Spring 2021 Minute Message

Fellow Federationists:


We are the State’s premier civil rights organization on blindness.  We have recently celebrated the enactment of the Juneteenth National Independence Day holiday, we celebrate the right of everyone to love who we love during Pride Month, and we recognize that every individual has something valuable to contribute to the world not in spite of but because of our unique differences.  And yet, we have a tremendous way to go, as evidenced by the continued challenges related to racial, religious, socio-economic, gender, sexual orientation, and  other inequities faced by our members.  We will continue to work to make sure every Federationist feels welcome, included, and valued in the NFB of Maryland, and we will celebrate our differences just as we value our shared experiences around blindness.


Happy National Convention Season! It has been an incredibly busy few months for the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland.  We are busy working on a myriad of projects related to hosting the 2021 NFB National Convention.  We are also working hard on shoring up our safety and support efforts nationally and on the state level.  We launched our NFB of Maryland Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee and it has been planning activities, events, and informational releases.  We hosted two COVID-19 vaccination clinics for our members.  And of course, we have worked tirelessly on improving access to information, systems, services, and resources in numerous areas.  As we move into the summer, we will continue the momentum on these and a number of other initiatives.  Please read below for information and activities around the State.


NFB National Convention Is Coming!

The National Federation of the Blind 2021 Annual Convention, held anywhere and everywhere, will soon be upon us.  This convention promises to be the biggest and best in history, even bigger than last year’s record-breaking convention.  The Convention will take place Tuesday, July 6 through Saturday, July 10, 2021. 


This year, Maryland is the host affiliate of the NFB National Convention.  Our members have worked hard planning tours, the opening ceremony, Fit Breaks, LOL Comedy Night, Scrubs sales, articles, Presidential Release recordings, contests, and various other activities to showcase our Maryland and Federation pride.  Read more about these activities later in this newsletter.


The agenda, which contains Zoom access information for all of the events and general sessions, is available at https://nfb.org/convention.  It is also available on Newsline and via the Crowd Compass mobile application.  Please be sure to download the #NFB21 mobile application from the app store in order to use CrowdCompass.


Our chapters and divisions have worked hard to register people for the national convention because we believe this is a truly life-changing experience.  In order to show our appreciation for our members, friends, and supporters who register for the NFB National Convention, we will be holding a drawing if Maryland wins the attendance banner.  First prize is $100, second prize is $50, and third prize is $25.  We can only draw for this token of appreciation if Maryland has the highest attendance of all affiliates, and so please encourage your fellow convention attendees – or those interested in attending their first convention – to register.  Registration remains open through Convention, but we need folks to register by July 5 if possible.


NFB Rookie Roundup - Tuesday, June 29, 2021 at 8:30PM

All convention attendees are cordially invited to attend a welcoming Zoom meeting Tuesday, June 29 from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. EDT. President Riccobono and Chairperson of the Board Pam Allen (our Maryland 2020 National Representative) will be on hand to kick off the convention a week before it starts and preview its activities.

Click this link to join: https://zoom.us/j/99605070015
Or dial: +1 301 715 8592
Zoom Webinar ID: 996 0507 0015
One-tap mobile: +13017158592,,99605070015#


NFBMD Convention Orientation – Thursday, July 1, 2021 at 8:00PM

The National Federation of the Blind of Maryland will once again be hosting a National Convention Orientation for Marylanders on Thursday, July 1, 2021 starting at 8:00PM.  All Marylanders who are attending an NFB national convention for the first time, attending a virtual NFB national convention for the first time, or who just want information about the Convention  are welcome.  We will be discussing what to expect, Maryland-specific events and activities, and mentoring and getting assistance during the convention.

Click this link to join: https://zoom.us/j/6248138327

Meeting ID: 624 813 8327

One tap mobile



NFBMD Caucus– Friday, July 9, 2021 at 11:00AM

We will be holding the Maryland Caucus during the NFB National Convention, and it promises to be action-packed.  Come to meet the NFBMD State Scholarship winners, our National scholarship winners, discuss the resolutions that will come before the convention, and so much more!  This is a very important event, so please plan to attend.

Click this link to join: https://zoom.us/j/6248138327

Meeting ID: 624 813 8327

One tap mobile



NFBMD Hosts LOL Comedy Night – Monday, July 5, 2021

NFBMD is hosting LOL Comedy Night, a competition for blind comedians, in connection with the NFB National Convention.  This event will kick off the convention festivities on July 5 beginning at 7:30PM Eastern.  The Master of Ceremonies will be Marilee Talkington, a blind actor who starred in NCIS.  Nine blind comedians will perform, and the membership will vote on the winner.  The top two winners will receive a cash prize.  This promises to be fun and an energetic way to start the Convention.

Click this link to join: https://zoom.us/j/98598715785

Meeting ID: 985 9871 5785

One tap mobile



NFB Convention Host Affiliate Tours: From Maryland and Beyond!

The NFBMD National Convention Host Committee has planned four exciting tours in connection with the NFB National Convention.  All tours are virtual and free of cost.


B&O Railroad Museum Tour: Maryland on the Rails

Tuesday, July 6, 2021 – 12:00PM – 1:30PM

This virtual tour will examine how before 1827 Maryland became an ideal location for the B&O Railroad, and as a result, how the B&O Railroad has continued to contribute to the robust history of this state.

Click this link to join: https://zoom.us/j/95781371847

Meeting ID: 957 8137 1847

One tap mobile



NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Tour

Tuesday, July 6, 2021 – 2:00PM – 3:30PM

On this virtual tour, you will learn about the nation’s first space flight center that now also has the largest combined organization of scientists and engineers dedicated to increasing knowledge of Earth, the solar system, and the universe via observations from space.

Click this link to join: https://zoom.us/j/98911837672

Meeting ID: 989 1183 7672

One tap mobile



Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Tour

Tuesday, July 6, 2021 – 4:00PM – 5:30PM

Virtually experience Harriet Tubman’s world through exhibits that chronicle the life of this resourceful woman and the many others that helped her run the Underground Railroad. Most people underestimated her tenacity and strength.

Click this link to join: https://zoom.us/j/96125671553

Meeting ID: 961 2567 1553

One tap mobile



NFB Jernigan Institute Tour

Wednesday, July 7, 2021 – 12:00PM – 1:30PM

This unique tour will be conducted by Mary Ellen Jernigan and Melissa Riccobono, who know the building quite well. They will share stories about the vision, development, and growth of the NFB National Center for the Blind.

Click this link to join: https://zoom.us/j/95107328515

Meeting ID: 951 0732 8515

One tap mobile



Get Your NFB Convention Scrubs

Lounge wear is the uniform of the virtual meeting so be sure to order your comfortable NFB scrubs for national convention from the host affiliate, the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland. NFB Convention Scrubs are what all the cool members will be wearing at virtual banquet!


This set of scrubs contains both a short-sleeved scrub top and drawstring scrub pants, both with pockets. The set is navy blue and both the top and pants feature a charming red crab with the NFB logo in white as well as the words “It’s a Maryland thing” in white writing.


Scrubs are available via http://nfbmd.org/scrubs in sizes 2X Small, X small, small, medium, large, X Large, and 2X Large. Supplies for 2X Large and 1X Large are very limited, and we’ve sold out of the 3X Large and 4X Large sizes.  Scrubs are also available in limited supply in Tall sizes for Mediums, Larges, 1X Larges, and 2X Larges. Those interested in tall sizes should email Convention@nfbmd.org or call 443-426-4110.


 Scrubs cost $45 each (both pants and tops).


NFBMD In-Person Convention Banquet

The National Federation of the Blind of Maryland, in partnership with the National Federation of the Blind, will host an in-person banquet party during the 81st Annual NFB National Convention on July 10, 2021.  The banquet party will take place at the NFB Jernigan Institute in Baltimore beginning at 7:30PM.  Guests should arrive and plan to be seated by 7:15PM. 


We will follow public health guidance, and masking, temperature checks, CDC  questionnaires, and other health measures may be employed based on the determination of national and affiliate leadership.  We want to be together and we want to make sure we are all safe and healthy.


We will be sitting in tables of eight.  Those who want to sit with specific people should organize their table of eight and email convention@nfbmd.org with the names of the individuals they want assigned to that table.  Otherwise, we will assign people to a designated table.


Tickets cost $40 for adult meals and $12 for child meals.  We ask people to purchase their tickets by June 30, 2021 so we can plan accordingly.


Please visit http://nfbmd.org/banquetparty to purchase your ticket by June 30.


If you have questions, please contact 443-426-4110 or President@nfbmd.org.


NFB SAFE Fund Resolution

In June, the NFB National Board unanimously passed a resolution that will support survivors of trauma as we move forward.  The convention will vote on whether or not to adopt this resolution, which is printed below.  I invite anyone who wants to talk about it, anyone with questions, anyone wanting clarification, to reach out to me at 443-426-4110 or at President@nfbmd.org


The NFB has been working incredibly hard to ensure the safety of all members.  We see this in the work of the Survivor Led Task Force.  We see it in the work of the Special Committee.  We see it in the work of the Training Centers, affiliate leadership throughout the country, and in the initiatives the Board of Directors and the President have put forward and implemented.  I whole-heartedly agree with President Riccobono that the SAFE Fund initiative is one of the cornerstones of our focusing forward as a movement.  I’ll add that I believe it is a critical initiative to help survivors focus forward. 


For those reasons, I’ll ask you to support this initiative with me.  And if you’re not sure, let’s talk about it so we can understand one another’s perspectives.  We all love this organization tremendously, and we want it to be the best version of itself.  Because of that, we are and will remain #StrongerTogether.


National Federation of the Blind Board Resolution (Adopted June 10, 2021)

The Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind supports and recommends the below policy for consideration and adoption by the 2021 national Convention.

WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind was established in 1940 as this nation’s civil rights membership organization of blind people; and

WHEREAS, our organization places a high value on welcoming in all blind people to membership and creating a safe space for the exchange of information and ideas in order to work collectively toward our common interests as blind people; and

WHEREAS, on January 26, 2018, the Board of Directors reviewed existing Federation policies and established a national integrated Code of Conduct to more clearly communicate consistent expectations for appropriate behavior throughout the membership and to detail processes for receiving, investigating, and addressing violations of those standards; and

WHEREAS, the organization’s board of directors has committed to at least annual review and updating of the code and the processes supporting the code including incorporating feedback from members to ensure the Federation community is as safe and supportive as possible; and

WHEREAS, the organization acknowledges the courage of survivors in bringing forward their stories and the pressures that may make it difficult for survivors to feel safe in utilizing the code of conduct process; and

WHEREAS, individuals who are harmed by those who violate the Federation’s Code of Conduct may require additional support in order to heal from those incidents and fully participate in the organized blind movement: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED that the organization establish the Survivor Assistance to Facilitate Empowerment (SAFE) fund in an initial amount of $250,000 as a dedicated financial resource for providing therapy support to survivors of incidents where the Federation’s Code of Conduct is known to have been violated; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the board of directors will have responsibility for overseeing the fund including but not limited to reserving financial resources for the fund, maintaining adequacy of the fund, reporting the fund financial status to the convention, assuring confidentiality of individuals who receive support, establishing and communicating eligibility criteria, engaging stakeholders in the fund planning, selecting and overseeing a third party claims administrator who will maintain the confidentiality of eligible survivors, and taking such other actions as may be necessary to develop and advance the fund program over time; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that, consistent with the organization’s Code of Conduct, all steps will be taken in administering the fund to ensure that survivors are protected from retaliation based upon their use of the resources of the fund.


NFBMD National Scholarship Finalists

This year, Lizzy Muhammad Park and Mirranda Williams have been selected as NFB National Scholarship Finalists.  Lizzy is attending Johns Hopkins University working towards a Masters in International Relations, and she plans to join the diplomatic corps.  Lizzy is our Maryland BELL and Youth Programs Coordinator and a TenBroek Fellow.  Mirranda is attending Morgan State working towards a Masters in Social Work.  She plans to work with elderly clients.  Mirranda is a Maryland BELL volunteer and has assisted with various state-wide and chapter initiatives.  They will compete along with their 28 scholarship class members for a number of different scholarships that range in amount from $3,000 to $12,000.  They will attend the virtual National Convention and the NFBMD State convention in Baltimore this November, so you will have the opportunity to get to know them better.  Please join me in congratulating Mirranda and Lizzy.


NFBMD Scholarship Finalists

The National Federation of the Blind of Maryland is pleased to announce that this year, four students have been selected as 2020 John T. McCraw Scholarship finalists.  Rose Warner is a rising second-year law student at the University of Baltimore School of Law.  Laurie “McClain” Hermes is a rising junior at Loyola University Maryland.  Noah White is an incoming freshman at George Mason University.  Tyler Hoppe is an incoming  freshman at Penn State University.  They will all be attending the NFB National Convention virtually and the NFBMD State Convention in Baltimore, so you will have the chance to get to know them.  They will receive their NFBMD scholarships at the state convention in November provided they remain eligible.  We are thrilled with this year’s scholarship class and know you will be impressed as well.


NFB BELL Academy In-Home Edition!

the NFB BELL Academy In-Home Edition will teach critical nonvisual techniques and Braille literacy to blind children nationwide.  Due to public health considerations associated with COVID-19, the 2021 NFB BELL Academy will be offered virtually rather than in person.  NFB BELL will be condensed into three nationally taught and coordinated sessions with support from NFBMD.  Tracks will be available for beginner, intermediate, and advanced students.


The dates of the remaining two sessions are as follows:

  • Session 2: July 19 – July 30, 2021
  • Session 3: August 9 – August 20, 2021


Each registered student will receive Braille and other fun materials for lessons, connect with experienced teachers, and build relationships with other blind students and mentors.


The NFB BELL Academy is appropriate for blind and low vision children ages four through twelve who:

  • do not receive enough Braille and nonvisual skills instruction in school;
  • could benefit from more Braille exposure over the summer; and/or
  • would enjoy connecting with blind role models.


Registration is free to families.  Participants may register by visiting https://www.nfb.org/form/nfb-bell-academy-home-edition.  Anyone needing assistance with registering should contact NFBMD BELL Coordinator Lizzy Muhammad at lizzy.muhammad@outlook.com or at 484-624-9778.


NFBMD Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Initiatives

NFBMD is actively working to expand our knowledge of and emphasis on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives.  These initiatives also include those related to sexual harassment and misconduct, consent, boundaries, and power dynamics.  It is our intent that NFB of Maryland activities, events, and programs be safe and welcoming to all, and to that end we are devoting resources and time to increase our awareness and enhance our strategies on DEI.  WE rolled out a training to all chapters in January and February on topics related to consent, boundaries and power dynamics.  Our affiliate Board of Directors participated in the NFB-sponsored training on sexual harassment and violence prevention, provided by the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN).  In June, we conducted Culture of Consent in the Blind Community training for all affiliate, chapter, and division board members as well as the Scholarship Committee, DEI Committee, and those who work with minors and hold trusted leadership positions in the affiliate.  This was approximately 110 people.  We also plan to roll out some specific training for parents and young people in the summer on these topics as well.  Our state and chapter leaders will attend workshops on DEI, unconscious bias, and micro-aggressions later in the summer.  WE will engage in conversations on DEI and related topics and hold trainings during our State convention in November as well.  Our NFBMD DEI Committee, led by Anil Lewis, is engaged and working to promote the incorporation of DEI throughout our affiliate.  The Committee has sent out informational communications on certain topics and observances to promote DEI.  If you have questions about these initiatives or have suggestions for how we can best incorporate DEI into our programs, please don’t hesitate to contact me at President@nfbmd.org or at 443-426-4110 or Chairperson Anil Lewis at GreaterBaltimore@nfbmd.org.


NFB and NFBMD Host a COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic

The National Federation of the Blind of Maryland, in partnership with the National Federation of the Blind, the Maryland Department of Disabilities, the Maryland Department of Health, and Rite Aid Pharmacy, held two vaccination clinics for members of the blind community and the disability community.  These clinics took place on April 5 and May 3 respectively at the Jernigan Institute.  Approximately 150 individuals from throughout Maryland received the Moderna vaccine.  Special thanks to the NFB staff who assisted with checking individuals in and helping with paperwork and members of the NFBMD and Greater Baltimore Chapter who served as greeters, escorts, and performed a myriad of other tasks.


Access to COVID-19 Testing and Vaccine Resources

Due to lack of accessibility, blind Marylanders have experienced challenges accessing COVID-19 testing facilities and vaccination locations.  NFBMD has been working with the Maryland Department of Disabilities to ensure access to these services for the blind throughout Maryland.  To that end, we disseminate through all of our listserves an accessible spreadsheet containing vaccination locations, their contact information, and links for scheduling a vaccine appointment.  We realize that many of the county and medical provider vaccination sign-up portals are not accessible, even if we share their information in an accessible format.  To that end, we are exploring holding a vaccination clinic in Baltimore in April.  We are also beginning discussions about holding a vaccination clinic in Montgomery or Prince Georges Counties.  If individuals would be interested in participating in such a vaccination clinic, please email me at President@nfbmd.org.  Please be sure to specify whether you prefer Baltimore or PG/Montgomery county and whether you could travel to either.  We realize that there are many members who cannot get to either location, and we are actively working with MDOD to find solutions for every blind Marylander.


NFBMD COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund

We continue to operate an affiliate COVID-19 fund to assist individuals and families that are experiencing financial hardship during the COVID-19 crisis.  This fund is available to blind individuals and families with a blind household member living in Maryland.  The financial assistance must be needed due to a change in circumstance, e.g. loss of employment income, because of COVID-19 or associated government directives like the Stay-at-Home order.  Assistance is limited to essentials such as groceries and medication.  This Fund is being administered by the NFBMD Financial Assistance Committee.  Anyone who is wishing to request assistance should contact me at President@nfbmd.org or at 443-426-4110.


In addition, we are seeking contributions to augment the NFBMD COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund.  Those interested in making a monetary donation may do so by sending a check to NFBMD, 15 Charles Plaza, #3002, Baltimore, Maryland 21201 or by using the PayPal donation link on our website located at http://www.nfbmd.org/COVID-19Fund


Important Upcoming Dates

  • June 29, 2021 – Rookie Round-Up
  • July 1, 2021 – NFB of Maryland Convention Orientation
  • July 5, 2021 – LOL Comedy Night
  • July 6 – 1, 2021 – NFB National Convention, Anywhere and Everywhere!
  • July 19 – July 30, 2021 – NFB BELL Academy In-Home Edition Session 2
  • August 9 – August 20, 2021 – NFB BELL Academy In-Home Edition Session 3
  • September 10, 2021 – Basket and Bag Bingo, Catonsville, Maryland
  • September 19 – 26, 2021 – Blind Cruising 2021, Carnival Pride, Departing from Port of Baltimore
  • October 8, 2021 – NFBMD Crab Feast, Parkville, Maryland
  • November 12 – 14, 2021 – NFB of Maryland 55th Annual Convention, Baltimore, Maryland