Commission

The Baltimore Community Relations Commission consists of 10 members who are appointed by the Mayor and approved by the City Council. The members of the Commission serve the Commission without compensation and every year the members of the Commission elect a Commission Chair. The Chair of and the members of the Baltimore Community Relations Commission have the responsibility of eliminating discrimination in all areas of community life.

The Commission invites and enlists the cooperation of racial, religious, and ethnic groups, community organizations, labor and business organizations, fraternal and benevolent societies, veterans’ organizations, professional and technical organizations, and other groups in the City of Baltimore in carrying out its duties, functions, and purposes.

The Baltimore Community Relations Commission  meets the third Wednesday of each month at 8:30 AM at the Office of Civil Rights and Wage Enforcement: 7 E. Redwood Street, 9th Floor, Baltimore MD, 21202. For more information on the meeting schedule, agenda, etc., please contact 410-396-3141.

Interested in serving? If so, please e-mail us at [email protected].

The next meeting of the Community Relations Commission is scheduled for June 21, 2017 at 8:30AM at 7 E. Redwood Street, 9th floor, Baltimore MD 21202.  


Commissioners

Rev. Sheridan Todd Yeary, Ph.D. Interim Chair

Reverend Yeary

Dr. S. Todd Yeary serves as the senior pastor of the Douglas Memorial Community Church, a Covenant Congregation, and is an adjunct professor in the College of Public Affairs at the University of Baltimore.  Additionally, Dr. Yeary serves as the chief executive officer of DMCC’s two community development corporations – Douglas Memorial Community Church Village and Camp Farthest Out.  Formerly, Dr. Yeary served as a collateral duty senior EEO Counselor during his tenure as an air traffic control specialist with the Federal Aviation Administration. From 2000-2010, Dr. Yeary served as associate director of the Center for Black Studies at Northern Illinois University. Dr. Yeary’s social justice work includes serving on the national board of National Action Network, immediate past Political Action Co-Chair for the Maryland State Conference NAACP, as co-founding principal of Community Churches for Community Development, Inc., and as a former steering committee member of OneBaltimore, Baltimore City’s collaborative public-private coordinating organization.  Additionally, Dr. Yeary is a founding principal and policy director of SALT (Strategic Advocacy and Legislative Thinktank), a faith-based public policy collaborative that works on regional and national empowerment strategies impacting the African American community. Dr. Yeary is often called upon to facilitate creative conversations that solve challenging problems, having served on the Governor’s Commission to Reform Maryland’s Pretrial Justice System, as well as speaking in a variety of policy and leadership forums, including providing regular testimony on policy issues before the Congressional Black Caucus and the Joint Economic Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives and the Maryland General Assembly, the Faith Leader’s Roundtable at the Congressional Black Caucus Annual Legislative Conference, and as a panelist at the 2014 Color of Wealth Summit. Dr. Yeary believes honest dialogue creates opportunities to form strategic partnerships that strengthen families and communities.  He models his partnership commitment through public participation as he currently serves as interim chair of the Community Relations Commission of Baltimore City, vice-chair of Behavioral Health Systems Baltimore, and an advisory board member to the College of Public Affairs at the University of Baltimore. Dr. Yeary formerly served as a gubernatorial appointee to the board of trustees of Baltimore City Community College from 2013-2017. Dr. Yeary holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Management from National-Louis University, a Master of Divinity Degree from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, and the Graduate Certificate in African Studies and the Doctor of Philosophy Degree (Ph.D.) in the area of Religion in Society and Personality from Northwestern University.  Dr. Yeary is a member of the 2012 class of the Board of Preachers of the Martin Luther King, Jr. College of Preachers and Laity of Morehouse College. Dr. Yeary is married to the Rev. Rhonda S. Boozer-Yeary.  They are the proud parents of Robert Aaron, Simone Kathlene, Jordan Amani, and Joshua Asante.

Syeetah Hampton- El, Esq.

Syeetah Hampton-EL

Syeetah Hampton-EL is the Director of Government Affairs at Maryland Multi Housing Association. She joined MMHA after serving as the Senior Staff Attorney at Green & Healthy Homes Initiative. For approximately eight years, Syeetah served as an Assistant State’s Attorney in the State’s Attorney’s Office of Baltimore City prosecuting domestic violence and violent felony cases. Syeetah earned a Juris Doctor from Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Lansing, Michigan. While in law school, Syeetah volunteered as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for abused and neglected children. In 2001, She also received a BA in Political Science from Johnson C. Smith University located in Charlotte, NC. Syeetah majored in Political Science and minored in Pre-law. Syeetah actively participates in many legal and civic organizations. Specifically, she is a Past President of Monumental City Bar Association and an active member of the Monumental City Bar Foundation. She also serves as a member of the Maryland State Bar Association Ethics Committee and as a Maryland Bar Foundation Fellow. Outside of the legal community, she is the treasurer for the Johnson C. Smith University Alumni Chapter – Baltimore City Chapter. She is also the secretary for the National Alumni Association for Johnson C. Smith University. In addition, she serves as a board member of the St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center and the St. Agnes Hospital Board Foundation. She also serves as a Community Relations Commissioner for the City of Baltimore Community Relations Commission. Lastly, since her initiation in 1999, Syeetah remains an active member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated. Currently, she serves as the Parliamentarian for the Rho Xi Omega Chapter located in Baltimore City, Maryland.  

Stephen M. Ruckman, Esq.
Stephen Ruckman

Stephen Ruckman is a policy attorney with life-long passions for advancing equal opportunity and supporting diverse communities. He worked for several years as an Assistant Attorney General in the Maryland Attorney General's Office, where he protected Marylanders against online threats, dubious charities, and polluters, defended the Affordable Care Act, and advocated for campaign finance reforms. He currently serves as Senior Advisor to the President for Policy at Johns Hopkins University. Mr. Ruckman is an active community member and co-founder of the Maryland Lawyer Chapter of the American Constitution Society. He received his J.D. from Yale Law School and his M.A.R. from Yale Divinity School.

Adote Akwei

Adote Akwei

Speaker, Community Organizer, Activist, Author, Inventor & Entrepreneur.

“Investing in African human capital and community“

Adoté Ghandi Akwei is a native of Togo West Africa who migrated to the United States with his family in 2005. He is the Founder and CEO of Human Resources PowerHouse, Inc. a non-for-profit organization dedicated to empowering the new African immigrants in Baltimore and around the country. While living in Togo, he was Labor Union Organizer and led the Human Rights League until in left the country in2005. He gained recognition from The A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI). In August 2005 he received the Bayard Rustin Humanitarian  Award from the A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI) in New Orleans, LA for his ” outstanding leadership and significant contributions to improve the human condition and advance the cause of human rights and democracy in the tradition of Bayard Rustin.” As an African immigrant in America, Akwei is dedicated to empowering his community through education, personal development and the strengthening of the family structure. Akwei is also dedicated to cross-cultural understanding and contact, particularly in the relationship between African-Americans and Africans. Along with a collective of African-Americans led by Mr. Fanon Hill and his wife Navasha Daya, the Africa in the America’s initiative was launched in 2013 to bridge the cultural and economic gap between the two communities in America and beyond. The publishing of Akwei’s African Coloring and Activity Book series is part of this project. Adoté G. Akwei is a graduate in French and English literature at the University of Lomé in Togo. He is also certified in Labor Studies and in Conflict Resolution-Workforce Motivation and Leadership at the Penn State University-PSU-State College-Pennsylvania. He also serves as an African Immigrant & Support family organizer in the Youth Resiliency Institute’s Journey Project. He lives in Baltimore Maryland with his wife Tele Akwei and their Five Children and four grand-children. 

Adar Ayira

Adar Ayira

A. Adar Ayira is part of the senior leadership team at Associated Black Charities, a statewide public foundation focused on broadening economic opportunities and access and reducing the structural and institutional racialized barriers that impede the economic growth, inclusion, influence, and well-being of African Americans in Maryland.   A founding member /founding Advisory Board Member of Baltimore Racial Justice Action (BRJA), Adar is a facilitator and educator on racial equity/intersectionalities and provides facilitations/trainings for corporations, community groups, nonprofit organizations, and individuals in the region.  A Poet/Spoken Word Artist in the Baltimore-Washington DC area, she has performed at Center Stage, the Spotlight Theatre, the Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Museum, and the Reginald F. Lewis Museum, among other venues. Adar was a 2011 recipient of the YWCA Baltimore's Racial Justice Award and contributing author to the teaching text “Lessons from ‘The Color of Fear’: Field Reports” (Volume IV); Baltimore Open City; and various poetry publications, as well as being a contributing blogger for Rooflines, the National Housing Institute’s Shelterforce blog.

Carrie Evans

Carrie Evans

Carrie Evans most recently was the Executive Director of Equality Maryland, the state’s LGBT civil rights organization.  She returned to the organization in 2011 after serving as the organization's Director of Policy and Planning from 2007-2009. In March 2012 the General Assembly passed The Civil Marriage Protection Act, making Maryland the 8th state to pass a marriage equality bill. Evans served on the Executive Committee of Marylanders for Marriage Equality, the campaign that successfully defended this law on the November 2012 ballot. In 2014, Evans helped lead the passage of The Fairness for All Marylanders Act, which updated the state’s anti-discrimination laws to include protections for transgender individuals. Evans has also worked as the state legislative director for the Human Rights Campaign and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, was an adjunct professor at University of Maryland Baltimore County and the Assistant Director at the Battered Women’s Program in Baton Rouge.

Phillip Farfel

Phillip Farfel
Dr. Phillip Farfel has been engaged in civil rights advocacy in Baltimore City for 50 years. As co-founder of Disabled in Action of Baltimore in the 1970’s, he helped introduce State legislation that added disability as a protected class. He was involved in litigation against the Maryland MTA to assure that public buses were accessible to mobility impaired persons, which resulted in the Mobility Bus System and accessibility features for regular MTA buses. Dr. Farfel advocated for the rights of developmentally disabled persons by sponsoring a legislative resolution requesting the State to establish community alternatives to institutionalization under the Medicaid Home and Community-Based Waiver Program. As President of the Baltimore City School Board from 1992-97, he advocated for the constitutional right of Baltimore’s children to receive an equal educational opportunity by initiating School Board litigation to secure adequate State school funding. The case resulted in an additional $250 million over 5 years of State funds to the Baltimore City Public Schools. As a member of Baltimoreans United for Leadership Development (BUILD), Dr. Farfel has been engaged in promoting opportunities for ex-offenders to obtain job training and employment. He has had the privilege to provide volunteer grant writing support to “Turnaround Tuesday” a successful workforce development program targeting ex-offenders that is operated by BUILD. Dr. Farfel is currently an Assistant Vice President for Grant Development at MedStar Health, a health care system serving the Baltimore-Washington region. He and his grant team provide grant writing support in a variety of clinical areas, including pediatrics, geriatrics, oncology, diabetes, maternal and child health, HIV/AIDS, behavioral health and workforce development. Many of these grants address health disparities in Baltimore City and Washington D.C. Dr. Farfel is a lifelong resident of Baltimore City and is a graduate of Northwestern High School. He has a Doctor of Science in Health Services Administration from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, and a Masters of Social Work in Community Organization from the University of Maryland School of Social Work.  

Sarah Heaton

Sarah Heaton

Sarah Heaton is the Managing Director of School District Policy at the National Council on Teacher Quality where she studies human capital policies affecting school teachers.  Prior to her work at NCTQ, Sarah worked for Baltimore City Public Schools in a variety of capacities, implementing new teacher compensation and evaluation policies along the way. Before that, she taught high school English at School #430 in west Baltimore. She has a BA in English and History from Oberlin College, holds a Maryland Advanced Professional Teaching Certificate from the Johns Hopkins University MAT program, and is a current doctoral student at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College of Education. Her professional interests include school and school community desegregation efforts, teacher support and development, performance management, and assessment and evaluation. 

Stephanie Maddin-Smith

Stephanie Maddin Smith

Stephanie M. Smith is an Assistant Director in the Baltimore City Department of Planning and a member of the Maryland Bar. She has spent the bulk of her professional career working to advance environmental health and justice through federal clean air policy. As a former congressional staffer, Stephanie worked on affordable housing and voting rights issues. Most recently, Stephanie served in the executive leadership of a professional association focused higher education and public health. Stephanie is an active member of the Greater Baltimore Urban League and Greater Baltimore Leadership Association. She has served on the boards of the Maryland-DC Audubon Society, Green 2.0, Greater Baltimore Leadership Association and the Redeemed Life Outreach Center. Stephanie is a proud graduate of Hampton University (BA), University of Delaware (MA) and Howard University School of Law (JD). Stephanie is married to Calvin, a mother to Parker and a friend of Baltimore. She resides with her family in Baltimore City's Middle East community.

Karsonya Whitehead

Karsonya Whitehead

Dr. Karsonya (Kaye) Wise Whitehead, Ph.D., is an award-winning Associate Professor of Communication and African and African American Studies in the Department of Communication at Loyola University Maryland and the Founding Executive Director of The Emilie Frances Davis Center for Education, Research, and Culture. She is the author of four books including RaceBrave: new and selected works, which was selected by the Baltimore Sun as one of the 2015 Top Ten Summer Reads; Notes from a Colored Girl: The Civil War Pocket Diaries of Emilie Frances Davis, which received both the 2015 Darlene Clark Hine Book Award from the Organization of American Historians and the 2014 Letitia Woods Brown Book Award from the Association of Black Women Historians; and, Letters to My Black Sons: Raising Boys in a Post-Racial America. She is also a K-12 Master Teacher in African American History, an award-winning former Baltimore City middle school teacher, a three-time New York Emmy-nominated documentary filmmaker, and a 2016-2017 guest commentator and Op-Ed columnist for WYPR 88.1 FM and the Baltimore Sun. She can also be heard frequently on both The Marc Steiner Show and First Edition on WEAA 88.9 FM. Whitehead created the Say Her Name syllabus, the Clinton syllabus, the Trump Syllabus K12, and the A Day Without A Woman Syllabus. She was the guest editor for the fall 2016 special “#BlackGirlActivism” edition of Meridians journal. Dr. Whitehead can be reached by e-mail [email protected], via twitter @kayewhitehead, or sons at her website www.kayewisewhitehead.com. She lives in Baltimore with her husband and her two.