Washington, D.C. - On Saturday, March 31, 2001 at 12 noon to 4:00 p.m., the Maryland Advisory Committee to the U. S. Commission on Civil Rights will hold a community forum on civil rights issues affecting Southern Maryland's three counties, Calvert, Charles, and St. Mary's Counties, at the Lexington Park United Methodist Church, 21760 Great Mills Road, Lexington Park, MD 20653-3801. The meeting is the first in a series of three civil rights forums focusing on Maryland's small towns and rural areas.

Advisory Committee Vice Chairperson Rev. Douglas Sands, who will be leading the program, said:

Over the past two years, the Maryland Advisory Committee opened its meetings in Baltimore City and Montgomery and Howard Counties for local community input. Local residents and organization representatives taking part in the meetings shed light on unresolved problems. For example, Korean American storeowners in Baltimore feared economic and physical threats because municipal agencies failed to respond adequately to their needs; discrimination complaints by disabled persons in Montgomery County as in other places lingered unprocessed taking longer to resolve than other types of complaints; and black and Hispanic males in Howard County complained that racial profiling was practiced in retail stores as well as against motorists. By listening to such concerns, the Committee gained important insight to problems at the local level while community members valued the opportunity to present their issues in public. The Committee's current series of community forums expands on that earlier experience and directs its attention to parts of the state that have been infrequently highlighted in past Committee activities.

At the forum, the Committee will gather information on civil rights concerns from all three of Southern Maryland's counties and expects speakers to discuss:

Confirmed panelists include:

Also invited are representatives of local police departments from the three counties.

A detailed agenda may be obtained from Edward Darden at (202) 376-7533. Information collected will be used to advise Federal, state and local officials. The meeting is open to the public and the site is accessible for persons with disabilities.

The Maryland Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is one of 51 state advisory committees chartered by the Commission across the country. Its members serve without compensation. Mr. K. Patrick Okura of Bethesda is chairperson. The current members are Ms. Lea A. Gilmore of Baltimore, Mrs. Mary Louise Jones of Cumberland, Mrs. Ann Lee of Timonium, Dr. Debra Lemke of Westminster, Mr. Arthur Nierenberg of Randallstown, Mr. Jenkins Odoms, Jr. of Laurel, Mrs. Mariana A. Pardo of Ft. Washington, Rev. Douglas Sands, Sr. of Mt. Airy (vice chairperson), and Dr. Chester L. Wickwire of Towson.

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is an independent, bipartisan Federal agency. Dr. Mary Frances Berry is chairperson of the Commission. Its current members are Cruz Reynoso (vice chairperson), Christopher Edley, Jr., Yvonne Y. Lee, Elsie M. Meeks, Russell G. Redenbaugh, Abigail Thernstrom, and Victoria Wilson. Les Jin is staff director of the Commission. Ki-Taek Chun is director of the Eastern Regional Office.