Commissioner Eric Bouchat proposed the Carroll County government create a heritage commission to recognize the history and accomplishments of African Americans in the county.
Bouchat, R-District 4, told his fellow commissioners at their Thursday meeting he is concerned about how the county is perceived and feels there is a potential disconnect with the African American community. He said the commission could partner with other like-minded groups, such as the Carroll County branch of the NAACP, to create memorials to lynching victims and black Americans who served in the Civil War.
“We need to have a certain focal point as a county government to receive and digest information, and then make things happen,” Bouchat said.
The board did not take official action to create a commission, and key details, such as the makeup of the commission, have yet to be determined.
The other commissioners supported the idea, with Commissioner Richard Weaver, R-District 2, saying he thinks a conversation needs to be had with the people this commission would affect.
“Right now we’re talking about things that we’ve never encountered as white males in Carroll County,” Weaver said. “I think we have to first of all listen to what people are telling us.”
Commissioner Ed Rothstein, R-District 5, suggested expanding the idea to a “diversity commission” that would support multiple minority groups. His colleagues signaled support for the idea.
The board agreed to work with Carroll Media Center to put together a virtual panel discussion and listening session as the first step toward forming a diversity commission. It’s unclear when that might be scheduled, but county staff are beginning to look into it.
Bouchat said in an interview he began thinking about what county government could do for the African American community last year after meeting with alumni of the former Robert Moton High School to discuss creating a museum for the school at what is now the Robert Moton Center, at 300 S. Court St. in Westminster. Robert Moton High School opened in Westminster in the 1930s to serve black students.
Bouchat said this museum could be a goal of the diversity commission, and while he loves the idea of using history to educate people and promote tourism, he also wants to change the present. He fears the county is perceived by some as racist, and he said he’s determined to change that perception.
Daily Black Lives Matter rallies against racism started to be held in Westminster and Sykesville the first week of June. Bouchat said he attended a Westminster rally last week, spoke to people and was saddened to hear about racist experiences they’ve had in Carroll County.
“I want people to know this is unacceptable,” Bouchat said.