BBJ: Greater Baltimore business groups issue renewed call to combat systemic racism

By Melody Simmons
June 4, 2020

Some top city leaders are issuing a renewed call to address and fix systemic racism in Baltimore and its surrounding jurisdictions following the murder of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis.

The Greater Baltimore Committee, the Open Society Institute and the entire board of the upscale Center Club were among the groups who said they stand ready for change after Floyd’s May 25 murder during an arrest. His death sparked angry protests across the world, including a march that drew thousands in Baltimore June 1.

The push to root out racism and its impact on communities of color is not new in Baltimore. Yet Floyd’s death has renewed some commitments made in 2015 by city leaders after the death of Freddie Gray in police custody in West Baltimore, they said this week.

Millions were raised and grants were issued in the aftermath to focus on new and existing programs for youth and families and to increase opportunities.

Those initiatives focused on some of the city’s most dire neighborhoods and the impact of generations of poverty. It also led to a federal consent decree in April 2017 on policing in Baltimore. The decree oversees police reform and promote community trust.

“The time for inaction has passed,” said a statement from the Open Society Institute-Baltimore on Wednesday. “We call on the city, the Baltimore Police Department, the consent decree monitoring team and Judge William Bredar, who oversees its implementation, to vastly step up the implementation of reforms with the urgency they demand. Obstacles and slow-rolling cannot be tolerated. Lives are, quite literally, at stake.”

Donald Fry, CEO of the GBC said Wednesday the nonprofit business group was all-in on helping to solve the social problems of some of Baltimore’s neediest residents. The GBC has had a Bridging the Gap program in place for nearly two decades and last year held a Diversity and Inclusion Summit downtown that drew more than 200.

“The business community recognizes the importance of developing solutions to address structural racism within our personal and professional lives and will pursue programs and legislative action to address the inequities that exist,” Fry said.

The Board of Governors at the private Center Club located in the Transamerica Tower near the Inner Harbor voted Wednesday to lobby city and national leaders to end systemic racism and make change. The club’s board holds some of the area’s top business and academic leaders, including including Calvin Butler Jr., CEO of BGE; Mark Deering, a vice president at MacKenzie Commercial Real Estate; Bonnie Phipps, an executive with Yaffe and Co. and Augie Chiasera, M&T Bank’s president for the Greater Baltimore/Chesapeake region. (Baltimore Business Journal Publisher Rhonda Pringle is also a member of the board.)

“We call on our public officials to root out failed practices and policies; to be accountable and hold accountable any and all who would impede our progress to come together and heal,” the statement said.

To read the complete story, visit the Baltimore Business Journal’s website.

Source: Baltimore Business Journal