Annapolis Candidate Questionnaire

Keanuú Smith-Brown, Ward 3 (D)

1. Please let us know if you have ever volunteered with or supported any LGBTQ+ organizations, such as Annapolis Pride, PFLAG, or the Human Rights Campaign. Feel free to include events in which you participated. Please include all groups you feel are pertinent including LGBTQ+ Equity actions or advocacy that you have taken in other non-LGBTQ+ organizations or Boards. If no previous volunteer or advocacy experience with or for LGBTQ+ Community, please explain why not and how you now understand the importance of such advocacy.

As a Black, gay man, I have supported and volunteered with Annapolis Pride, which includes joining in their first annual Pride parade and organizing/cohosting the first Black Lives Matter Pride event. Other organizations that participate in LGBTQ+ Equity actions and advocacy, such as Run for Something, Sunrise Movement Annapolis and Maryland, and Our Revolution Maryland, have endorsed my campaign for Ward 3 Alderman. Specific to spearheading on LGBTQ+ issues, we are especially honored to have the endorsement and support from the Victory Fund, the only national organization dedicated to electing LGBTQ+ people to public office.

2. The Trevor Project National Survey on LGBTQ+ Youth Mental Health 2021 surveyed nearly 35,000 LGBTQ youth ages 13-24 across the United States. Among the key findings of the survey:

+ 42% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth.
+ 12% of white youth attempted suicide compared to 31% of Native/Indigenous youth, 21% of Black youth, 21% of multiracial youth, 18% of Latinx youth, and 12% of Asian/Pacific Islander youth.

Please discuss your feelings about the data above and how you would help support LGBTQ+ youth and specifically Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC), and transgender nonbinary youth. Have you advocated for or endorsed legislation and actions on the state or local level to keep LGBTQ+ youth safe? Explain if you have not and what you intend to do in the future to improve the mental health of LGBTQ+ youth in Annapolis.

Having personally experienced mental health illness, I know the importance of providing access to mental health resources and services. Throughout life, I have dealt with diagnoses, like depression, anxiety, and ADHD. Having people in my life who invest(ed) in my well-being and betterment, I am strengthened to overcome and persist. Our LGBTQ+ youth, particularly Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC), must be fully uplifted and protected.

This data is no surprise, but it pains me to understand what trauma and/or experiences these youth may have had or still encounter to cause a suicide attempt. I have advocated for and endorsed legislation/actions across our state, which includes addressing LGBTQ+ homelessness, helping those in foster care and impacted by the judicial system, and promoting equitable and inclusive schools, from LGBTQ+ sex education, to gender neutral bathrooms. I will do all that I can to inspire our LGBTQ+ youth, invest in educational opportunities and programs, such as fellowships/internships, job certifications, scholarships, tutoring, and mentorships, help them succeed in their own way, connect to mental care and health resources, and prioritize LGBTQ+ youth perspective and involvement, in order to understand and address their concerns and needs.

3. On June 16, 2021 the Anne Arundel County Public School Board passed the Safe and Inclusive Environments for LGBTQ+ Students, a comprehensive policy that prohibits discrimination and harassment based on sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. The policy states support for the right of any student to be addressed by a name and pronoun that correspond to the student’s gender identity. Additionally, the policy supports the right of any student to use school facilities that correspond with gender identity in which the student identifies.

Please discuss the importance of the adoption of policies in schools that respect student gender identification, including consideration of reasonable and respectful accommodation in regard to facilities. Please provide your feelings regarding “Bathroom Bills” that have been proposed around the country.

During my senior year of high school in 2013, I began questioning my sexuality. After my mother found out I was gay, I faced the reality of coming out publicly. Attending prom with someone of the same sex, as a gay Black man, set a precedent in my high school. It was then that I realized the awakening impacts of self-awareness, bravery, and confidence. I emphasize the urgency for persons of every demographic, regardless of sexual orientation, to join without fear or hate, especially in places of learning.

While serving as president of the District 30 Democratic Club, I used my voice to support bills at the state level that would positively impact members of the LGBTQ+ community in schools. For example, I advocated for Maryland House Bill 1147 and Senate Bill 401, which required a change of signage for single-use public restrooms, in order to make them gender-inclusive.

It is of grave importance that we adopt and implement policies respecting student gender identification, while taking into account the need for reasonable and respectful accommodations regarding facilities. The notion that LGBTQ+ persons are being restricted from using the bathroom, for example, due to how they are identified, is deplorable. As Ward 3 Alderman, I will work with our Board of Education and county/state to ensure the safety and freedom of all LGBTQ+ persons.

4. How have you advocated for the LGBTQ+ community and supported inclusion for the LGBTQ+ community in the past (i.e. have you spoken out publicly for policies at your place of business, testified before government bodies, adopted written policies for your employees, marched for equal rights, etc.)? Please be specific.

I have participated in multiple forums and podcasts highlighting the struggles that may come with being a Black member of the LGBTQ+ community, specifically as it relates to the church and political sphere. I have led and joined LGBTQ+ marches, rallies, and events, even hosting a campaign “Love with Pride and Unity” Drag Brunch. I helped organize for the Maryland’s Health Care Decisions Act (Subtitle 6), which would extend the rights of partners when making medical or funeral decisions. I have also spoken out against the Maryland Name and Gender Change Guidance, requiring an individual to publish a notice of name change in the county or city newspaper.

5. It has been well documented that LGBTQ+ people face health disparities linked to societal stigma, discrimination, and lack of access to quality health care. How have you advocated to reduce LGBTQ+ health disparities? Explain if you have not and what you intend to do in the future to improve the health of LGBTQ+ people in Annapolis.

Upon being elected, I would be the first openly gay Annapolis City Council member. My priority will be to help solve the issues that impact our LGBTQ+ Ward 3 residents and beyond. I will continue working to achieve a quality and affordable healthcare system. In my capacity as Ward 3 Alderman in the City of Annapolis, I will continue supporting policies that will make Annapolis a safe and welcoming place for the LGBTQ+ community, especially those centered around recreation, anti-bullying, employment security, Medicare for all, sex and gender education, providing resources to victims of domestic violence, and sexual assault.

6. What is your position on police reform and do you support police training and education on issues of concern to the LGBTQ+ community?

A lack of leadership on public safety has decimated families in Annapolis. We must reimagine public safety and build relationships between our police officers and neighbors. One way to address both crime and police discrimination is to better target our city’s resources. I will work to build a crisis response team, rather than having police always respond to someone having a mental health crisis or dealing with addiction. By taking a public health approach to addiction, beautifying neighborhoods, and addressing poverty, we can protect all of our families and make all of Annapolis a safe place to live.

We know LGBTQ+ people are especially vulnerable to mental health issues and police predation. I absolutely support police training on LGBTQ+ issues, and two focuses will be ensuring the appropriate response to public safety incidents and reducing incidents of police discrimination against our community.