After a nearly 13-year hiatus, the Civil Rights Coalition of Maryland (CRCMD) is coming back.
The coalition announced on Tuesday that it was officially relaunching with the ratification of by-laws and the election of officers. The coalition is made up of more than two dozen organizations representing racial, religious and other communities throughout the state, and is being relaunched to bring together these disparate organizations to speak as one voice on issues of importance regarding civil rights.
Among the members of the coalition are Gender Rights Maryland, Equality Maryland, CASA de Maryland, the NAACP, and representatives from various faith traditions, including the Catholic Conference. Each organization will have one representative with one vote that they can cast when considering initiatives to tackle or positions to take on various civil rights issues. There will be no official staff or fundraising arm of the coalition, and member organizations will each pay dues to take part.
The coalition’s newly elected board includes Gerald Stansbury of the Maryland State Conference of NAACP Branches, who will serve as chair; Dr. Dana Beyer of Gender Rights Maryland, who will serve as vice chair; Virginia Knowlton of the Maryland Disability Law Center, serving as treasurer, and Rev. Dr. Carletta Allen, the senior pastor at Asbury United Methodist Church in Annapolis, who will serve as secretary.
“We are at a critical juncture — it is important now more than ever before to identify and resolve pressing matters we face every day,” Stansbury said in a statement. “By coming together with a renewed focus on advancing civil and human rights for all Marylanders, we can achieve our mission of realizing social and economic conditions that enhance the fulfillment of these rights.”
Beyer tells Metro Weekly that it was interesting, because someone had mentioned reviving the coalition at the last Human Rights Day, which was hosted by the Maryland Association of Human Rights/Relations Agencies in Annapolis in March. That suggestion was floated well before the death of Baltimore resident Freddie Gray while in police custody in April, which sparked riots and unrest over police treatment of people of color in Baltimore in late spring.
Beyer says after the unrest in Baltimore, it became apparent that an organization like the coalition was needed to be able to speak as a unified force, with a single message, to lawmakers and policymakers about what needs to be done to defend people’s civil rights. This unified approach is much different from the course that member organizations have typically taken, which is to lobby for their own causes in Annapolis, sometimes even working other members of the coalition on different sides of an issue, such as on the transgender nondiscrimination bill in 2014.
“We believe we can make more progress with a single voice,” Beyer says of the coalition’s aims.