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Black History Month Voices: Kurt Schmoke | Commentary

During February, Maryland residents are commemorating Black History Month by studying and celebrating the past. Meanwhile, what’s being called the racial reckoning of 2020 is barely in the rearview mirror. Those recent events — Black people killed by police and marches demanding systemic change — are prompting some Baltimore-area residents to explore what needs to be done to ensure there is substantial progress toward achieving racial justice and equity.

The Baltimore Sun asked residents: What will it take to move the region ahead in 2021 and beyond? Specifically what do they want to change, and how will they help make those changes happen? Each week this month, we will share some of their comments about how they hope to move forward after a tumultuous 2020.

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The essays have been edited for clarity and length.

Kurt Schmoke, 71, president, University of Baltimore, first African American elected mayor of Baltimore

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University of Baltimore president Kurt L. Schmoke says he feels a sense of cautious optimism as we move forward in 2021.
University of Baltimore president Kurt L. Schmoke says he feels a sense of cautious optimism as we move forward in 2021. (Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun)

As I look forward, I feel a sense of cautious optimism: Cautious because of uncertainties surrounding the public health pandemic and partisan politics at the national level. Optimistic because of my association with two institutions that affect the quality of life in our region in such a positive way.

The University of Baltimore is the region’s premier career-oriented public university. Serving serious-minded adult learners, the university has a profound influence on the social mobility of its students. Those who obtain degrees from the University of Baltimore find that their life prospects and those of their families improved significantly.

Likewise, the Baltimore City Community College (BCCC), where I serve as a trustee, offers programs that provide pathways to meaningful careers. BCCC provides the tools needed to obtain jobs that are future oriented and well paid.

A commitment to lifelong learning is what will make a positive difference in the lives of those living and working in Baltimore. The University of Baltimore and BCCC respond to those so committed and thereby help to make a great city greater.

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— Compiled by Mike Klingaman

Read other Black History Month Voices essays

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