Grassroots awareness is growing in Prince George's in the face of criminal justice abuses, communities without jobs and official indifference to inequality.
/By Justin Vest/Prince George’s County has the unique distinction of being the most affluent majority African American county in the United States. While the county enjoys significant levels of black community and political leadership, many of the struggles existing in other black neighborhoods–poverty, unemployment, police violence–persist.
This conundrum has attracted some regional attention. Last month Kojo Nnamdi hosted “A Conversation About Black Lives Matter” in Prince George’s County. As part of the panel, Progressive Maryland’s new executive director, Larry Stafford, parsed through the facade of “black power” in Prince George’s arguing that the common thread that connects wealthy and poor alike is the devaluation of black life. This may take many forms including violence at the hands of police, the foreclosure crisis that disproportionately affected black homeowners, or the influx of low-wage jobs to the county under the guise of economic development.
This past summer, Progressive Maryland took steps to begin lifting up those people most marginalized within the county with the launch of a new chapter, Progressive Prince George’s (PPG). The packed launch meeting took place in a local union hall and immediately galvanized community members and activists to take action on some of the county’s most pressing issues–community development, improving workplace policies, and police reform. Tapping in to the national momentum to address the crisis of endemic police abuse within communities of color, PPG has partnered with the Maryland Coalition for Justice and Police Accountability. The coalition is working to advance a broad legislative agenda in the coming session of the General Assembly, but community members are looking for more and taking action.
PPG hosted several events last week to talk to residents across Prince George’s County about the issues important to them. Time and again, people wanted to know what they could do immediately in their communities to advance the cause for justice. They’ve volunteered to join canvasses to educate their neighbors about these pressing issues, invited us to their campuses to engage students, proposed a people’s news service to fill the widening gaps in coverage left by the death of the Gazette and dwindling focus by The Washington Post, and most of all want to empower other people to stand up against injustice. There’s an awakening happening in Prince George’s County. A movement is building–one that sees, and seeks to bring change to, the everyday struggles that come with low wages and no benefits, the routine harassment by law enforcement, and the blind eye cast by political leaders.