An authentic African cultural center in Prince George’s County would be helpful in highlighting the continent’s history. And with thousands of Africans in the county, an African judge should be appointed to the county court.
Those running in the Democratic primary for county executive received these and other suggestions Friday, Feb. 23 at a forum at The Redeemed Christian of God Victory Temple in Bowie.
The discussion, organized by the United People for African Congress (UPAC) and featuring four of the five registered candidates, focused on how the person elected plans to help the African community.
Sade Oshinubi, a lawyer from Fort Washington who chairs UPAC and is a candidate for delegate in legislative District 26, said an estimated 4,000 of the 6,000 members from various African organizations with UPAC reside in the D.C. area.
“Africans have a voice in the community,” said Sylvester Okere, president of UPAC and of Nigerian descent. “The prosperity of Prince George’s County is our prosperity. In Prince George’s County, 25 percent of African immigrants are here. Our vote is important.”
The candidates in attendance included former Rep. Donna Edwards, state Sen. C. Anthony Muse, Paul Monteiro, a former official with the Obama administration, and Lewis S. Johnson of Forestville, a retiree of the U.S. Government Printing Office on Capitol Hill.
The other invited candidate, Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks, skipped the event to celebrate her birthday, but had campaign staff in attendance.
According to the Maryland Board of Elections website, Michael E. Kennedy of Upper Marlboro filed for county executive Feb. 5.
The term for Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, who is running for governor, expires this year.
The eventual county executive winner in the June 26 primary would more than likely win the November general election because Democrats outnumber Republicans in the county by more than 10 to 1.
Muse and Edwards are experienced lawmakers with deep county networks, while Monteiro and Johnson are novices to local politics.
“I wish I had experience like my colleagues here,” Johnson said to a few rounds of laughter to the more than 100 people in the audience. “I’m running because God inspired me.”
As for the forum, the candidates agreed Africans should be respected and receive representation in the county, especially since “there is a little bit of Africa in everyone,” Muse said.
Muse, Edwards and Monteiro criticized the current county government structure that provides favors for big businesses headquartered outside Prince George’s, versus small businesses such as those ran by Africans.
“This place is run like somebody’s club,” Monteiro said.
Other questions came up such as vocation and career-readiness programs, school construction and immigration.
The candidates also offered suggestions to improve countywide public safety and security in the schools.
Besides bringing “God back in the schools,” Johnson said he would seek to hire retired police officers for $10 to $12 an hour as security guards.
Monteiro said he isn’t fond of metal detectors in school buildings, but students could wear clear backpacks and the county institute more collaboration with neighboring jurisdictions.
Muse mentioned his proposed legislation that would make it mandatory for the state to use casino-generated funds for special education, transportation and students with limited English proficiency. A hearing on the legislation will take place March 7.
Edwards disputed some officials’ claim that the county has a low crime rate, particularly since the county ranks number one in the state in domestic violence.
“Some people who live in some communities know full well that we have a crime problem,” she said. “We have to be honest about that. If you’re not, then you can’t address the problem.”