The recent shooting and the killing of another teenage black male in our City is a reminder that our communities need a voice and a hope that speaks to their needs. Such devastating occurrences of violence are not new. That it would happen just weeks before a major election of new leadership, I find peculiar. The old adage is true, all politics is local. While the race for President of the United States has the attention of most citizens, I thought it important to recognize the obvious shift in potential local leadership. Neither Biden or Trump, both older white males, would not likely have any innate interest in the individuals.
For this reason the election of four African American males to local elected office should bring about a sense of excitement, if not elation for those in the black community. On November 4th, the elections of Kweisi Mfume to the 7th Congressional District of Congress, Bill Henry as Comptroller, Brandon Scott to the office of Mayor and Nick Mosby to the office of Baltimore City Council President should mean a very real change for men and boys who look like them. I’m even more fascinated by the idea that all four are native sons of our beloved City.
Each of them has a story that identifies with the struggle of so many men and boys of color. Their individual successes and development is a direct result of their ability to navigate the institutional racism that covertly impedes on the progress of black men. But now they will be in a position to shape the local institutions whose complicit participation is equally damaging. And that is something that can not be overlooked. Mfume a seasoned and well informed policy maker can be an excellent resource to them all. If allowed, he can become an extremely valuable asset to black men in this City.
The question remains is what will the policies look like and how might they garner the support of their colleagues. More importantly how might their influence reach into the private sector in a way that calls the corporate community to task? Lastly, how might they ensure the educational opportunities of black boys in this city? I’m convinced that black boys and girls do not face an academic gap, rather they face an opportunity gap. I’m excited about the candidacy and the political futures of each of these men. The influence they now possess must never be confused with economic power. Economic power is what must be at the core of their efforts, if there is to be any real sustainable change. Names on airports and skybox seats will not suffice the need for economic integration.
I hear you asking, “but how is this different than having black women at the helm?” It’s true that in recent history there have been black women leading the city and the question is legitimate. But what is unique in this instance are the measurable outcomes for the two demographics. In almost every leading economic indicator for the City black women far outpace their black male counterparts. Systemically, we could legitimately argue the concentrated effort to hinder the success and progress of black men from slavery, to Jim Crow, to the well documented establishment of public housing policy. Black men have a unique story of overcoming in this nation and now, just maybe, this is the time to turn the page and these men, I believe can rewrite the pages for a new generation.
Here’s the challenge in a nutshell aside from the obvious influence of white power and wealth. Black men face almost insurmountable economic challenges. The unemployment for those between the ages of 20-24 was 37% in 2013. Today it’s even higher. But data shows that it does not improve as they grow older: Only 60 percent of black men between the ages of 25 and 54 are employed, compared with 80 percent of white males. Only 1 out of 10 black males in Baltimore has a college degree, while the median income for black households is about 30k. Add to that the high numbers of incarcerated black men you get to see a much clearer picture. I am confident that if we can change the trajectory and outcomes for black males in this city we can change the outcomes for the entire City. This group can not afford to spend their time bickering with each other. They must come together and develop a shared vision, particularly as it relates to Black men. Because, black men are here and we aren’t going anywhere. The question is where will black male leadership take us?