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Ashanti Martínez poised to represent District 22 in Md. House of Delegates

Howard University alum is Afro-Latino and openly gay

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Ashanti Martínez (Photo courtesy of Ashanti Martínez)

Ashanti Martínez is set to become the first man of Latino descent to represent District 22 and the first openly gay member of the Maryland House of Delegates to represent Prince George’s County.

Following his unanimous selection from the Prince George’s County Democratic Central Committee to fill a vacant House seat on Feb. 9, his nomination now goes Democratic Gov. Wes Moore, who has 15 days to make the appointment official.

Martínez, 26, is a Howard University alum. He would succeed now-state Sen. Alonzo Washington (D-Prince George’s County), who the committee nominated to finish Maryland Energy Administration Director Paul Pinsky’s term in the House after he joined Moore’s administration.

Martínez, 26, felt honored by the nomination. 

“For me, titles and positions are important, but they’re not all it is — it’s about doing the work,” Martínez told the Washington Blade on Monday during a telephone interview. “And so being able to be in a position where I have a larger platform to continue the work that I’ve been doing … it’s an honor of a lifetime.” 

Likewise, he believes his selection shows how Prince George’s County is “embracing diverse voices of leadership.” 

Martínez, who ran for the House seat twice before and didn’t win, finds the opportunity to serve a “little bit of a delay, but not a denial,” he said. 

“Also, I think I give a different lived experience than a lot of the other members,” he added. “I think there’s a lot of great aspects of our county that oftentimes don’t get highlighted because folks don’t live through those experiences. So, encompassing all of the things that I bring to the table, is going make people feel more seen and involved in government.”

Recognizing the period to introduce a bill has passed, Martínez said he will look for other ways to create legislative work on the House floor and co-sponsoring other lawmakers’ measures. Martínez added he will let the public know that his office is open to them. 

“I will serve for as long as my community wants to have me,” he said. “I don’t necessarily have a goal about, ‘I want to be in this position, or in this place,’ I just want do the most that I can, for as many people as I can, for as long as I can.” 

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Maryland

Moore pardons more than 175,000-plus cannabis-related convictions

Governor signed executive order at State House on Monday

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Maryland Gov. Wes Moore (Public domain photo/Twitter)

BY BRENDA WINTRODE and PAMELA WOOD | Gov. Wes Moore pardoned more than 175,000 cannabis-related convictions Monday, nullifying guilty verdicts decided when carrying small amounts of the drug or paraphernalia was illegal.

The Democratic governor signed an executive order during a State House ceremony, granting clemency to thousands of people convicted in Maryland. The convictions to be pardoned include more than 150,000 misdemeanors for simple possession and more than 18,000 for possession of drug paraphernalia with an intent to use.

The rest of this article can be read on the Baltimore Banner’s website.

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Maryland

Silver Spring Pride sign rebuilt in memory of beloved neighbor

GoFundMe campaign has raised more than $4,000

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Tony Brown's neighbors help repaint the Pride sign his late partner created in their Silver Spring, Md., neighborhood. (Photo courtesy of Molly Chehak)

Residents of Silver Spring’s Rosemary Hills neighborhood have come together to rebuild a Pride sign. 

The sign was constructed in June 2020, and was meant to stay in place throughout Pride Month. Neighborhood residents, however, requested it stay up past its intended month-long display, and has remained in place for more than four years. 

The sign spelling LOVE is at the neighborhood’s entrance between Sundale and Richmond Streets. It was made from plywood and the O was painted in the colors of the Pride flag.

“We wanted to take it down, but we just felt it was not ours anymore and belonged to the neighborhood.” Tony Brown told the Washington Blade during a telephone interview. “It was a positive thing for the neighborhood and began to take on a life of its own.” 

Brown and his partner, Mike Heffner, designed the sign and said the Black Lives Matter movement inspired them to create it as a strong symbol of an accepting community.

The sign was vandalized numerous times last fall, resulting in neighborhood residents taking turns repairing it. Brown and his partner could not do the repairs themselves because Heffner was fighting Stage 4 lung cancer.

Heffner passed away on Oct. 6, 2023.

A GoFundMe page was set up to help raise funds for the replacement Pride sign, and it has raised more than $4,000. The replacement sign is more permanent and made of metal.

“I can’t speak for the neighborhood overall, but people who knew Mike I think are happy that we were able to honor his memory with this sign because this sign is so him,” Molly Chehak, a friend who lives next door to Brown, told the Blade. “He (Heffner) was an outgoing super social (person) who just made you feel good the way this sign does. It’s a perfect tribute to him.” 

Chehak and other neighbors created the GoFundMe account.

Heffner’s family and his neighbors are still working to rebuild the Pride sign. It has become a memorial to Heffner.

“We wanted to do one that was clearly a Pride reference,” said Brown, noting the L is a fully painted Pride flag that spirals across the entire letter. 

“For the O we wanted to do something reminiscent of times in the past, a throwback to the 60’s and 70’s so it’s a hippie montage of flowers and butterflies,” he said. 

Brown described the V as being colorful, nonbinary people hugging each other with the idea that love is more than what one may see. 

“During COVID, he had started painting rocks and putting kind and fun messages on them leaving them around places as sort of a pay it forward Karma and so the E is basically that stylized writing and to embrace a bunch of ways we embrace love,” he said. 

The final letter had the phrase “love is love” written repeatedly in various handwritings to pay homage to Heffner and what he did for his neighborhood during the pandemic. Brown’s four daughters — one of whom is a professional artist — and their friends designed it.

The landscape around the sign has also been transformed with rocks that honors Heffner’s love for Rosemary Hills and his passion for rocks.

Chehak also said Heffner always wanted a bench, and neighbors are looking to install one soon next to the Pride sign.

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Maryland

Trans woman wins Miss Maryland USA, making history with a list of pageant firsts

Bailey Anne Kennedy won crown on June 1

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Bailey Anne Kennedy smiles with tears in her eyes as she holds a bouquet and wears a tiara and Miss Maryland 2024 sash. The previous year's winner adjusts her sash and other beauty pageant contestants smile and applaud behind her. (Photo by Anthony M. Gomes/Miss Maryland USA)

BY JOHN-JOHN WILLIAMS IV | She’s 31. She’s married to a military officer. She’s Asian American. And she’s a trans woman.

When Bailey Anne Kennedy was crowned on Saturday as Miss Maryland USA, she broke almost every barrier that existed in the state’s pageant history. And she did it with her first pageant.

The rest of this article can be read on the Baltimore Banner’s website.

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