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Recent protest organizers, other young Anne Arundel activists honored by Caucus of African American Leaders

The Caucus of African American Leaders recognized Tuesday 26 young leaders and activists who have played integral roles in the county’s “unprecedented” number of marches and protests against racial injustice and inequality.

The group of honorees was dubbed “A Few of the Many” by the caucus — a consortium of civil rights organizations, Black-owned businesses, clergy, activists and elected officials ― was recognized at the Civil Rights Foot Soldiers Memorial at The People’s Park in Annapolis. The park was renamed as such from Whitmore Park shortly beforehand.

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“Those [26] people that’s being honored tonight represents a few of the many who have participated in these demonstrations,” said caucus founder and convener Carl Snowden.

Snowden called those demonstrations “historic and unprecedented.”

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Four of the eighteen honorees who attended the meeting used their platform to share statements with those present. Meron Henok, who was honored for raising awareness around police accountability and education equity and for organizing a march in Russett, was the first to share her thoughts.

“The one thing that the future should be worried about and fearful about is our generation... the youth,” said Henok. “Because I promise, we stand here today because we will not stop, we will not rest, and we will not comply, we will not obey until our revolution has been delivered.”

The caucus also recognized Alderman DaJuan Gay, D-Ward 6, who, at 22, became the youngest City Council member in Annapolis’ history after being elected in 2019.

“The marching lasted for a couple of weeks, but now it’s time to actually put pen to paper and make some actual policy changes,” Gay said.

The Annapolis City Council passed Monday a resolution proposed by Gay that declared youth violence a public health epidemic and announced plans for trauma-informed education and response methods.

Gay said widespread youth activism and acceptance of the Black Lives Matter movement among white people within the county have differentiated the protests that have come in the wake of George Floyd’s death from past civil rights and racial justice movements.

Support from these demographics have strengthened the movement, he said.

Snowden described Gay as one of the principal organizers in Annapolis, who brought together young people to help lead local protests.

“For [the caucus], he represents what we hope to see in the future,” Snowden said. “More young people getting involved in the decision-making process by being at the table to make decisions that will affect the course of the nation.”

Harold Lloyd, an honoree and a recent graduate of Frostburg State University, where he majored in law and society and political science with a minor in sociology, was among those who collaborated with Gay.

“I’m happy that I’m being honored, but I know that there’s a lot of work that has to be done, and I can’t let that distract me,” said Lloyd, who is also the founder of Superior Future, a nonprofit created to provide youth in low-income communities with educational opportunities.

Lloyd said he and Gay, as well as Kyree Stinson and Nailah Mitchell, both of whom also honored at the meeting, organized multiple protests in the county between the end of May and the beginning of July.

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Mitchell, a senior accounting major at Bowie State University who also spoke at the meeting, said she wanted to use tonight’s event as a platform to ask Pittman, Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley and county Sheriff Jim Fredericks to find ways to address Black people being perceived as a threat in society.

Honoree Drake Smith, who was sworn in on July 1 as the student member of the Anne Arundel County Board of Education, said he wants to see curriculum changes in the county school system encouraging conversation between different groups of people.

“My philosophy is, we have all these barriers up, it can be your skin color, your religion, sexual orientation, and all those get in the way of seeing each other’s humanity,” Smith said. “The more time we talk to one another, that’s more barriers that’ll be broken down.”

Smith is a rising senior at Meade Senior High School and succeeded Gay as president of the youth and college division of the Anne Arundel County NAACP before joining the board of education.

Snowden said the Caucus for African-American Leaders invited program participants and honorees to appear in person for Tuesday night’s meeting and encouraged others to tune in via Zoom. Seats were spaced apart to maintain social distancing. The number of Zoom attendees hovered around 60 for much of the meeting.

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