Young black Anne Arundel County residents shared Monday pain and frustrations stemming from racism and discrimination, while offering insight and solutions the county could tackle.
During an online event hosted by County Executive Steaurt Pittman, county residents spoke on a panel and provided comments revolving around challenges within the county.
Before the event, Pittman said he would listen to black residents under the age of 30 who registered to attend the video call. In response to a Minneapolis police officer kneeling on the neck of a black man for nearly nine minutes, Pittman called for young people in the county to offer insight into their own experiences of living in the county.
“No one is born hating someone else. How do we combat something that we learned at home — that a kid learned in their community,” Medley asked. She proposed that the school system teach classes like the Global Community Citizenship course at a younger level, specifically for elementary aged students.
“At the end of the day, a student spends a lot of time at home. We need to use the education system to combat these hateful ideas. We can combat it by making sure students are aware,” she said.
During the public forum, students in the county aired out grievances when it comes to teaching black history, or the lack of it. A student at Arundel High noted that students were not fully aware of the plight of African Americans, despite American history encompassing black history.
D’Juan Moreland, a panelist and former student at Meade High, echoed the comment by pointing to his own experience in school and said he had to learn about black history on his own.
“It really did a disservice to me. I know I am not the only one who feels this way. The public schools should be providing that information to them. A lot of the history is glossed over or even erased,” Moreland said.
Throughout the online event, a number of residents spoke up about the mental health toll on black people. In particular, people talked about trauma and a lack of resources to address it.
One resident said minority children are taught to be “self-reliant, independent and strong” but in fact should be given support as they deal with mental strains or trauma. Preston Duffield, a Meade High graduate and panelist, spoke directly to black children about possible insecurities.
“We did not choose the color of our skin and yet we are hated for it. I have witnessed children dislike the color of the skin because of what it represents in America. I just want to let them know you deserve life and you deserve a future,” Duffield said.
Annapolis Alderman DaJuan Gay said trauma is one of the sources for anger and frustration felt by black and minority communities.
“Part of that crime and anger and frustration in our communities comes from just untouched trauma and not being able to get in touch with therapists and discuss the anxiety or depression or PTSD that we have from seeing our best friend shot in the head...those are things that continue to happen,” Gay said.
In order to answer to these challenges, participants like Gay and others pointed to policy change and electing officials who can bring about such change.
Solution to Policing
A day before the event, the president of the youth chapter for the NAACP Anne Arundel Chapter urged students to ask the county to pay for body cameras. Drake Smith, who was recently elected to be the student board member, put out a call to action on Sunday and said nearly 100 students responded.
After urging students to ask the county to add body cameras in the county budget, Smith said on Sunday he saw students repost his call to action letter and received emails from students on what they could do. Following days of protests in response to police brutality, Smith said body cameras will help police conduct and restore trust in the community.
“Our entire nation is really hurt — every corner is hurt,” Smith said during the online event. “Police body cameras will make the community really put trust back into the police.”