By D. Morton Glover
Our beloved Baltimore: a
majority African American East Coast city of approximately
650,000 souls, all seemingly bound together by a beltway and
possibly nothing more, particularly as it relates to the
caliber, cohesiveness, and vision of its African American
leadership. Standing at the vestibule of a brand new millennium,
many are consequently wondering what future - if any - awaits
African Americans here in a city where more money is spent on
new stadiums than on schools.
Hope VI developments replace former housing projects now extinct
with the dinosaurs, thousands of poor blacks have been moved as
far out as Liberty Dam. In their stead, new market-rate homes
now stand, garnering one- and two-hundred thousand dollar price
tags. Clearly, former project residents will not be the 'norm'
in these modern, upscale dwellings created with the urban
professional in mind that can now be seen from W. Franklin
Street at MLK Blvd.
These homes, located minutes from downtown and easily accessible
to interstate highways, are meant for upwardly-mobile
individuals who, in many cases, work and study at the downtown
University of Maryland complex. In other areas, like East
Harbor, similar plans are in effect such that East Baltimore
public housing tenants with 30 and 40 years of history in areas
like Flag House and Douglass Homes are being uprooted to never
live in these communities again.
suggest that this new housing stock undoubtedly attracts many
whites back to the city. Meanwhile, communities like Sandtown-Winchester
and Upton are plagued with dilapidated homes and crime-infested
corners. While there is some semblance of development in these
communities, there are more negatives than positives. Some
community residents can't wait to relocate.
there has been promise of improvement in these areas, such
change cannot come quick enough. And although non-profits paint
visions of "community-based transformation," many
residents of these historically-black communities complain that
bureaucrats and transformation guardians do a better job at
creating hefty salaries for themselves than they do at helping
empower community residents to lead.
many argue that those elected to represent these areas in both
Annapolis and City Hall only show up when there is a television
camera present. As a resident of Sandtown-Winchester, one of
Baltimore's most challenged inner-city communities, I can
honestly say that this is absolutely true. Granted, the biggest
challenge in the African American community is not the elected
greatest difficulty is the spiritual illness of people in poor
communities. And, truth be told, no legislation in the world can
effect the type of change that is truly necessary for
lead-filled houses to be torn down, for schools to be rebuilt,
for commercial corridors to be rejuvenated. BandAid approaches
from the past can no longer be implemented. Only love and
genuine care can cure these ills.
type of leadership can only come from within. And who better to
point the way than African American leaders? Be they from the
church, from City Hall, from the community -- who is better
qualified to address the issues of the African American
community but the leaders from that same community? However,
such leadership is absent. It is void. And we are left without.
everybody and their mother wants to be in elected office and
hold up a place at the table, few seemingly have the guts to
lead. Few seemingly have the ability to connect with the issues
of the people, galvanize the necessary support, stand up like a
man -- like a woman -- and speak truth to power. Instead, our
leaders are more like children asking their parents' permission
mind you, the next time you'll see these "leaders," it
will be 4 years later and another election -- and they'll have
with them more of their posters and palm cards -- and they'll be
telling you to once again listen out for their expensive radio
promos telling you for whom you should vote. And then, when they
do finally come, they'll bring with them the same vestiges of
broken power and 'divide and conquer' philosophy that helped
emasculate this community from the jump.
differently: African American leaders in Baltimore seem to think
their own ice is not cold enough. They move as if their
self-esteem is connected to that of the larger society, that it
is better to "go along to get along." Further, their
lack of effectiveness suggests that either they are gun-shy to
speak-out because of fear of retribution, including the loss of
a second income, or they are comfortable with what is happening.
If it were not true, if these leaders truly cared for their
communities, I personally think the African American community
in Baltimore would be in better shape, and not in the faltering
-- if not embalmed condition in which it currently finds itself.
at the younger generation and the condition of the Baltimore
City Public Schools in which our youth are expected to learn.
According to youth and children expert David Miller, more black
children will be going to summer school in 2003 than the 40,000
in 2002. He estimates nearly 70,000 youth will be spending next
summer -- not working a summer job under the mentorship of one
of Baltimore's developing professionals -- but in a hot
classroom on the Eastside or the Westside of Baltimore catching
up on reading and math.
educational advocate for Baltimore's Urban Leadership Institute
also pointed out that as of October 2002 in Baltimore, 1,078
juveniles have been arrested. This number surpasses last year's
stats easily. To me, this suggests that although things are
going terribly awry in this city, few if any have seized the
opportunity to speak truth to power.
there have been a boatload of emotional responses to crisis
situations, like the murder of the 7 members of the Dawson
family. But emotion only leads to more emotion. What is needed
now is calculated methods and strategies -- designed by our
leaders -- to improve and empower the very least within our
community. And this effort is going to take all facets of the
community, including individuals who have successfully
re-entered society after serving time in prison.
any event, it starts with leadership. Otherwise, the black
community will fester in a swarm of warm feces while other
communities develop and prosper. The Dawson family is but
another unfortunate example. At the southeast corner of Preston
& Eden late one mid-October nite in 2002, this entire family
was murdered over drug-related foolishness. Did black leadership
show up? They sure did. However, when the cameras left, so did
those part-time leaders.
there are reports that the murder scene is still a distribution
point for crack and dope. Point: Real problems require real
solutions designed and implemented by real people who want to
accomplish real feats. I ask, Where is the leadership in our
community? Who will genuinely care and lead the black community
through what is the most difficult of times -- characterized by
mounting budget deficits and burgeoning shortfalls? Who will
step up and speak truth to power, taking a stand for the entire
community to see and not just for a network television camera?
Who will go out and make that uncomfortable stand such that drug
dealers and community residents alike both begin to see the harm
done in our community, as well as the ways to correct that harm?
as it relates to black and minority-owned businesses, Who will
truly advocate for these businesses to help ensure that they get
their fair share of city and state contracts, and don't fall
prey to hand-picked politics? Hell, who will make some black
millionaires and billionaires? Who will, as Brother Bey and the
Fraternal Order of Ex-Offenders (FOXO) argue, finally see -- for
example -- the value of the ex-offender population when it comes
to dealing with unruly youth?
will step up and say how if groups like FOXO can be added to the
solution, headway can be made with our ostracized youth
population? As Bey suggests, "When we fail to do what we're
supposed to do with our young people, others will." Hence,
there is little wonder why many young people are prematurely
involved in the revolving door of adjudication and
is little wonder why many of them would rather sell drugs than
go to school; sadly, Baltimore and the much larger American
society has twisted the values of our youth such that a pair of
tennis shoes is worth more than a human life. Selling drugs is
more prestigious than working a 9 to 5.And given that some 50%
of the jails are filled with black men, there is no question
that 'others' are left to do the job of fathering. From there,
the groundwork has been laid for the next generation of dealers
who will speak truth to power? It is as if black leaders are
first looking to the broader community for permission to speak.
Simultaneously, the city mourns the horrific death of a
beautiful little girl, Marciana Ringo, whose throat was slit
from ear to ear in retaliation over an otherwise petty dispute.
Who will speak truth to power? Is it the church? Is it the
mosque? Is it the synagogue?
will come to the corners with love and truth and mobilize this
energy such that crime is once again viewed as taboo in the
black community? "I Can't We Can" (ICWC) recovery
network will show up. Whether it is at Park Heights and Cold
Spring, Carrollton and Riggs, or Holbrook and Hoffman - ICWC is
one of those rare gems which consistently answers the call for
there again are those politicians who only try to usurp the
effectiveness of such organizations for their own benefit. They
show up for special appearances with this and other
community-based groups, but few if any of these politicians have
lobbied for money to ensure their future.2003: A new year is
here! My question is, Who will lead us? Who will put their own
stuff on the side in order to proudly serve the masses of
African Americans in this city? Who will get out there and shed
the blood, sweat, and tears to get 50,000 young people from
Baltimore City registered to vote and educated about the process
and the candidates? Who will pull the scattered communities in
West Baltimore such that leadership in districts like the
embattled 44th state legislative are organized and educated
about everything from the upcoming session of the Maryland
General Assembly to the redistricting process for the 'new'
Baltimore City Council?
wise man once said that elections don't make leaders. Situations
do. That being the case, it is safe to now presume that the
leadership needed in the black community will not come from
elected officials. No. Such leadership will and must come from
within and with love. Nevertheless, the question still remains:
. . . will lead?
D. Morton Glover, CEO
/ DMGlobal Communications /
Creator of BmoreNews.Com410.331.7715 - Voice
1.866.262.2620 - Toll-free
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