The Episcopal Diocese of Maryland set aside $1 million to create a grant program for reparations for the church’s role in slavery and systemic racism, and the first grants were just awarded to several organizations across the state of Maryland.
“We know of our church’s involvement, first of all in slavery, that all of our clergy in the 17th century and 18th century, early 18th century, owned slaves, including the first bishops of Maryland,” said the Right Rev. Eugene Taylor Sutton, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland.
Aje Hill founded I Believe in Me in 2016, vowing to mentor kids so they don’t go down the same dark path he did.
“I was a convict, a degenerate, a thief, a liar,” Hill said.
He was sentenced to serve eight years of a 20-year prison term for drug dealing.
“That time in prison saved my life,” he said. “It helped me find myself; it helped me believe in myself.”
Now he calls himself a hope dealer.
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I Believe in Me received a $30,000 grant through the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland. The reparations grant will provide funding for summer programs, field trips, social experiences, financial literacy and other activities for kids ages 6 to 16.
“That grant, it just fuels our fire, keeps us motivated, keep us understanding that this is bigger than us,” Hill said.
Program Director Monte Williams spent some of his teen years behind bars. He met Hill when they were both locked up.
“Well, my first crime, I was, like, 9 years old, and it just got worse and worse and worse. It started progressing,” he said.
Williams was involved in a shooting and spent more than a year in jail.
He started with I Believe in Me as soon as he was released to give back to his community.
“I just knew that there was something in the universe that was better than continuing to get in trouble,” Williams said.
That’s what they’re teaching the young people in the program: there is a better way and to believe in themselves.
The organization operates out of a small office in a downtown Frederick building but is trying to raise $2million to build a space for the program and students it serves.
The church gave out $175,000 in grants to six organizations during this first round.
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