’re not monolithic. We have a large African immigrant population, also we have a lot of Latino who are also Black along with those who are African-American and so I think we need to get them more engaged in the issues that affect them.”

For some politicians in attendance, the conversation, which was organized by the African-American Democratic Club of Montgomery County and the Montgomery County Young Democrats, was a reminder of how far the Black community has progressed over the years, but is also a reminder of how far they have to go.

“You have a County Executive who’s African-American, you have a council president that African American, you have a former school board president that’s African-American I mean you have no limitations when it comes to that, the reality is that there are still challenges that we face,” said Montgomery County Council President Craig Rice.

And while the issues vary, a majority of the discussion among political leaders focused on addressing the economic gap among minority groups in the County.

“We’re kind of talking about a tale of two counties. There certainly are people who are prospering and flourishing and yet there are dramatic increases in the wage gap, the income gap, the wealth gap,” said Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-District 20).

For some, success in moving forward comes down to communicating how the community is changing and diversifying.

“There needs to be a new narrative about Montgomery County, we’ve told an old story for a very long time,” said Valerie Ervin, Executive Director, Center for Working Families and former Montgomery County Councilmember. “Montgomery County is no longer mostly White and homogeneous, it is a very very culturally, richly diverse community with lots of issues that we don’t believe are being addressed.”

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Valerie Bonk

About Valerie Bonk

Valerie Bonk is a multimedia reporter and community engagement specialist with Montgomery Community Media (MCM).

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