The associate provost for diversity and equity at College Park was to offer words of welcome to professionals in the field of domestic violence, but first he had something else he wanted to say.
He spoke of "unperishable memories," of how his father, "a robust provider who suffered from racism and worked two or three jobs to make ends meet, barely, would pound out his frustrations on my mother." Then, paradoxically, his father would tell him and his brothers not to hit their sisters because they were girls.
Finally, there was one strike too many. As an 11-year-old, Cordell W. Black said, he stood between his parents and pleaded with his father, "Please don't hit my mommy. She's a girl." From then on, the University of Maryland official said, "he never did again."
Yet, his sisters entered into abusive relationships where they were "slapped and punched around," and his nieces have "repeated the same cycle."
"I don't often bare my soul in public, but I have this time," Black said. "Too often it is cloaked in the privacy of family life or buried in isolation, this terrible thing called domestic violence. . . . Where does it end?"
That was the question that begged an answer at the meeting of 75 "trench-workers" in the war against domestic violence last week in the Adele Stamp Student Union. The "Path to Empowerment" forum brought together academics, prosecutors, police, politicians, probation officers, jail officials and others in a common quest for understanding.
Those attending also got a pep talk from Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend (D), who urged anyone who sees abuse to "speak out. . . . We have to be busybodies. It's not popular but necessary. It takes a village to know where the problems are."
The conference was organized by Norma Harley, director of the domestic violence program in the office of the Prince George's state's attorney, as a precursor to training sessions she said will be held next year for staff, faculty, students and employees at the College Park campus.
During the meeting, there was much talk of "empowerment" and "consciousness-raising" and what more could be done by "victim service providers."
"I can remember sadly when we were helping [tell] folks why not to prosecute," said Chief Kenneth Krouse, head of the campus police. He said that is no longer the case.
State's Attorney Jack B. Johnson said there has been a shift in homicidal violence from drug-related to domestic slayings. "There is so much anger in the community, in the home," he said, noting that 82 percent of child and sex abuse cases stem from the home.
Until recently, programs and research treated domestic violence as "colorless," according to Robert Hampton, dean of undergraduate studies. However, he said, there is a cultural component in which "women of color," recent immigrants and impoverished families are "at elevated risk," and that is getting increasing attention.
"We men are more likely to be perpetrators; we are victims as well," he said. And Pam Alexander, a psychology professor at College Park, said research has begun to challenge the notion that domestic violence stems from "men's socialization in a patriarchal society. We are realizing [violent men] are not all alike."