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Maryland Chamber joins initiative to end social inequities

Christine Ross of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce.

Md. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Christine Ross. (The Daily Record/File Photo)

The Maryland Chamber of Commerce announced Tuesday it is partnering with its national parent to address systemic racism and inequality and to explore education, employment and criminal justice reforms.

The Chamber’s announcement is the latest from major business groups that have sought to find common cause with protesters decrying what they believe is systemic racism in mainstream institutions.

The Maryland Chamber will join a national virtual town hall on Jun. 25 to discuss steps governments and the private sector can take toward reforms. It also plans to host multiple local, industry-focused webinars.

Nationwide protests against police brutality have underscored the need for collaboration among leaders, Christine A. Ross, president and CEO of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement.

“The deeply painful and tragic events of the past few months, brought into the national spotlight by the movement of the last several weeks, underscore the urgent need for business, community and policy leaders to come together and raise their voices to confront the racism, injustice and inequality that plague so many of our communities,” Ross said. “We do not have all the answers, but we are prepared to listen, learn and take the proactive steps necessary to create meaningful change.”

It remains to be seen what reforms and policies the Chamber would support, Ross said in an interview. Activists have called for a range of reforms, from the abolition or wholesale restructuring of police departments to massive investments in job and education programs.

“Obviously, the dramatic events of the past few weeks have been painful for everyone to watch” Ross said, “and it’s just a good time for us to redouble our efforts, I think.”

The Chamber’s nonprofit arm, the Maryland Chamber Foundation, has already created a Second Chance Task Force, which has for the past year been exploring ways to improve re-entry employment opportunities for the previously incarcerated. The Foundation has also promoted education and workforce development through teacher externships and partnerships with P-TECH schools.

The Greater Baltimore Committee, a leading regional business advocacy organization, had earlier condemned Floyd’s “senseless murder.”

“Like many nationwide, the Greater Baltimore Committee and I are deeply saddened and dismayed by the brutal and senseless murder of George Floyd while in the custody of Minneapolis police,” said GBC President and CEO Donald C. Fry. “We mourn the tragic loss of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and so many others, like Freddie Gray, who have died as a result of misconduct and prejudice.”

Fry said the GBC will devote resources toward building equitable and inclusive workplaces and demanding just and responsible policing. GBC will host a webinar a discussion on structural racism in America at 9 a.m. on June 26.

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