2021 Annual Report: A Note From Our Executive Director
Justice for ALL. How we define this concept and what efforts we need to take to ensure its promise has been a major focus in our society over the past year. While the country and world struggled with the COVID-19 pandemic, inequitable health outcomes and financial harm borne by communities of color, and the renewed Black Lives Matters protests after the murder of George Floyd, MVLS began to deeply question our responsibility for and commitment to changing a legal system that perpetuates injustice.
At the same time, we remained committed to our clients and community partners, overcoming the significant challenges of the year to operate fully and provide ongoing critical legal assistance to Marylanders who would not otherwise be able to afford an attorney. Without a doubt, having 40 years of experience was invaluable to ensuring that we continued (and expanded) our services during an incredibly challenging time. I’m proud that we expanded our workforce development project as the legal aid partner of the Baltimore Health Corps. I’m proud that our Low-Income-Taxpayer-Clinic created the State’s only helpline to support Marylanders who couldn’t access their Economic Impact Stimulus Payments. I’m proud of our work with the Mayor’s office and other state and local agencies to ensure the adoption and implementation of policies that increased housing and financial stability during this crisis, including saving over 900 owner-occupied homes from the Baltimore City tax sale.
MVLS has always understood its critical role in ensuring justice. But we have, as any strong organization should, evolved our understanding and appreciation for what that phrase really means. Over the past year, MVLS has focused on implementing anti-racism practices within our organization and the legal system. In the spring, we held a press event to educate the media about structural racism within the judicial system, as well as presenting related trainings with the Baltimore City Bar Association Diversity and Inclusion Committee and Maryland Bar Association Delivery of Legal Services Section. Over our 40 year history, MVLS has focused on serving those communities most in need, and our experience has demonstrated that of those facing a critical civil legal issue, Black individuals are over-represented based on population because of the numerous institutional barriers and insidious, systemic racism. As a legal services provider, we recognize that we must serve in, and learn from communities that face the highest barriers to success. As one trusted community leader recently shared with me “I am not sure if … you realize just how much the Black community has been linked to quality legal services and KNOWLEDGE via MVLS because of your committed and passionate work.”
As we enter FY22, we remain committed to ensuring that all Marylanders, regardless of race and economic status, not only receive critically important legal representation in their legal matter, but that the laws and practices of our legal system and society also provide balanced opportunities for all individuals. Only then will there truly be justice for all.
You are an essential part of MVLS. Thanks to you, over 40 years, we have grown into a tremendously impactful organization that is changing lives in profound ways every single day. Your renewal to volunteer and to financially support MVLS is critical for us to continue to ensure a fair and just legal system. Thank you for all you have done as our partner over the past 40 years, we look forward to all that we will accomplish together in the future.