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2020 Marylander of the Year: honorable mentions | COMMENTARY

The Sun will announce its choice for 2020 Marylander of the Year this weekend, chosen from the five finalists revealed last week: front-line workers, both in health care and service industries; Lauren Gardner, creator of the John’s Hopkins COVID-19 Dashboard; Wes Moore, nonprofit leader, equity advocate and author; Kathleen Neuzil, an international leader in COVID-19 vaccine and treatment development; and A’niya Taylor, a 17-year-old social justice activist and organizer.

But several other individuals and organizations also contributed significantly to making Maryland a better place this year and deserve recognition for their outstanding efforts.

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And so, we present the 2020 Marylander of the Year Honorable Mentions:

Christopher Bedford, director of the Baltimore Museum of Art, is pictured Nov. 9, 2020 outside the museum.
Christopher Bedford, director of the Baltimore Museum of Art, is pictured Nov. 9, 2020 outside the museum. (Lloyd Fox/Baltimore Sun/TNS)

Christopher Bedford

The executive director of the Baltimore Museum of Art continued to stretch the boundaries of the art world in the name of diversity by launching an effort to sell several significant works — including Andy Warhol’s “The Last Supper” — in order to promote equity in both the BMA’s collection and its operations. The funds would have been used to acquire works by women and artists of color, raise staff salaries to reflect market rates and eliminate certain admissions fees, among other things. The plan was ultimately abandoned amid fierce backlash over the untraditional sale. But we hope Mr. Bedford continues his bold push for change, which is necessary to secure the museum’s future and better reflect the diverse talents of the wider population.

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The Rev. Derrick C. DeWitt Sr. stands outside as visiting pharmacists at the Maryland Baptist Aged Home administer the first round of novel-coronavirus vaccines released by Pfizer Wed., Dec. 23, 2020. (Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun Staff)
The Rev. Derrick C. DeWitt Sr. stands outside as visiting pharmacists at the Maryland Baptist Aged Home administer the first round of novel-coronavirus vaccines released by Pfizer Wed., Dec. 23, 2020. (Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun Staff) (Karl Merton Ferron/Karl Merton Ferron)

Derrick DeWitt

Through quick, decisive and early action, the director of the 100-year-old Maryland Baptist Aged Home in West Baltimore was able to keep coronavirus at bay, unlike many other area homes for the elderly, potentially saving the lives of the 30 residents and 40 employees in his facility. Way back in February, when the rest of us were still freely breathing all over each other, Rev. DeWitt shut down visitation. He followed that with eliminating non-essential trips outside, stocking up on personal protective equipment, and limiting staff contact with others. He had years earlier hired an infection prevention specialist to train the staff in best practices and establish protocols, so they were more ready than most. The actions were tough love, but they have thus far led to zero COVID-19 cases at the home, thought to be the oldest African American owned and operated nursing home in Maryland.

Dr. Tom Inglesby, director of the Bloomberg School of Public Health at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, speaks during a briefing on the developments of the novel coronavirus on Capitol Hill on March 6 in Washington.
Dr. Tom Inglesby, director of the Bloomberg School of Public Health at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, speaks during a briefing on the developments of the novel coronavirus on Capitol Hill on March 6 in Washington. (Samuel Corum/Getty Images)

Tom Inglesby

As a top coronavirus task force adviser to Gov. Larry Hogan, Dr. Inglesby, who runs the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Center for Health Security, helped craft Maryland’s swift and cautious response to the novel coronavirus, which is credited with sparing our state the early misery felt by those slower to act. But he’s perhaps best known for his candid calling out of the president’s mishandling of COVID-19 on the commander-in-chief’s preferred medium: Twitter. In March, after Donald Trump complained about coronavirus restrictions negatively affecting the economy, Dr. Inglesby tweeted a long thread, shared by thousands, explaining why such measures were necessary. He also took the governor to task in a series of 10 strongly worded tweets in June, after Mr. Hogan significantly loosened state restrictions too soon. In each instance, Dr. Inglesby offered strong words state residents needed to hear to make informed decisions about how to behave to reduce the threat of coronavirus transmission.

Emily Lerman, left, one of the cofounders of the Mera Kitchen Collective, and Irena Stein, owner of Alma Cocina Latina, have started a foundation called the MK Foundation, which focuses on food for underserved communities. July 10, 2020
Emily Lerman, left, one of the cofounders of the Mera Kitchen Collective, and Irena Stein, owner of Alma Cocina Latina, have started a foundation called the MK Foundation, which focuses on food for underserved communities. July 10, 2020 (Barbara Haddock Taylor / Baltimore Sun)

MK Foundation

The nonprofit foundation was set up this summer by Emily Lerman of the Mera Kitchen Collective — a community-focused, worker-driven food collaborative largely co-founded by women refugees and immigrants in Baltimore — in partnership with Alma Cocina Latina restaurant, which is owned by Irina Stein. It expands upon an effort Mera and Alma began earlier this year, as COVID-19 set in, to raise funds to distribute prepared meals in the community to those who are experiencing food insecurity because of the pandemic. The MK Foundation, fiscally sponsored by the Maryland Philanthropy Network, offers a way for people to make tax-deductible donations to further that work. Thus far, the collaborators have delivered more than 90,000 meals in the community, with generous funding support from the D.C.-based World Central Kitchen. They also fed city demonstrators protesting police brutality this spring.

The Baltimore Sun editorial board — made up of Opinion Editor Tricia Bishop, Deputy Editor Andrea K. McDaniels and writer Peter Jensen — offers opinions and analysis on news and issues relevant to readers. It is separate from the newsroom.

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