Annual MammoJam Music Festival scheduled for Saturday, March 3rd

The 15th Annual MammoJam Music Festival will be held on Saturday, March 3, 2018 at 6:30 p.m. at Baltimore’s famed 8×10. Proceeds will support local breast cancer screening and treatment programs for low-income women.

This year’s festival will be a celebration of MammoJam’s 15-year legacy of supporting local breast cancer screening and treatment programs for low income and underinsured women.

The lineup includes four bands that have made significant contributions to MammoJam’s mission and the women they serve including Baltimore blues and funk sensation Ursula Ricks, South Baltimore’s Roses and Rust and the return of 33 West. Alexandria stalwarts, the Reserves return for their 6th MammoJam performance.

“MammoJam has celebrated the courage of breast cancer survivors and the compassion of their friends and family members who’ve all been personally touched by the disease,” festival founder, Bill Romani, said in a release. “We owe our success to the sustained commitment of the bands, our neighbors, and the local businesses who’ve supported us these last 15 years.”

MammoJam is an all-volunteer grassroots organization that has raised almost $200,000 since it was founded in 2004. All proceeds, support local organizations like the Hoffberger Breast Center at Mercy Medical Center and Healthcare for the Homeless to provide crucial breast cancer screening and treatment to underinsured women in Baltimore City.

MammoJam was created in October 2003 by two friends passionate about live music and had loved ones who survived breast cancer. The idea to combine the two was inspired during the Baltimore debut of the band Grilled Lincolns also touched by breast cancer and by the emotional support of their fans and family.

Since that early Grilled Lincolns show MammoJam has used live music performances to promote the importance of early breast cancer diagnosis and treatment and to insure access to these vital resources for the women who need them most.

For many, like Romani, MammoJam celebrates the “courage of breast cancer survivors like his mother and the compassion of friends and family members who are all personally touched by the impact that the disease has on their loved ones,” he said.

Advanced ticket and parking sales for the 15th Annual MammoJam Music Festival are available now until March 2 for $45 online and at the 8×10 box office.

Parking is available in the parking lot behind Shofer’s Furniture if purchased in advanced for $11.

For more information about MammoJam or to purchase tickets including the opportunity for complimentary admission for breast cancer survivors, visit www.mammojam.org.

When You’re in Prison, No One Prepares You for Coming Home

In my memories of prison, there are no colors. It was a dark, cold, and gray place. Incarceration, for me, was defined by deprivation not just deprivation of freedom, opportunity, and safety, but deprivation of the senses.

On the day of my release, I stepped off a bus at Port Authority and walked out into the world for the first time in 13 years. I remember feeling suddenly overwhelmed by the oranges, blues, reds, and neon greens of New York City streets. After so many years in a concrete box, I was finally free. That excitement, however, soon gave way to anxiety. What I remember most clearly from that day is the feeling of fear that I wouldn’t be able to make it.

I spent 13 years in prison, but no one started talking to me about my release until 90 days before I finished my sentence. During those conversations, the burden of responsibility was placed on me. I was asked where I would be living, the clinics and reentry programs I would be taking part in, but at no time was I given tools to do research about my options.

People serving time in prison were required to take part in certain rehabilitation and work programs, but the violent culture of prison completely undermined their effectiveness. If I was in a carpentry class and I had to worry about whether some guy was going to take the hammer and beat me over the head with it because I owed him two packs of cigarettes, I probably was not going to learn much. If an anger management class was being taught by someone who I knew had gotten into a fight the previous week, the teacher was not going to fill me with confidence.

Despite the difficulties inherent in prison life, I was able to pursue my education, earning 30 college credits before my release. In the outside world, though, I had a difficult time proving my worth. No one wanted to hire someone with a criminal background, no matter my accomplishments in prison or my resolve to make a meaningful life for myself. In the six months that followed my release, I went to more than 50 job interviews. Every time, my criminal background acted as an automatic disqualifier. As a person with a record, I was constantly defined by the darkest chapter in my life. Anytime I tried to get ahead, I found myself having to answer for mistakes I made when I was teenager.

After months of job-hunting, I finally landed at the Mental Health Project of the Urban Justice Center. For every other job I applied to, I had tried to hide my criminal record — it was like I was in the closet about it. But the problem with doing 13 years is that you can’t easily hide that time or shake those experiences.

When I applied to the Mental Health Project, I led with the fact that I had a criminal background. I got the job right away. Now that I work with people who are going through the reentry process, my experiences trying to get back on my feet after incarceration are invaluable. Without the firsthand experience of incarceration and reentry, there’s no way I could be as effective in my work now.

Today, I am an advocate to end mass incarceration and a voice for the formerly incarcerated. It is a backwards logic that has our society investing in locking young people up instead of creating opportunities for them or preparing them for life after prison. We need more investment in education and counseling for at-risk populations, including those who are currently or formerly incarcerated. I can never get back those 13 years, but I can make sure that young people in the future have better choices than I did.

Johnny Perez advocates against mass incarceration and to end solitary confinement as the director of U.S. Prison Program for the National Religious Campaign Against Torture and as a member of the NY Advisory Committee to The US Civil Rights Commission and the NYC Bar Association’s Correction and Reentry Committee.

Pianist Marianna Prjevalskaya Performs Debussy’s Preludes March 4 at UUCA

Piano virtuoso Marianna Prjevalskaya honors composer Claude Debussy in the 100th anniversary year of his death with a performance of his complete preludes on Sunday, March 4, 2018 at 3 p.m., at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Annapolis (UUCA), 333 Dubois Road in Annapolis.

The program features Debussy’s piano preludes Books I and II, composed between 1909 and 1913. Inspired by nature, poetry, decorative objects, and art, each prelude has a descriptive title that is placed at the end of the piece as an apparent afterthought, giving way to free imagination. Even though Debussy preferred to play them in groups of three or four, he took meticulous care in the ordering of these short pieces for publication, creating a strong tonal and architectural unity.

Both cycles are authentic gems in the piano repertoire that are rarely heard in their entirety. Prjevalskaya’s performance, “Soundscape: Celebrating Debussy’s Complete Preludes,” is part of the UUCA monthly Arts in the Woods concert series. Tickets are $15 at the door. Visit www.tinyurl.com/UUCA-concerts or call 410-266-8044 for more information.

Marianna Prjevalskaya, praised as a “virtuoso, impetuous, passionate and mature pianist of great musicality” (Diario Segre, Spain), is making her Annapolis debut. She has appeared with such major orchestras as the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, and the National Lithuanian Symphony Orchestra, and has performed as a recitalist at the Mozarteum in Salzburg, Accademia Santa Cecilia in Rome, Teatro Goldoni of Florence, Minato Mirai Hall in Yokohama, and Carnegie’s Weill Hall in New York. Her most recent CD album dedicated to Rachmaninoff is receiving critical acclaim. She is a gold medalist of the 2014 New Orleans International Piano Competition, the 2013 World Piano Competition in Cincinnati and European Piano Competition in Normandy; she won the 2011 Jaén Prize in Spain and was top prize winner of the 2010 Sendai International Piano Competition and the 2007 Paderewski International Piano Competition, among many others.

Born to a musical family, Prjevalskaya grew up in Russia and Spain and began studying piano at age 6. She made her first solo debut with orchestra at age nine and won her first piano competition at age 14. She has degrees and/or artist diplomas from the Royal College of Music in London, Yale School of Music, and Indiana University. She is currently a doctoral candidate at Peabody Conservatory of Music, where she studies with Boris Slutsky.

The March 4 performance at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Annapolis is part of the monthly Arts in the Woods concert series. The next program in the series will be Sunday, April 15, 2018, at 3 p.m. and will feature Expressions Dance Company, Gospel Travelers, and other area musicians in the 2018 Black Lives Matter/Dismantling Racism Concert. For information, visit: www.tinyurl.com/UUCA-concerts or call 410-266-8044.

CBS Sportscaster James Brown is also a minister

— Minister James Brown’s Message: “Break the Huddle and Run the Play.”

Mention the name James Brown, and most people think of the legendary now-deceased musician. However, in broadcast media circles, the same name belongs to another hard-working black man with the exact same handle.

Recently, on Sunday morning at Bridgeway Community Center in suburban Baltimore, broadcaster James Brown displayed a moniker many people didn’t realize he owned— a minister’s role. As special guest speaker, Brown provided the Word during a month-long speakers series hosted by Bridgeway’s resident pastor, David Anderson.

During his hour-long sermon, Brown delivered a passionate message reflecting his lifelong commitment to sports and spirituality. Having experienced life as a teenage high school and college basketball star, Brown would later use his court savvy to transition to a career as a network TV football announcer and analyst.

His recent sermon targeted the theme: “Break the Huddle and Run the Play.” The football analogy fit perfectly, considering Brown currently hosts ‘Inside the NFL’ on Showtime, in addition to his regularly scheduled play-by-play football broadcasts that have aired on CBS-TV and FOX-TV in the past 30 years. He also hosts CBS News and contributes to ‘60 Minutes.’

Blessed with a smooth, engaging personality, the announcer/minister easily engaged the congregation, initially with stories about his wife, and four young grandchildren. Following his warm-up, Brown evoked his love for the Lord – and his knowledge of scripture.

During his sermon, he compared football huddles with attending church services, Sunday School and Bible studies – but never taking lessons learned in those forums, and “running the play” or applying what’s learned for good use. He also equated four quarters of football with the Biblical three-scores and 10 lifecycle.

“By age 16, you’ve completed quarter one, at 36, it’s halftime; at 50, it’s third quarter, and anything after 70, well, that’s over-time and ultimately, ‘sudden death,’” he said to applause and chuckles.

After enjoying a star-studded career at DC’s legendary DeMatha Catholic High School, Brown matriculated to Harvard where he earned a degree in American Government, in addition to his continued athletic prowess as Harvard’s premier hoopster. When a tryout with the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks proved fruitless, Brown gathered his Harvard degree and entered corporate America with gigs at Xerox and Eastman Kodak.

Brown regularly attends DC’s Rhema Christian Center, and speaks there on occasion. Bridgeway Community Church was founded by senior pastor David Anderson. The church reflects a spirit-filled, multi-culturally diverse congregation.

Dr. Anderson described Brown as “a devout man of God.”

For more information about Bridgeway Community Church, call 410-992-5832 or visit: info@bridgeway.cc. The Columbia campus is located at 9189 Red Branch Road, Columbia, Maryland 20145.

Five Reasons Pre-School Years Are a Prime Time for Learning

News & Experts— Much of the discussion about education focuses on the K-12 years, but some early childhood education experts suggest serious learning can start even earlier and pay dividends for the child in years to come.

“Young children have the capacity at a very young age to be academically challenged, and we need to educate them strongly during those years instead of waiting until they are older,” says Alise McGregor, founder of Little Newtons (www.littlenewtons.com), an early education center with locations in Minnesota and Illinois. “Children’s minds are like sponges when they are very young. Under age five is the most important time for development and our best opportunity to set up children for success. If we strongly educate children at a very young age, while their brains are so pliable, by the time they reach kindergarten, their brain capacity is much higher.”

Recent research confirms that the first five years of life are particularly important for the development of the child’s brain. Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child reports that in the first few years, more than 1 million new neural connections are formed every second, building the brain’s architecture.

This growth of the brain’s network establishes a fertile foundation for learning, thus an opportunity to be better prepared for grade school and beyond, experts say. One analysis of several studies, “Impacts of Early Childhood Education on Medium and Long-term Education,” showed that children exposed to high-quality pre-kindergarten education performed better academically in later years. Early education also led to higher graduation rates, fewer special education placements and less grade retention.

McGregor suggests five reasons parents should consider ramping up their pre-K child’s education:

•Socialization— Socialization with people other than the child’s family in a safe environment is an essential foundational element. “It’s important to introduce our children to other children and support their transition into their own friendship groups, and the earlier we do this, it helps children overcome shyness and gain self-confidence,” McGregor says.

•Personal experiences— Experiences assist the brain’s organizational development and functioning in many situations, helping children develop learning skills as well as social and emotional abilities. “A good early-education center creates an environment where imagination, love and innovation all come together for a daily adventure,” McGregor says.

•Enthusiasm for Learning— Lessons can be given in a fun and exciting way that will encourage children to be effective learners. “Feeling inspired and excited to learn takes root in preschool,” McGregor says, “and can last a lifetime.”

•Learning respect for others— A fundamental building block for happiness, friendships and success in life starts early by learning how to share, cooperate, take turns and be nice. “By carrying on conversations, following rules, listening, accepting consequences of actions, the child learns early how to start getting along in the world,” McGregor says.

•Resilience— It’s important that early childhood educators and parents work together to develop resilience in children as early as possible. “By creating a consistent and stable environment with clear expectations and predictable consequences, children can develop skills in managing themselves and their emotions,” McGregor says. “They may experience bumps, bruises or losing a game, but this is the foundation for building coping strategies for greater challenges in life.”

“The first five years of life are the most critical,” McGregor says. “It is far easier to train a child than it is to fix a broken adult.”

Alise McGregor is the founder of Little Newtons (www.littlenewtons.com), an exceptional childcare center focusing on early childhood education with four locations in Minnesota and one in Illinois. Also a nurse, she has a B.S. in Exercise Physiology with a cardiac rehabilitation emphasis.

Take the Aging Mastery Program® to Age Successfully

— Now that people are living many more years than their parents did, and often decades after retirement, they often find that they aren’t prepared for this gift of longevity— especially if they are also trying to balance taking care of a spouse or parent. To assist individuals with improved physical health, better financial wellbeing and more connections to their community, Baltimore County Department of Aging (BCDA) is offering The Aging Mastery Program® for Caregivers.

This 12-week program, developed by The National Council on Aging, teaches participants how to make small but impactful changes so they can develop sustainable behaviors. Classes will be held at the Pikesville Senior Center (above the Pikesville Library) from 6:30 – 8: 30 p.m. on Thursdays, beginning March 1 and running through May 24 (no class March 29). The program is only $35 for all 12 sessions, with the remainder of the cost being subsidized by BCDA.

Each class, which is facilitated by Ellen Platt of The Option Group, will be taught by experts in the fields of nutrition, exercise, advance planning, finance, falls prevention, community engagement and sleep.

According to Jill Hall, Division Chief for Senior Centers and Community Programs with the Baltimore County Department of Aging, ninety percent of participants in AMP classes taken elsewhere in the United States would recommend this class to a friend, and most have already implemented changes that have made their life better.

“Since we know that caregivers today are facing so many challenges, we thought we would start with the AMP program for Caregivers. This adds on two classes to the usual 10-week program, but we feel that the additional material related to being a better caregiver and taking care of yourself while you are caring for another were important.”

To register, call 410-887-4724. Only 35 spots are available in the spring session, so it is important to register early.

Call for Student Applicants for Summer Internships

— The University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) is offering young people ages 14 to 21 the opportunity to gain work readiness skills training through summer internships.

Through the YouthWorks program at UMMC’s University and Midtown campuses, the interns will have the chance to participate in a summer experience that is a unique opportunity to begin to develop a career path to college or the workplace. Participating youth will develop workplace skills, learn how to meet employers’ expectations, gain exposure to career opportunities in high-growth industries, and feel the pride of earning a paycheck.

The five-week internship program runs from June 25 through July 27, 2018. After orientation, each intern is assigned to an area on one of UMMC’s two hospital campuses: UMMC University Campus and UMMC Midtown Campus. Each participant works five hours each day in one of more than 30 clinical and support areas. They also have two classroom hours on Fridays devoted to the development of essential skills, technical skills, and interpersonal skills that they can use in school, jobs, and life. Students earn minimum wage for their work.

Eligible participants MUST be Baltimore City residents between the ages of 14 and 21.

Applications are being accepted through Friday, March 2, 2018. Apply online or learn more by visiting youthworks.oedworks.com.

The initiative is collaboration between YouthWorks, a summer jobs program sponsored by the Baltimore Mayor’s Office of Employment Development and the UMMC Office of Community and Workforce Engagement, which coordinates several youth and adult job-training programs with government and private-sector organizations.

Raising Emotionally Competent Children

I don’t remember my grandparents assisting me with homework beyond holding up flash cards for me to recite. They could have, I just don’t remember. I do remember Lil’ Bow Wow’s release of “Beware of Dog” in 2000 followed by my incessant pleading to hang his poster on my bedroom wall. I also remember hearing my mother’s inevitable “no” as she repeated her “no posters on these walls” policy.

In a fast-paced, tech-obsessed world, assisting your child with homework can prove a daunting task. New teaching methods are adopted every day. Even professionals with advanced degrees are not necessarily equipped to help children with homework.

However, all parents should feel empowered to teach their children social and emotional development. Social and emotional competence yields similar academic gains as strictly educational interventions. Parents, churches and communities bear the brunt of the responsibility for socializing children. This is where we, as a community, have an opportunity to shine.

A report from the Brookings Institution, published in May 2015, called for the prioritization of social and emotional development as the U.S. Congress worked on the bill that would become the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) that was signed into law by Barack Obama in December 2015.

The report, titled “Social and Emotional Development: The Next School Reform Frontier,” claims social and emotional competence directly correlates to a child’s ability to learn and achieve in school. The report cited the findings of a study of more than 200,000 students from kindergarten to high school who participated in social and emotional development learning (SEL) programs at school. The study found that students who completed SEL programs demonstrated greater social skills, less emotional stress, better attitudes, fewer conduct problems, and more frequent positive behaviors, such as cooperation and help for other students—benefits that translate to the workplace.

In November 2017, after all 50 states and the District of Columbia submitted their state ESSA plans, Lauren Poteat reported that states were ignoring opportunities to address social competency in the new national education law. Social and emotional development is a child’s ability to understand and control his/her feelings, acknowledge and respect the feelings of others, and to form meaningful relationships. In layman’s terms, social/emotional development is the authoritative, waving finger of your mother, father, grandma, grandpa, aunt or uncle saying: “Remember who you representin’, when you walk out this door.” Or, for those of us familiar with Christianity, social and emotional development echoes Proverbs 22:6: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

So, what can Black parents do to supplement the lack of school-based SEL programs? Here are a few things my grandparents did.

Respect Your Child’s Voice

If there was a rule I didn’t agree with, my grandma always took the time to hear my perspective. She didn’t listen just waiting to reply; she listened intently, to understand. Most times I didn’t change her mind, but a few times I did. Those experiences taught me that my voice was valid, that you didn’t’ have to agree with someone to understand their perspective, and that simply acknowledging someone else’s perspective can create an environment for enlightenment.

Give Your Child Tangible Heroes

There was a ‘no posters on these walls’ policy in my house. I am almost certain my grandma didn’t want posters of celebrities on her wall for respectability devotions. However, the unintended outcome was an elevated perception of self-worth. Since, my grandma never provided me the opportunity to idolize my favorite pop stars, I learned to look to the people around me for role models and guidance. Ultimately, I learned that whatever tools I needed to succeed were already within me. I learned how to control my behavior. I held the sole responsibility for my choices and whenever I felt confused, the first people I looked to for help were in my immediate support system.

Encourage Your Children

I never received a reward for expected behavior. I didn’t get taken out for pizza or ice cream for good grades or behavior. Nevertheless, my grandpa never missed an opportunity to show his appreciation for a job well done, either through a big bear hug or a cheesy smile. My grandpa showed his love for me regardless of any accolades I obtained. He made it clear that he loved me; just for me. He told me I was beautiful before anyone else ever got the chance to. On bad days, I still hear his voice saying, “That’s a pretty dress there. Twirl around, let me see it all the way around.” In that moment I would feel as if I was the only girl in the world. I felt we had similar interest in pretty dresses and that made him more than just my father figure; that made him my confidant. I credit this experience for my ability to form meaningful relationships.

Neither of my grandparents graduated high school, however they were able to have a profound impact on my academic progress by simply validating my voice, providing a strong support system, and encouraging me regardless of accolades from the outside world.

Learn more about social and emotional development and the Every Student Succeeds Act at nnpa.org/essa.

Lynette Munroe is the program assistant for the NNPA’s Every Student Succeeds Act Public Awareness Campaign and a master’s student at Howard University. Her research areas are public policy and national development. Follow Lynette on Twitter @_monroedoctrine.

Back in the Day: Two Hall of Famers Recall Baltimore’s Boxing Legacy

Author Thomas Scharf’s compilation of more than 200 rarely, seen photographs that skillfully illustrate Baltimore’s heritage as an elite boxing town highlight the effect the city had on the sweet science.

Scharf, a boxing historian and member of the International Research Organization and elector to the International Boxing Hall of Fame, also touched on Joe Gans, a fighter dear to two of Baltimore’s old-time sluggers— Louis Butler and Marvin McDowell.

“The first African-American world boxing champion Joe Gans, he’s from Baltimore and he was one of the best lightweights to ever put the gloves on,” said McDowell, who runs the popular UMAR Boxing Gym at 1217 W. North Avenue.

“Gans was the first African-American world champion in any sport,” said Butler, who along with McDowell, are members of the Maryland Boxing Hall of Fame.

Gans became the first Baltimore resident and the first African-American to win a championship in 1902. “He earned the nickname, ‘The Old Master,’ because his skills far preceded his age. It was like he’d been here before,” McDowell said.

Both Lewis and McDowell recalled the Baltimore boxing scene as being the gateway to champions and big name stars like Baltimore’s Dwight Braxton (who changed his name to Muhammad Qawi) and Palmer Park Maryland’s Sugar Ray Leonard.

They reminisced about tough fighters like Johnny Wilburn who boxed from 1975 to 1980, squaring off against the likes of future champions Michael Spinks and Eddie Mustafa Muhammad.

Venues like the Civic Center, Painters Mill and Fells Point hosted many fighters.

On February 5, 1977, the Baltimore Civic Center played host to Leonard’s professional debut where the eventual “Fighter of the Decade” defeated Luis Vega. Three months later, Leonard returned to the Civic Center and defeated Willie Rodriguez.

“For young and aspiring Baltimore fighters, there were plenty of heroes,” Butler said.

“Mine were anyone I had watched on the black and white television. Guys like Joe Lewis, Sonny Liston, Sugar Ray Robinson and Jack Johnson,” he said.

“One time someone told me I was like Jack Johnson and I was so happy,” said Butler, who helped to kick-start the career of another Baltimore legend, Hasim Rahman, who would go on to become a two-time world heavyweight champion.

McDowell noted that the man who inspired him was Roberto Duran, the former world champion from Panama known as the “Hands of Stone.”

“I was crazy about Duran and I was a great fan of Sugar Ray Robinson, who nobody compares to him,” said McDowell, who earned induction in the Maryland Boxing Hall of Fame in 1996 after a career highlighted by victories at the 5th Regiment Armory in Baltimore over Darryl Cherry and at the Steelworkers Hall in Baltimore over Anthony Williams and Maurice Young.

Butler’s career, which led to a Hall of Fame induction in 2004, included wins at the Civic Center over Joe Sprowell and Eddie Smith. He twice battled Qawi, once at the Civic Center and at Steel Pier Arena in Atlantic City, N.J.

“Back in the day, we were at the top of the line. If a guy wasn’t in our weight class, we didn’t worry about him but if he was in our weight class, we wanted to know who he was so that we could take care of him,” McDowell said.

New Loan, Down Payment Assistance Products Added to Maryland Mortgage Program

The Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development recently announced new loan and down payment assistance products and debuted a redesigned website for the Maryland Mortgage Program before an audience of lenders, realtors, counselors, mortgage insurers and other program partners.

New Maryland Mortgage Program products include a mortgage loan developed for borrowers with mid-range credit scores, a down payment assistance grant designed to be used with specific Freddie Mac mortgages, and the expansion of one of the department’s existing grant programs for down payment assistance to make it applicable to more types of mortgages. These new initiatives will expand access to the program for lower income homebuyers as well as those struggling with credit issues, down payment, or closing costs.

“Homeownership strengthens Maryland’s communities, and home-buying strengthens Maryland’s economy,” said Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development Secretary Kenneth C. Holt. “The Maryland Mortgage Program provides homebuyers with competitive rates and the peace of mind of a loan backed by the State of Maryland. In particular, the program’s down payment assistance options set our mortgage products apart from many other loans by helping to provide extra cash at settlement.”

For down payment assistance, the department announced that the Maryland Mortgage Program’s existing Maryland four percent Grant Assist can now be used for down payment assistance for Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans as well as conventional, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), or United States Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) loans.

In an effort to increase access to homeownership for lower income homebuyers, the department also announced the creation of the Maryland six percent Opportunity Grant for use by income-selected homebuyers with down payment and closing costs associated with purchasing a home for Freddie Mac Housing Finance Agencies (HFA) Advantage mortgages only. The department also announced the new Maryland Credit 640 program, which was developed to assist homebuyers with FICO scores in the 640-659 range with purchasing a home in Maryland.

Along with these program enhancements, the department also highlighted its efforts to streamline processes for program lending partners and a new program website, http://mmp.maryland.gov, redesigned to be more user-friendly and responsive for customers.

The Maryland Mortgage Program has been the state’s flagship homeownership program for more than 35 years, providing fixed-rate mortgages, primarily to first-time homebuyers, along with down payment and closing cost incentives.

For more information about the Maryland Mortgage program and the new initiatives, visit: http://mmp.maryland.gov.