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GBC commits to racial equity initiatives

Calvin Butler, CEO of Exelon Utitlities and a senior executive vice president of Exelon, was named chairman of the Great Baltimore Committee. (The Daily Record/File Photo)

Calvin Butler, CEO of Exelon Utilities and a senior executive vice president of Exelon, was named chairman of the Great Baltimore Committee. (The Daily Record/File Photo)

The Greater Baltimore Committee Wednesday announced a series of steps it plans to address racial injustice and inequities within the organization and the city’s business community.

The organization also named Calvin Butler Jr., senior executive vice president of Exelon and CEO of Exelon Utilities, as its next chair during its annual meeting.

Among the steps announced by the GBC include undertaking a policy review; providing racial equity training; adopting a code of conduct committing to practices of racial equity and social justice; diversifying the board of directors; evaluating public policy positions through a framework of equity; and educating and providing resources to businesses to help them “create inclusive business environments.”

The review of GBC’s bylaws, policies and procedures will be conducted by the organization’s staff, with the goal of ensuring that those policies are inclusive. After the initial review has been conducted, a work group composed of board and nonboard members will use the results to “advise and direct our programs and initiatives pertaining to the racial equity and social justice agenda,” Donald Fry, GBC’s president and CEO said. 

Racial equity training will be provided to GBC’s staff and most of its board members, likely through a nonprofit organization. According to Fry, there are several board members who have previously completed extensive racial equity training within their own organizations who may be exempt from this. 

A budget for implementing these new initiatives has not yet been established.

Butler spoke to the importance of taking actionable steps against systemic racism.

“If we just keep talking and talking without any action, three years later we’ll be in the same space we’re in today,” he said.

After Freddie Gray’s 2015 death from injuries sustained while in police custody, many leaders in Baltimore, including within the GBC, swore to do things differently. But five years later, Butler said, very little has changed.

“Dialogue around these issues has to have some action, some deliverables tied to it, and accountability, because that’s how you move things forward,” Butler said.

Butler follows Paul Tiburzi, senior partner at DLA Piper, who became the GBC’s chair in 2017. 

Also at the meeting, Diane Bell-McKoy, president and CEO of Associated Black Charities, received the GBC’s Regional Visionary Award. Bell-McKoyhas long advocated for business and civic leaders to address systemic racism in the workplace and the greater Baltimore community.

She called on the meetings’ attendees to “look at your policies, your practices, your culture, and ask, ‘how does it undervalue Black and brown people?’”

“I do encourage you to begin the journey towards racial equity, allowing the greatness of our city to thrive,” she said.

Omar Jimenez, a CNN national correspondent who was arrested on live television while covering protests in Minneapolis in May, was the meeting’s keynote speaker. Jimenez, who worked at WBAL-TV earlier in his career, asked attendees to invest in the people and the communities in Baltimore.

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