Baltimore leaders promote racial equity and social justice

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Greater Baltimore Committee

By Daryl Moore
Special to the AFRO

On May 18th, 2021, the Greater Baltimore Committee’s 66th Annual Meeting: Moving Forward with Purpose, which focused on racial equity and social justice, was held virtually. 

GBC President & CEO Don Fry started off with a brief history lesson: “66 years ago, 83 Baltimore business leaders joined together to create an action-oriented committee to apply private sector vision, resources, and influence to solving the pressing problems of the day.” Fry noted that those techniques could be applied to modern day issues and in keeping with the theme of the meeting said, “The overriding priority is advocating and advancing a racial equity and social justice agenda. The GBC is committed to ensure that the injustice that is all too often displayed on our television screens drives positive action to address centuries of failures.”

Then, Baltimore leaders – Baltimore County Executive John A. Olszewski Jr., Baltimore Mayor Brandon M. Scott, Carroll County Commission President Edward C. Rothstein (R), Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman, Harford County Executive Barry Glassman and Howard County Executive Calvin Ball – one by one expressed gratitude to our frontline and healthcare workers, while also stressing working together as one community against the COVD-19 pandemic. 

From there, GBC Board of Directors Vice Chair Mary Ann Scully presented this year’s GBC Regional Visionary Award to the University of Maryland Medical System, which was accepted by Mohan Suntha, President and Chief Executive Officer, University of Maryland Medical System; Johns Hopkins Medicine, which was accepted by Kevin Sowers, President of Johns Hopkins Health and Executive Vice President of Johns Hopkins Medicine; University of Maryland, Baltimore, which was accepted by Bruce Jarrell, President of University of Maryland, Baltimore; and Johns Hopkins University, which was accepted by Ron Daniels, President of Johns Hopkins University. Scully explained that since 1997 this award has “honored individuals and organizations who have significantly contributed to the betterment of the Greater Baltimore region.”

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GBC Board Chair Calvin Butler, again reinforcing the meeting’s theme, said,” Our goal at the GBC, as community business leaders, should be to ensure that everything we do engages all segments of our city and region. That our work should not only improve our region’s competitiveness and our viability, but also drive an agenda of equity, inclusion and opportunity.” And as if giving an informal progress report of the last year, Butler added, “Nearly a year later, I’m proud to say we’re making good on that goal. We’re not just thinking about it, we’re not just talking the talk. We’re moving forward with purpose.”

Butler, CEO of Exelon Utilities, which includes BGE, and a senior executive vice president of the energy firm, went on to say,” the GBC has reimagined our operational priorities, including and maybe most importantly, as it pertains to our commitment to advocating and advancing racial equity and social justice.” 

New York Times Foreign Affairs Columnist and author Thomas L. Friedman, in delivering the event’s keynote address, said that three principles were on his mind as challenges cities face today in the post George Floyd killing era: Intentional, Ownership and Complex Adaptive Coalitions. 

On being Intentional, Friedman said, “There are a lot of laws on the books promoting civil rights, equity and inclusion – a lot of things on paper. But really, now is the time to take them from on paper to being very intentional about how you actually deliver sustainable change.”

On Ownership, Friedman talked about the Itasca Project in his home of Minneapolis, which was “begun by the predominantly white city fathers of Minneapolis, going back to the 50’s.” Friedman said part of their mission was to build a more inclusive city. However, their failures were highlighted after the killing of George Floyd, so they came together with African-American leaders in the community and they formed the Alliance of Alliances, which called for the day-to-day operations to be led by African-Americans. Freidman say the new project will be Black-led and Black designed. “The whole idea is we’re not going to do reform TO them, we’re going to do reform BY them, WITH them, led by the Black community, defined by the Black community, with metrics determined by the Black community.” Friedman said when you do that, you end up with the most important metric, which is ownership, and ownership is extremely important.

Thirdly, Friedman described Complex Adaptive Coalitions, as “when the business community partners with the philanthropic community, partners with the education community, partners with the social entrepreneur community, partners with the city government to actually manage the change.”

Friedman said just as necessity is the mother of invention, necessity is also the mother of inclusion: “If you’re desperate for labor, suddenly you will not care about the color of people’s skin, what god they pray to, who they sleep with.”

In closing Friedman said, “My message to you all today is really – as you think about Baltimore – think about those three words: Intentional, Ownership, Complex Adaptive Coalitions.”

Perhaps using those principles in some way, Fry said, “Moving forward, the GBC will announce more programs that will offer solutions to address systemic societal inequities and build more equitable and inclusive workplaces.”

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