Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake addressed criticisms of her announcement of a new mentorship initiative aimed at young Black males during her State of the City address.
“[My] call to action has been misunderstood by some in the community as my attempt to blame our community for the problem. I had no such intent; it was a very, very sincere ask for help. How can we work together better to tackle this issue that we all care about?” said Rawlings-Blake.
During her State of the City address on Monday, the mayor said, “We show anger over police misconduct, but far too often, we ignore something that should cause just as much outrage. Of the 211 tragic killings in our city last year, 189 were African-American men. One-hundred and eighty-nine. We need to end the violence in our community.”
She then announced a campaign to recruit mentors, tutors and job training coaches and connect them with young Black males in the city, in an effort to reduce violence.
The mayor drew ire from some quarters for the way she framed the problem. The Rev. Dr. Heber Brown III, community activist and pastor of Pleasant Hope Baptist Church, responded on his Facebook page, writing, “I am so tired of the convenient and disingenuous trope about Black-on-Black crime which appeals to White sensibilities, serves the status quo and obscures deeper, systemic issues that are often ignored. I’m equally tired of the presentation of this false dichotomy which attempts to pit protestors against practitioners – as if those of us who are protesting are not mentoring, coaching, pastoring, counseling, teaching, and doing our part to address the material conditions of our community as well.”
On March 12, the mayor said that in making the call for more volunteers to get involved in the life of Baltimore’s youth, she was addressing an important need.
“We have waiting lists for African-American young men who have enough sense to know that they need or want a mentor, and their call has been unanswered…,” she said. “We might not solve the problems of racism and poverty by the end of the month, but by the end of the month, if we want to, we can close that waiting list of young men who want and need a responsible adult in their life. We can make progress there, and that’s what this call to action is about.”