Chrissy Thornton became Associated Black Charities’ (ABC) president and CEO at the top of the new year in 2023. The Morgan State University alumna arrived in Baltimore from New York. She graduated in 1997 with a degree in sociology. Thornton later earned a business degree in organizational management. She has been previously employed by healthcare advocacy organizations and Thornton worked in the vocational rehabilitation field while helping people return to work, specifically focusing on ex-offenders.
ABC, the Baltimore-based nonprofit, remains on a mission to address racial equity.
“Our mission is to work as an educator, advocate and supporter to eliminate the race-based barriers that have been created by structural racism and to create new opportunities for African Americans to succeed,” Thornton said.
ABC started in 1985 by a group of Black businessmen and women, in addition to leaders in the faith community, according to Thornton.
“It has always been a statewide organization. I think a lot of our work and impact has happened in Baltimore because of the demographics there and it just having such an economic disparity for Black people that it’s provided a great case study of how to approach some similar issues in other areas of the state and eventually other areas of the country,” Thornton said.
The racial wealth gap, workplace discrimination, issues with healthcare equity and health care access, housing policies, education inequality and the criminal justice system are some of ABC’s focal areas along with advocacy. Financial literacy is taught through a Black wealth series.
“We also are hosting webinars monthly to highlight how equity has played a role in professional life and also helping Black people to navigate some of the obstacles created by racism in the workplace. We also do a lot around racial equity training for organizations that need workplace support from us,” Thornton said.
ABC’s community conversations is an in-person addition.
“That’s actually something that we’re doing that’s new to 2023 and we’re really excited about those. It’s really steeped in my, I would say, strategic analysis of the organization’s work and our desire to focus on really engaging with the Black community. So, I think it’s been a priority of mine personally to make sure that we’re actually hearing from the Black community about what their needs are so we can respond with purposeful programming that has real meaningful impact,” Thornton said.
The first session took place in Baltimore’s Cherry Hill. Another event will be held this month in the Johnston Square neighborhood.
“We don’t have the capacity to solve all of the problems, but we certainly have had years of success in being able to bring entities together who can bring forward solutions, and so that’s our goal,” Thornton said.
Data from the inaugural session was recorded. An open letter was published on ABC’s website with the intent of presenting a call to action for any organizations, businesses, community leaders or agencies that had resolutions that they could bring forward to help solve the issues that were identified.
“It’s not only had very positive response, but we are literally in the process of brokering and convening solutions to some of the problems that were presented, because organizations responded to that call and are stepping up where they have capacity and resources to help serve that community, because we issued the call,” Thornton said.
She added that ABC’s visibility and communication of impact may not have been as prominent, but most of what is currently underway has been in the wheelhouse. For example, ABC Academy is now featured on the organization’s website. It is now accessible to anyone who needs it.
“It is a video resource library that features a video series on Black wealth, one on financial literacy and we plan to grow that series to include features on diversity, equity and inclusion, as well as young adult leadership,” Thornton said.
Bernard K. Sims, Director of Culture/Community for ABC, has been working at the nonprofit for nine years. He wants people to know that ABC is resilient, capable, and equipped to continue doing the work that the organization has always done.
“I would say ABC’s greatest impact is creating a heightened awareness/education around institutional/structural racism and the ability to partner with other leaders and organizations in this space to move this work,” Sims said, while reflecting on ABC’s collective accomplishments.
Sims added a point that aligns with Thornton’s sentiments.
“Even though there’s been a change in leadership, our goal and mission remain unwavering,” Sims stated.
Visit www.abc-md.org to obtain more information about ABC.