Where do we stand and where do we go from here?
Back in the 1960’s and 70’s, blacks were fighting fiercely to obtain economic and political power, while addressing the civil and human rights of African Americans throughout this country. The question this article intends to focus is; what happened? Focused specifically on the City of Baltimore, we had conservative Mayor’s such as Theodore McKeldin, as well as the Italian power surge of the D’Alesandro’s which saw powerful white mayor’s at least placating our communities with a few token black leaders in their administrations.
We experienced the days of the Inner Harbor loving William ‘Donald’ Schaefer, who knew more about creating infrastructure and buildings, than that of economic or educational empowerment for the black community. Though we had many black leaders fighting as best they could, to ensure that certain minority inclusion was felt in this great big development of a downtown – yet it still was not enough. While many point to the jobs, contracts and more that blacks received from the development of the Inner Harbor, numbers now point to that of only 9% of the total economic surge from this multi-billion development coming to that of Baltimore’s black communities – with many of those blacks not even City residents, nor in dire need of the income!
Then, Baltimore was blessed with its great political empowerment of the city’s first black Mayor’s, Clarence ‘Du’ Burns and Kurt Schmoke. Though ‘Du’ was merely a placeholder appointed to serve out the remaining term of Schaefer who was elevated to the position of State Governor; he was a community hero, yet was later beat by then City State’s Attorney, Schmoke. However, facing a declining City as it relates to population, Schmoke had the opportunity to realize and shape a new Baltimore, which now saw its citizenry having an African Americans majority. From Empowerment Zones to minority businesses booming, having even a majority black city council to empower and pass legislation offered by the administration – though he continued to fight his black nemesis, Council President Lawrence Bell – Schmoke focused on education and drug treatment (rather radification) – yet failed in public safety.
Thus, after three terms of what some considered a failed administration that saw more people leave the City than those who were empowered by it, a new Baltimore was born – and it has nothing to do with its black majority. In 1999, we allowed for a divided local government, as well as a bought and sold black political leadership to sell our people out based on the reasoning that the ‘White man’s ice was colder’, enabling Martin O’Malley to split the majority black electorate and become the White Mayor of a Black City!
With the election of the ‘Irish Boss’, Baltimore’s black empowerment seemed to come to a screeching halt and terrifying end, while certain blacks sold the O’Malley BELIEVE juice to those less informed, thirsty and willing to drink anything out of a dirty glass; while others were ostracized and put on the political ‘hit-list’. This led to an even more divided African American leadership, seeing the demise and eventual abolishment of the longtime political clubs of empowerment while the long-term plans of others, not even from this City, began to prosper and come to fruition.
After the O’Malley vision took him to where he knew he’d be, at the Governor’s Mansion in Annapolis, with an eye on Washington D.C.; Baltimoreans continued to suffer as he kept a tight iron-fisted grip on a less than powerfully divided black government. While the Baltimore City Council remained a divided government in terms of black representation, having an edge with the Council President being black giving blacks a 8-7 advantage; it became evident that some did not consider their heritage and race worthy enough to try and advocate for those less fortunate that looked like them. They seemed content on ensuring that they were a part of this white man’s plans and vision for this City, accepting promises and payoffs in return for the blatantly obvious departure from their own. I believe Mayoral candidate Otis Rolley said it best when he stated that “Baltimore residents seem to have gotten full off the scraps thrown off the table, given to them on a consistent basis?”
However, with an election in 2011 at a time that we not only have a black Mayor, as well as a black Council President; we also have a black President of the United States, yet do not seem to have a black agenda or platform? We have yet to hear throughout this election about black empowerment, from either minority inclusion, black small business empowerment or even how to empower blacks through various employment, housing or subsidy programs. None of the candidates have raised the issues that are pertinent and relevant to Baltimore’s black electorate. And not one media outlet, political or community leader or group have thus far raised this issue either, thereby giving each of these candidates a “free ride” in terms of their black agenda. While I am quite aware that the Mayor must represent everyone in this City – white, black, Vietnamese, oriental, Latino and otherwise – it should be known that despite the rest, the elephant in the room is that if these elections go as most think they will – Baltimore will have not only its top two leaders African Americans, yet will more than likely have a black majority of the city council?
Yet, is Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Catherine Pugh, Otis Rolley or even Frank Conaway Sr., if elected, ready to serve the majority of this city by giving blacks the majority of the resources, development contracts and more? I mean how do we still want to receive ‘minority inclusive contracts’ when we are the ‘majority’ in this City? If anything, black businesses should be getting the overall contracts and hiring others as the minority companies receiving only a percentage of the overall contracts? Yet with a current Mayor who has doubled the funding of the most obvious white-controlled Teach for America group, while eliminating many recreational centers and opportunities designated for those less fortunate, which are primarily young black children; we barely ever hear SRB even mention the Obama administration – which rebuffed her boss MOM when he supported Hillary Clinton for President in 2007-2008. She then cuts YouthWork jobs to black children, while essentially cutting school funding; for while she says the city “maintained the level of last year’s funding, in an economy with services more costly from year to year (its called inflation), last year’s funding is not enough to pay for those same services this year – therefore realistically you cut services!
And while everyone knows Rawlings-Blake was one the first blacks to buy into the O’Malley hype in ’99, even being so arrogant as to hire his brother Peter to run the city operations as her Chief of Staff a few months ago; most are still questioning the sincerity of the rest of the Mayoral field. Checking the campaign finance database and observing hiring practices and more by Pugh and Rolley, each raising close to a half-a-million; neither chose to hire locally or blacks in terms of their campaigns. Rolley, the man who promotes a work here, live here concept chose to fill the majority of his top-tier campaign staffers with out-of-state and white companies. Really? Then Pugh, who has been a part of Baltimore politics for decades also chose to hire out-of-state strategists and white advisors with the only black local leader, or at least a black ‘leader with a voice’ in her campaign being that of former Mayoral spokesperson and WEAA radio talk-show host, Anthony McCarthy. The only Mayoral candidate that most BELIEVE would even come close to sticking to their guns in terms of black empowerment and employment is Baltimore City Court Clerk, Frank Conaway Sr.
Yet pointing fingers is not going to solve the problems that black Baltimore faces, thereby leaving it up to community, non-elected “leaders” to hold these officials accountable to their words and an agenda inclusive of all area black businesses and political interests. When I offered to put together a meeting with all the city candidates at the Radio One studios, hosted by the powerful yet silent group known as the Black Media Personalities of Baltimore; I was rebuffed by most, while others were with it as long as they were in charge – thereby leaving us in limbo as others had more personal problems with such based off the fact “they did not put it together and were not in charge of such”? This ego-driven, personality related mentality of black Baltimoreans is honestly the main roadblock in seeing a more empowered and less divisive African American electorate!
People involved in such backroom political deals and businesses know that those powerful enough to call such meetings, organize and/or mobilize the masses of Baltimore’s black neighborhoods and communities, only choose to do such for selfishly personal means – either to flaunt what they think they know or have, or to financially empower themselves even more! People call themselves leaders yet have been in the same position for decades, stagnant and self-empowering without offering their keen insight or educational experiences for the purpose of empowering or mentoring younger blacks – hungry and aggressively ambitious in making themselves servants for the betterment of their communities.
Therefore, we can blame the other man for his underhanded and conniving means in which he has mastered the process of us fighting one another, while he obtains the power given to him by those who are so blind and untrusting of one another, that they choose to give their means over to someone who really has no interest in them nor their advancement and looks nothing like them – unless of course it empowers them even more! Or, we can begin to place personalities to the side and realize that this City is slowly slipping out of control of the majority of Baltimore – African Americans – while we work like slaves to keep this city moving and nationally recognized. We must begin to strategize with one another for the betterment of our families, communities, neighborhoods and those who don’t look like us, yet are worthy of being served by real leaders with the testicular fortitude to stand up for what is right and continuously destroy the evils attempting to corrupt and takeover OUR Baltimore.
Black empowerment is not a simplistic mathematical equation that we will solve overnight, rather it is a consistently evolving process with no real one solution or answer; yet can be achieved through continued strategizing with those who have mastered their areas of expertise (stop trying to be something your not, stay in your lane and stop being a leader of everything yet master of none!) with the collective mindset of economic, educational and political empowerment to those who are willing to take on the task of being responsible for themselves, their neighborhoods and the City as a whole. This fight is not for the meager nor the weak, rather for those willing to stop chasing cameras and headlines and begin to take what they say and put it to action – for its easy to talk the good talk, yet the real question comes when its time for action with a purpose and outcome! Now is the time for action, therefore let’s show our collective power on Tuesday September 13th and beyond – for the empowerment of Baltimore does not begin, nor does it end, with an election; for that is merely one battle fought in the larger concept of war. Strap up, kiss the babies and women goodbye and get ready to put your life on the line in protecting the freedoms and equality of Baltimore’s black electorate and business interests!
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