As an elected official I served twelve years in Maryland’s General Assembly, ten years as a member of the Maryland House of Delegates as a member of one of the most powerful standing committees, the Appropriation Committee and two years as a state senator on the Education, Health and Environment Affairs standing committee. I retired in January 2019 as one of the toughest progressive fighters on issues that affect our vulnerable populations of people, which included the following: seniors, youths, children, and people with intellectual and physical challenges. I have a strong record of standing up for small and women-owned businesses and standing up to extremists to fight for families. I received many awards in my fight to provide services to remove people from the welfare rolls to become self-sufficient and independent providers for their families.
From the projects to progress, from welfare to wealth, from homelessness to happiness, from sexual abuse to success, from drug abuse to the boardroom, from domestic violence to victory, from rape to recovery, from discrimination to discovery, from racism to realizing my dream, I have experienced many challenges and obstacles in my life and conquered most of them. I am the author of eleven books with six already published. My first book discusses my turbulent past and how I never lost sight of my dream of college, writing and entrepreneurship.
In 1985 with nothing more than an unemployment check, a dream, perseverance, persistence and prayer, I started my first company, STAR Associates, Incorporated, in the basement of my home. STAR specialized in transportation services for people with special needs, in-home health aide services, customized training and development programs for supervisors, group home and alternative living facilities employees, and for people defined as disadvantaged and hard-to-serve.
Five years later in 1990, I founded SelfPride, Incorporated, a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization that operated community-based residential facilities for adults with developmental disabilities and group homes for troubled and intellectually challenged male youths. SelfPride specialized in providing care to people with severe and profound mental retardation. Some individuals were non-verbal, non-ambulatory and incontinent of bowel and bladder. They depended on staff for all their daily living needs.
Both companies provided employment for people who were on welfare, of whom the majority were single mothers heads of households. The two companies employed over 162 people, trained over 2,000 people, hired over 850 people and assisted 75 people to advance to management positions in the health care industry. Utilizing the training obtained from SelfPride, some individuals went on to become entrepreneurs in the health care profession, hiring other individuals trained by SelfPride and STAR. My companies provided people a chance to turn their lives around and empowered them with skills to begin a positive and lucrative career.
I have won many awards, been presented the Keys to cities in three different states, stood on stages nationally and internationally, speaking to thousands of people. I have earned several degrees, and at the age of 68, I launched a successful campaign for a seat in the Maryland House of Delegates. I want the accomplishments I have made in life to send a message to novices, women, entrepreneurs, minority business owners, and to generations following in my footsteps, to never let anyone define your limitations and never sell yourself short.
Success is the sweetest revenge for people who doubt you and say you will never amount to anything, as one of my high school teachers said about me. Because my mother was an alcoholic, my stepfather abused me, molested me, beat my mother, and kicked me out at the age of 16, some people automatically assumed that I would be a failure in life. However, I did not allow my condition to be my conclusion. My message to the generations of new businesses coming behind me is to put Christ first and move on. I want my life to send the message, AIf you can dream it, design a plan to achieve it, and just do it! You only go around once in life and this is not a practice run, so stop procrastinating and follow your dream, NOW!@
The following is a partial list of some of my accomplishments and achievements. I continue to work to serve my constituents and the people of Maryland.
ACCOMPLISHMENTS AND AFFILIATIONS
- Created employment opportunities for under privileged adults through two companies I founded and operated
- I am a Deputy Majority Whip in the Maryland House of Delegates
- I am an appointed member of the Senate and House Joint Committee on Fair Practices and State Personnel Oversight
- I cosponsored legislation to raise the minimum wage of Maryland employees
- I assisted in providing over a million dollars in academic scholarships for 40th district residents
- I introduced and passed legislation to remove barriers for under-privilege adults to get jobs in Maryland’s casino industry
- I introduced legislation designed to enhance the quality of life of Maryland’s senior citizen population
- I have been a small business owner for more than 30 years.
- I have been an adjunct professor on the faculty of three colleges in Maryland teaching credit and non-credit courses
- In an effort to decrease the recidivism rate of African American males, for more than seven years I designed and taught job readiness and job retention courses in a medium-security prison in Jessup Maryland to incarcerated inmates who were within a year of being released.
- For more than eight years I designed and facilitated job readiness seminars and workshops to incarcerated inmates at the Baltimore City Jail for women.
- I wrote the curriculum for training programs for State employees
- For more than 10 years I was a trainer city, state and federal employees
- In an effort to be a voice for the voiceless, I sponsored legislation requiring the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to develop and implement a health care facilities abuser registry to identify – before they are hired – abusers of vulnerable populations of people.
- I have traveled nationally and internationally, including Africa and Mexico, facilitating management, supervision, business development, self-development and motivational training programs that I developed.
- I trained more than 2,000 Maryland residents, provided employment opportunities for 850 people and assisted 75 to start their own businesses and hire other under-served individuals.
- I was voted legislator of the year by the Maryland Washington Minority Companies Association
- I was inducted into Maryland Women Hall of Fame
- I was voted one of Maryland’s top 100 women
- I was featured in the book, “Women of Achievement in Maryland’s History” that was commissioned by former First Lady Francis Glendening.
- I am cofounder and board chair of the Greater Baltimore Black Chamber of Commerce and the State of Maryland Black Chamber of Commerce
- I am a member of the Appropriations Education and Economic Development Subcommittee
- I am a member of the Pensions Oversight Subcommittee
- I served on the Public Safety and Administration Subcommittee for eight years
- I am an appointed member of the Joint Committee on ending homelessness. I sponsored legislation to require every county and each State, local and nonprofit agency that receives federal, State, or local funding to remedy and prevent homelessness in the State to report the following information annually to the council: (1) the number of shelter beds the agency made available to homeless individuals and the number of vacant beds, if any; (2) the number of homeless individuals served by the agency; (3) the total amount of funding received by the agency to provide housing and services to homeless individuals.
- I served as a member of the Governor’s MBE-WBE-DBE Stakeholders committee
- I am the author of six published books and a member of Maryland’s Black Writers Guild
- I am the recipient of more than 100 awards
- I am a national and international public speaker for more than 100 organizations
- For twelve years I hosted and produced a business radio talk-show providing on-air seminars in how to start and operate a successful business
- I was honored at the White House by President Bill Clinton for my work in welfare reform
- I was labeled a trailblazer as the first woman and the first African American to hold positions of Chief of Maryland’s Traffic Division, Deputy Administrator of the District Court, Deputy Court Administrator of the Supreme Bench (which is now the Circuit Court of Maryland)
- I introduced and passed legislation that provided more than 800 million dollars to MBEs-WBEs-DBEs (HB48) and expanded opportunities to minority and women-owned businesses; thereby creating more jobs in the community.
- I introduced and passed legislation to prevent liquor stores that are located near schools in Park Heights from opening before the schools in Park Heights opened.
- I introduced and passed legislation to fund a program to assist ex-offenders to obtain employment training and jobs.
- I sponsored and passed legislation to provide ex-offenders the opportunity to obtain employment in the casino industry. In an effort to open thousands of middle-class jobs to ex-offenders, I introduced legislation that allows Maryland casinos to hire individuals who were currently banned because of criminal records. The bill provides job opportunities for people who committed minor infractions in the past. The State Lottery and Gaming Control Commission requested the bill to be an emergency so that the casino at Rocky Gap in Allegany County could hire ex-offenders. Under current law, an individual who was convicted of “crimes of moral turpitude” was forbidden from ever working at a facility with slot machines. The ban applied to all positions from dealers to parking attendants. My bill limits the ban to seven years after a conviction or the end of parole or probation. Crimes of moral turpitude are offenses that raise questions about a person’s trustworthiness such as theft, fraud, false statements, and drug possession — but not violent crimes. Nearly 1.5 million Marylanders have an arrest or criminal conviction on their records — limiting their job opportunities.
- I sponsored programs on health care for Maryland’s homeless population
- I sponsored legislation to prevent domestic violence and child abuse
- I sponsored legislation to provide training to entry-level police officers on sex trafficking awareness
- I sponsored programs for school construction
- I sponsored legislation to keep the Enoch Pratt Libraries opened seven days a week for extended hours
- I sponsored legislation to study and collect data for future legislation to provide more opportunities for and eliminate disparity treatment of minority franchisees in Maryland.
- I have been 2nd vice chair, 1st vice chair and chair of the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland, Inc.
- I have been at-large executive board member, treasurer and secretary of the Legislative Women Caucus of Maryland
- I am presently the State Director of the national organization of Women in Government
- I am the author of six published books.
- As chair of the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland I sponsored many activities and events to increase economic opportunities for small businesses, minority businesses, and women-owned businesses in Maryland. That report is available upon request.
- As a member of the Appropriations Committee we worked to restore funding for the essential services of State government such as: education, health care, cuts to the state workforce, non-public schools, corrections and state troopers;
- Member of the Public Safety and Administration subcommittee,
- Member of the Education and Economic Development Subcommittee,
- Appointed member of the Joint Committee on Fair Practices and State Personnel Oversight,
- Member of the Special Joint Committee on Pensions
- Member of the City Delegation we provided a unified front as we stood together to ensure the passing of the school construction bill. This bill brought 1.1 billion dollars to Baltimore that ensures that within the next 10 years 15 new schools will be built and 45 renovated in Baltimore City.
- Appointed member of the Special Joint Commission on Public Safety and Security in State and Local Correctional Facilities,
- I am a sponsor member of the Abuser Registry Work Group (DHMH). It is the intent of an abuser registry to identify abusers before they are hired to work in group homes, hospitals and any facility where they are responsible for providing care to vulnerable populations of people. Such abusers prey on vulnerable people such as seniors, children people with developmental disabilities and intellectually challenged individuals.
- Appointed member to the Special Review Committee on Coppin State University
- Appointed member to the Mayor’s Council on Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprises, Baltimore City
- I served as chair of the Legislative Black Caucus= Legislative Review Committee
- Founder and Host of the Annual MBE-WBE-DBE Legislative Night in Annapolis
- The Associated Black Charities Baltimore Small Business Development Ecosystem Advisory Group
- Appointed member to the Pimlico Community Development Authority (PCDA). The PCDA was created by State legislation in 2005 to be a steward of the Racetrack Impact fees; it advises the mayor of the city of Baltimore regarding spending plans for video lottery terminal local impact aid in the Pimlico area.
- Founding Member and Board Chair of the LITSOM Coalition. Small business development which includes: minority business enterprises (MBE) and women owned business enterprises (WBE), is the backbone of economic development in America. Employment opportunities are necessary to revive the economy. For more than 30 years I have been an advocate for minority businesses and women owned businesses. As a member of several organizations in Maryland I became aware that many organizations have similar interests. However, many are unaware of the impact certain legislation has on certain populations of people, such as seniors, women, minorities, people with intellectual challenges, and ex-offenders. In 2009, the late Ray Haysbert and I contacted business leaders, community activists, community leaders, elected officials, and members of various organizations, to form a coalition called LITSOM. LITSOM is an acronym that stands for Legislation in the State of Maryland. LITSOM was formed to address the needs of minority and women owned businesses that need to be aware and participate in legislation that impact them politically, financially, economically, and socially. Since its beginning, LITSOM has grown to represent more than 300 Maryland small businesses that come together to address legislation that impacts them as business owners and to support elected officials who represent their interest. LITSOM members include African Americans, Asian Americans, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Korean Merchants, Native Americans and women business owners.
- Appointed to the Joint Committee on Ending Homelessness
- Interim president of the Friends of Reservoir Hill Communities Coalition
- Member of the Innovation Village Steering Committee
1. A Woman of Achievement and Integrity
I am proud of having brought integrity, honesty and a spirit of overcoming to the decisions I made in the House of Delegates and as a State Senator. I defied the odds by rising from homelessness to the board room. I believe in responsible government and I do not tolerate the lack of ethics that some take to be “business as usual.” I promised that there would not be any influence-peddling or shady deal-making under my watch and that I would remain un-bossed, un-bought, and unafraid to speak out for the people whom I represent, I am proud to say that I kept that promise. I am not just a role model on paper. I have the street smarts, the work experience and the formal education to do the job and do it well. My performance record while a member of the Maryland General Assembly for twelve years substantiates this contention.
2. Economic Empowerment and Business Development
I am a strong supporter of developing our economy by increasing the number of Maryland small businesses and enhancing the legal infrastructure that oversees these businesses. I have supported and introduced legislature that increased jobs, opportunities for businesses and individual growth. I have experience with the proven methods of helping people move from welfare to work and I have worked to successfully implement those methods. One of my priorities is to create programs designed to move our citizens into careers that will provide them a secure future. Small businesses are key to the health and well-being of our nation. Small businesses create the majority of the nation’s jobs and they provide the services and products that enhance the quality of our lives.
As a successful business owner, I have learned how to help businesses thrive. As a lawmaker in the House of Delegates and the Senate, one of my priorities was assisting small businesses. I have taken a close look at how existing laws and proposed legislation affect small businesses and I introduced legislature to reform that process. I facilitated town hall meetings to learn the concerns of small business owners and advocates and I used data derived from those meetings to introduce legislation to address those concerns.
I am an advocate for the right of privacy and choice as prescribed by law. I support legislature that provides women the right to choose what happens to their own body.
4. Quality of Life Enhancement
I supported legislature to increase affordable housing and quality health care for families and seniors. I introduced and supported legislature to create safe havens for victims of domestic violence, sexual abuse and date violence. I have looked out for those in our community who are most vulnerable to violence by introducing and supporting legislature to identify the abusers. I have worked to implement initiatives to assist those who are facing abuse, including rape.
Public education is the cornerstone of our society. My early life wasn’t easy. I know the importance of education. Education was critically important in helping me survive and attain success. I have a vision for our community that includes better equipped schools with caring, accomplished teachers and administrators. In the House of Delegates and the Senate, I introduced and cosponsored legislation to make that vision a reality. As a member of the Baltimore City Delegation I cosponsored legislation to provide Baltimore with 1.9 billion dollars to renovate 25 existing schools and build 15 new schools. I also cosponsored the “locked box” legislation to ensure that money allocated for education would not be used for other purposes. I am a dedicated champion for better public education from kindergarten through college.
6. Open Lines of Communication
After becoming an elected official I constantly communicated with my constituents. I attempted to keep abreast of their issues and concerns by attending community meetings, meeting individually with constituents and other people of interest and responding to all email and telephone messages. I met with small business owners, seniors, community leaders, homeowners, educators, ex-offenders, and young people — some of the people who live in our community or who have a vested interest in our community. I visited schools and churches and listened to the voices of community residents. I did not lose touch with the needs of the people. My motto is: “It’s about people and progress, not politics and power.”