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President's Message
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We are only half way through 2020 and it will certainly be one for the history books.  Another year that should be on all of our minds is 1619; the year enslaved people were brought to what is now the United States of America. They were living, breathing human beings — men, women and children — who were dehumanized and treated as property.  They helped to build the greatest democracy in the world while for centuries legally being deprived of its greatest gifts.  Social, physical, legal and religious systems were created to perpetuate and enforce those depravations with brutal and often fatal consequences. A shameful legacy we continued to struggle with every day. 

Our Bar Association exists to “promote reform in the law, to facilitate the administration of justice…within the profession and the community…” Article II Constitution of the Bar Association of Montgomery County, Maryland.  As a member you should take pride in the manner our organization has responded to recent events and the call to action on racial injustice.  From our members there has been justified outrage and a call for change and a tremendous outpouring of effort to enable that change. A number of members have reached out to me to share their ideas and their own personal experiences. 

From those ideas, experiences and calls to action, the Foundation and the Bar Association have jointly formed a new committee, the Racial Justice Council.  The Council was created to address and combat the racism that exists within Montgomery County, our state, and our nation.  The Council has two subcommittees, Criminal Justice and Community Outreach. The subcommittees and the Council as a whole have already met several times, identified key issues and developed strategies to address the issues around racism. And, they have taken action.

Over 250 of our members came together on July 8 for our seminar, Living with Implicit Bias.   Dr. Theopia Jackson helped us begin the journey of examining racism, its origins and our own preconceptions.  It was a thoughtful and productive conversation.  The topic was uncomfortable, as it should be.  Meaningful change does not come from a place of ease and comfort.  I want to thank Dr. Jackson and all of the members who participated for their thoughtful contributions to this difficult conversation.

There is much work to be done.  The Council was formed as a joint committee of both the Association and the Foundation in recognition of the importance of this issue and the need to have a sustained effort.  At the moment, we have tremendous momentum and we must keep that fire burning.  Systemic and structural racism are real, look no further than the Council’s article The Pandemic of Racism — Nothing but the Facts in this issue. The Council’s articles will continue to be featured prominently in the newsletter.

In order to focus on deconstructing the old and building anew, we must begin with ourselves.  Our action must be built on a foundation of education and self reflection.  To that end, the Council has put together a “20 Weeks in 2020 Challenge.” The challenge is to commit to 20 weeks of learning about racism.  The Council will provide curated articles and  videos to help educate us and provide a forum for meaningful discussion.  Everyone received the Challenge in your inbox on July 15.  Take the Challenge.  Many leaders in our Bar and prominent firms have already accepted this Challenge.  They have committed early to supporting these efforts and have encouraged their respective firms to fully engage.  I am heartened by their leadership and thank them all for their support.

Let this year be the year we finally open our eyes and truly and honestly undertake the task of dismantling the systems of racism. Let’s make 2020 a year to remember, not because of what happened to us but because of what we made happen.

Thomas M. DeGonia, II

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