I’m not much of a political person. I vote, but I don’t follow politics, generally.
That all changed for me as I inadvertently sat, stuck in my car, just blocks away from the riots on Monday, April 27th here in Baltimore.
Having completely forgotten about the significance of this day for Freddi Gray and his family, I decided to cut through Baltimore on my way home from DC. Sitting in my car and chatting with LN Lurie, my audio engineer, I found myself frustrated with Mayor Rawlings-Blake.
“Why hasn’t our Mayor addressed our city yet?” In my mind she had the power to connect with the rioters, address (as best she could) their concerns, and provide some semblance of a plan for everyone watching.
In my perfect story, her words would have made their way to the rioters. She would have put herself in their shoes, seen the world through their eyes, and acknowledged their anger. She would have calmed them, and ensured us that we would get to the bottom of things. We all knew what they wanted – justice. A little assurance from her could have stopped what followed.
Fortunately, I made it home safely within the hour, and jumped on the internet to check for updates. I still found myself looking to Rawlings-Blake for clarity and hope.
Turned out, she was set to speak in minutes. I rushed to my television, hoping to hear words of courage and optimism, perhaps even a bit of direction. Ultimately, I wanted to know she had this—that she was pulling in the resources needed to put a stop to the violence.
I studied her face as she spoke, listening to her every word. She hadn’t said much, when the first reporter asked, “Why didn’t you call a press conference sooner?” He read my mind. It turned out she had made comments earlier in the day that the media had been slaughtering her for.
“I’ve been working,” she said, “Managing the details.”
As the Mayor of our city, the person countless of us looked to for direction, hearing this it felt like no one was at the helm. Trusting others to make decisions – to manage details – frees those in a position of leadership to lead—to address the public, to collaborate with other organizations, and to find the best solutions inside, and out of, a crisis.
A few moments later, when asked about the people responsible for the destruction, Rawlings-Blake said, “There are peaceful protestors, and then there are the thugs.”
Name calling, and ultimately, finger pointing is not what Baltimore needed during this time. Instead of banding us together in anticipation of a peaceful resolution, there became an “us” and “them” – a division between those seeking justice and those driven to violence.
Communities—corporate, government, cities, and beyond—need leadership. They need passion, direction, honesty, and ultimately, focus. They need to know what’s happening, why, where to put their energy, and how to contribute. Such leadership is exactly what Baltimore needs. Can we count on you to lead the way to a peaceful regeneration, Rawlings-Blake?
Will you help us see the steps we need take to not only rebuild the structures, but to create a foundation for the success of our youth? Will you learn about their lives, connect with them, and give them the direction they’re seeking?
Of course, we don’t expect you can do this all on your own, but we are eagerly waiting for your direction – will you lead the way?