Historically, Black people’s struggle for our collective liberation has been rooted in the cultivation of a Black power base. During the period of Enslavement and Jim Crow, the Black Church served as the power base that powered much of Black freedom movement.
Black people in various arenas have developed entities that have served as Black power bases within particular industries. Black people in labor, social work, human services and business have developed formations that have attempted to provide a power base as a basis for navigating white dominated institutions. Legislative bodies are no different.
The Maryland Legislative Black Caucus was founded in 1970 as a way to establish a power base to represent the interests of Black people in MD. Over the years the Black Caucus has had ups and downs in terms of its ability to act as a unit to apply its collective pressure on the legislature. Many of the ways that Black politics has been co-opted by business and corporate interests has impacted the Black Caucus. Some of the former leaders of the Black Caucus have been complicit with policies toward mass incarceration and LBS many others have had to pressure the Black Caucus to reject those policies.
There was even some talk a few years ago about the development of a progressive caucus out of frustration with the lack of consistent support for progressive criminal justice policy from Black Caucus. LBS has advocated against the development of a progressive caucus because this would allow non-Black people to be able have leadership roles on issues that impact Black people. We think that we need to organize amongst ourselves to produce a caucus that is more radical in its policy advocacy.
Over the years LBS and others have pressured the Black Caucus to support progressive criminal justice policy. It is our belief that whenever the Black Caucus has weighed in on an issue that it has had a major impact.
Currently, the Black Caucus is in an interesting position, because there is now a Black Speaker of the House of Delegates – Delegate Adrienne Jones. While the Speaker being a Black Woman is a powerful image for many people in MD, the source of legislative demands made on behalf of Black people should come from the Black Caucus. This is important because we should not let our Black legislators off the hook of speaking up for our community and putting all that pressure on one person because they happen to be the Speaker.
We want to applaud the Black Caucus for aligning their 2021 criminal justice agenda with LBS’ legislative agenda for policing. We hope to work with the Black Caucus and continue to play our part in tapping the enormous power that they posses in MD.