A black pastor took a member of the Harford County Board of Education to task Monday night for comments he made last month in support of Del. Mary Ann Lisanti after she used a racial slur.
“I stand here tonight as an African-American man, four generations removed from slavery,” said Pastor A.L. Reeves, director of boys 2 MEN.
According to its website, boys 2 MEN is a multicultural mentoring program for boys in fifth to eighth grades, focusing on academic excellence along with an after-school athletic component which assists males in their educational success.
“We live in a society housed within a form of racism, a lack of understanding and knowledge,” Reeves said.
Lisanti made a “serious error” when she used the N-word to describe a predominantly African-American legislative district in Prince George’s County, he said. Lisanti made the remark in January in front of other legislators at an Annapolis bar. She was confronted Feb. 25 by leaders of the Legislative Black Caucus and apologized and was censured by the House a few days later.
“And a board member saw fit to support that in a couple different ways,” Reeves said, without identifying the board member by name.
Amid the fallout and calls for Lisanti’s resignation from many Harford and statewide groups, board member Al Williamson had previously expressed his support for Lisanti. Williamson did not immediately return a message left for him Tuesday morning.
“I do not defend what she said, but in defense of her service to the people, to minorities, to everybody in Harford County and in the state of Maryland, she deserves better,” Williamson, who is white, said in February.
Williamson said he thought Lisanti’s remarks were “a mistake that a lot of people can make and will make, and we should forgive her and help her and not throw her in the lion’s den.”
Reeves disagreed with those comments Monday.
“We should hold a higher standard of accountability to those individuals who serve the people that we need to lift up,” he said.
Society has forgotten about the meaning of service, of leadership.
“The mean of leadership means that words such as the N-word should never be permitted in any part of our society,” Reeves said.
In boys 2 MEN, about 83 percent of which is African-American, he teaches the young men who use the word at derogatory times how wrong the word is.
“It’s wrong because to use it on any individual takes away their humanity. It takes away who they are as an individual,” Reeves said. “They no longer have a name, how they are associated with being just something. We know our kids are more than just something.”
The boys 2 MEN leader encouraged the school board member to look at his comments, to correct them and sit and talk with some of the young men in his program, ones who “are drastically upset” about Lisanti’s comments.
“Maybe have a dialogue that would begin to change the dialogue in our society,” Reeves said. “This is the moment, this is the time. We can’t go backward, we must go forward. We will never use the N-word on any of us again.”