Janice Liggins ’10, applied to Leadership Maryland after two different people recommended the program to her. When she was accepted, she looked forward to all of the learning and networking opportunities being part of the class would offer. But in Leadership Maryland, Janice also found a spiritual calling she wasn’t expecting.
“During our opening orientation, to help us get to know each other, facilitator Eliot Pfanstiehl asked everyone in the class to share something with the group that nobody knows about you,” she said. “I remember that someone said ‘I want to climb Kilimanjaro.’ But when they got to me, I said, ‘I love to be led by the Holy Spirit.’ I didn’t have a clue I was going to say that until I said it! But I knew then that God had a purpose for me, and I believe He had me there on assignment.”
When she came to Leadership Maryland, Janice was a consultant from Prince George’s County who worked with businesses looking to get into the federal space. But away from the office, she had begun to take more of an interest in her local community.
“As early as 2007/2008, I began to take a look around me, particularly at the young men in my community, and I just thought ‘something’s wrong here.’ The more I looked, I knew it was a big problem, but I had no idea what the problem was,” she says.
But that summer, when the Class of 2010 took Leadership Maryland’s annual visit to the maximum security prison in Cumberland, Md., Janice discovered just what that large problem was.
“We were divided into small groups, and we were each given an intimate tour of the prison, led by an officer. I even stepped inside one of the cells and asked the guard to close the door,” she says. “When I heard that ‘clink clink’ of the lock, it changed my life.”
The tour of the prison was a profound experience for the entire class, but it wasn’t until a few months later when the group reconvened for a different session that they would discover just how profound. When asked to pose a question for the class to discuss, Janice asked “How did the prison experience impact you?” The passionate discussion that followed left everyone in the class so emotional that it inspired Janice to reach out to her classmates a few days later.
“That session was on a Friday. That Sunday night, I sent an email to my class that said ‘Whenever a discussion takes place that evokes an emotion in nearly every person in the room, we witness the genesis of an assignment – a Clarion Call to action. This is the case with our class, and we need to do something,’” she said. “And by Monday morning, my email box blew up with people responding ‘I accept the call!’ And that’s how The Clarion Call got its name.”
The Clarion Call is a non-profit organization founded in 2012 by Janice that works with local families to help prevent young people from becoming part of the prison system. The organization specializes in outreach, awareness, and care coordination to bridge the gap between families and the services of other local non-profit organizations. The Clarion Call is also in the process of implementing reading, character development, and entrepreneurship programs.
“The United States has more people incarcerated per one hundred thousand than anywhere else in the world,” says Janice. “Through our outreach, we work to make sure our children and adolescents and young adults don’t get caught up in the traps, the hooks that pull kids into the prison system. Whether we are connecting families with tutoring sessions, mental health help, a mentor, or a useful STEM program, we are here for anyone who wants to do better for their children.”
Through The Clarion Call, Janice has helped reach hundreds of people throughout Prince George’s County. She is now a frequent speaker at local churches and other community centers. The Clarion Call also has its own regular television program on Prince George’s County’s cable station that allows Janice to draw more attention to the issues affecting her community, as well as celebrate young people and organizations who are doing great things. Janice’s Leadership Maryland classmates have supported her efforts by making introductions and contributing both ideas and financial donations.
“I tell people that Leadership Maryland brings together leaders from around the state and provides an excellent opportunity to be exposed to the issues, challenges, opportunities and resources of our state,” she says. “If you see an issue or challenge that you want to address, there is a network of people in this organization that could rally behind you. I really believe the Lord was using the Leadership Maryland experience for me to see what I’m supposed to do.”
To learn more about The Clarion Call, please visit TheClarionCall.info. To learn more about Leadership Maryland, please visit leadershipmd.org.
Radio: WEAA; WYPR; WAMU (local); NPR (national)
Local print: The Afro American Newspapers (DC and Baltimore); PG Sentinel; PG Suite
National print: Essence, Ebony, O Magazine