By Lenore T. Adkins, Special to the AFRO
With the March 29 election of Maryland Delegate Darryl Barnes (District 25) to chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland, Prince George’s County now has two people advocating its interests in the caucus.
Barnes and Delegate Jazz Lewis, the caucus’ new secretary, both represent Prince George’s County on the body, but Barnes sees his role as pushing leaders to recognize the plight of Blacks all over the state.
“I have direct input with leadership, so they’ll be able to hear Maryland concerns not only from Prince George’s County, but I have the whole caucus behind me,” Barnes told the AFRO.
Prince George’s County — one of the wealthiest predominantly Black counties in the United States is in the midst of an $8 billion development boom — the same things hurting Blacks there are impacting Blacks all over Maryland, Barnes contends.
Barnes said he will lead the caucus in putting together a plan that outlines the Maryland Black agenda through 2030. It would lay out action plans for addressing a myriad of issues, including disparities in housing, transportation, economics, health, education, criminal justice reform and more.
The caucus was expected to talk strategy on April 11 for a third time with the NAACP, the National Urban League, the American Civil Liberties Union, fraternities, sororities, pastors and nonprofits.
“There are so many different things that impact Black people, so I want to do a more complete study in putting together a comprehensive agenda that reaches out to 2030,” Barnes said.
Originally elected to the Maryland House of Delegates in 2014, Barnes, 53, becomes the first man to head the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland in more than a decade. He served as its parliamentarian for about a year starting in 2015 before he was named first vice chair in 2016.
The challenges started almost immediately.
A crucial issue the caucus took up during Barnes’ first three days of leadership was opposing Senate Bill 122, a crime bill Barnes said hurts the Black community due to some of its mandatory sentences.
The bill proposed raising the maximum penalties for crimes such as wearing or carrying a firearm in connection with drug trafficking or using a firearm during an act of violence or felony, according to The Baltimore Sun In some instances, it proposed doubling the maximum sentence to as much as 40 years, according to the newspaper. SB 122 ultimately did not pass.
The caucus’ number one job in Barnes’ view is building a cohesive unit “one individual at a time” to work as a body to address concerns in their respective districts.
Barnes’ goal for the caucus is to make it a powerful entity that collaborates with D.C., Virginia and Delaware to fight the same issues that plague Black communities there as well. He plans to reach out to those stakeholders in the coming days.
Barnes and the other new officers will be inducted into the caucus July 7 at a unity breakfast