Expanded Legislative Black Caucus selects leadership

Submitted photo/House Democratic caucus Eleven of the 12 members of the Delaware Legislative Black Caucus pose for a photo outside Legislative Hall. Rep. Nnamdi Chukwuocha, the vice chair of the group, is not present.

DOVER — The Delaware Legislative Black Caucus announced new leadership Thursday.

Formed in 2019 after the General Assembly saw its Black membership double from four to eight, the caucus now has 12 members following last month’s election.

Rep. Kendra Johnson was elected chair of the group, while Rep. Nnamdi Chukwuocha was named vice chair. They succeed Sen. Darius Brown and Rep. Sherry Dorsey Walker, respectively. Sen. Marie Pinkney will serve as secretary, replacing Sen. Elizabeth “Tizzy” Lockman.

“I am honored to have the opportunity to chair the DLBC alongside Rep. Chukwuocha as we usher in a new session with so many wonderful colleagues, both new and returning,” Rep. Johnson said in a statement. “I am filled with optimism having experienced the leadership of the previous chair and vice-chair, as well as the founder, Rep. Stephanie T. Bolden. I will do my best to continue the trail that has been blazed and lead with passion and purpose.

“As a caucus, we will continue to build on our Justice For All campaign while we simultaneously evaluate systems to ensure that there is equity for all within our great state of Delaware. There is still much work to do; and I am truly honored to be a part of this body.”

Following the death of George Floyd under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer in May, the DLBC introduced a package of criminal justice and racial equity bills. The General Assembly ultimately approved a ban on police chokeholds and passed a constitutional amendment (which must pass again in 2021 or 2022) outlawing racial discrimination.

The legislature also established task forces looking at police accountability and “inequities within socioeconomically marginalized African American communities.”

Not only do Black lawmakers now make up nearly one-fifth of the General Assembly’s 62-person roster, the legislature also has just its second Black member from below the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal. (Rep. Don Blakey, who lost a 2014 primary, remains the only Black lawmaker from outside New Castle County.)

Furthermore, the Senate now has three active Black legislators. Prior to 2018, only two Black individuals had ever been elected to the chamber and never more than one at a time.

“I can’t express my gratitude enough to my Delaware Legislative Black Caucus colleagues for their belief in me as a freshman legislator to serve in a leadership role,” Sen. Pinkney said in a statement. “I am a strong advocate for demanding equity for Black and Brown communities, and I see helping to lead the DLBC is an extension of this important work. I look forward to developing legislation with my colleagues that will produce a more just, fair and equitable Delaware for all of its residents.”

The caucus consists of Reps. Johnson (Bear), Chukwuocha (Wilmington), Bolden (Wilmington), Dorsey Walker (Wilmington), Franklin Cooke (New Castle), Melissa Minor-Brown (New Castle), Sherae’a Moore (Middletown), Madinah Wilson-Anton (Newark) and Larry Lambert (Claymont), as well as Sens. Brown (Wilmington), Lockman (Wilmington) and Pinkney (New Castle). All are Democrats.

In addition to Sen. Pinkney, Reps. Wilson-Anton, Moore and Lambert are newcomers.

The 151st General Assembly begins Jan. 12.