(ANNAPOLIS – July 17, 2018) – Having covered Maryland politics for the past 24 years, it is – in one breath – refreshing to see this new generation of elected officials voted into office on both the local and the state levels. At the same time, to only replace dying leadership with inept leadership is no step forward.
This is not an indictment of either the older politicians or the members of the emerging cadre of new leaders. This is, however, to bring attention to the facts.
In the past, I have stated that what’s worse than an old slave is a young slave because the latter has more time and energy to wreak havoc on an already imperiled community.
Put simply, we do in fact need new leaders; but, we also need the wisdom of the elders, like former state Senator Joan Carter Conway. No one can deny that this woman was a most powerful force in Annapolis who understands the game like very few in our community.
Yes, I am happy for state Senator-elect’s Mary Washington’s victory. At the same time, Washington has huge shoes to fill. In losing Conway, the 43rd – the city – and the state have lost one of the most astute African American legislators in the history of the state.
It is my hope that new state Senators in the Maryland General Assembly will reach out to Conway. She is still a force and still has all of her contacts. She is indeed an institution – all by herself.
This week, there is a state central committee election for leadership. The politically astute know that this committee was busier in 2017 than it has been in years, if not decades. Because of Mayor Catherine Pugh’s election to City Hall, her state senate seat became open. As then-Delegate Barbara Robinson was chosen to replace Pugh, her delegate seat opened up. Gary Brown, Pugh’s assistant, wanted the spot. And he had it until it was revealed that he put $18,000 illegally into Pugh’s campaign. So, while Brown was Robinson’s replacement briefly, the seat was ultimately given to Nick Mosby. That was all in the 40th district.
In the 41st district, former state Senator Lisa Gladden had to be removed from office due to illness. Then-Delegate Nathaniel Oaks moved up to her seat. The state central committee, once again, had to vote on a replacement for Gladden – and then for Oaks’ delegate seat.
In both the 40th and the 41st, the Democratic State Central Committee saw more action than it has in quite a long time.
One person who did not get reelected this past June 26th during the Primary was Scherod Barnes, who headed the Baltimore Democratic State Central Committee out of the 43rd district. This week, the committee will vote on a new chair.
Long story short, we need African Americans in Baltimore City to collectively understand how critical these times are. It is not enough to pick new leaders. These new leaders must also be groomed and mentored by the veterans because the last thing we need is unqualified people representing the black community. The fight black legislators face in Annapolis is no small issue. Our legislators have to wage war in the state’s capital every year in order to bring back the necessary resources we all need.
What does this mean? It means that Conway and former state Senator Nathaniel McFadden are more important now than ever. They have the experience and the expertise that is priceless and essential to our forward progress as a community.
In other words, our new, young elected leaders have stepped up. Now, they must seek out the wisdom of the elders because they do not have the wherewithal to effectively navigate Annapolis on their own. For our new, young leaders to go about their work without the benefit of the expertise of the elders is suicide.
Not only do these newbies need the wisdom of the former elected officials, they also need the elders to know our history. I have found that many youngsters do not know the history. So, I do my best to share that history as often as I can.
For instance, for people who recently ran in the primary in the 40th, to not know about the late state Senator Troy Brailey is tragic. Not only was Brailey one of the most respected black elected officials in the history of the state of Maryland, Brailey was also a friend of people like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and A. Philip Randolph. His daughter, Alice Torriente, is quick to share the impact her dad had not only on the 40th, but the entire nation.
In the 44th, if young black politicos do not know anything about the Mitchell Family and this family’s contributions on behalf of the black community, then how can they truly appreciate the position in which they find themselves?
In East Baltimore, for any new black elected official to not know about Baltimore’s first black mayor – Clarence “Du” Burns, then they cannot possibly value their newfound position.
And there are countless others who are gone now – like Delegate Howard “Pete” Rawlings and state Senator Clarence Blount – whose efforts have helped black folks to make it this far. Not knowing one’s history is like a tree with no roots. It is my prayer that our new cadre of leaders come to know the history of African Americans in Baltimore political history; more importantly, I pray that they learn this history well so as to be able to pass it on to generations yet unborn.
Winning a seat is one thing, but if an elected official does not comprehend where they fit in the continuum of black politics in Maryland, then they are like a bird with no wings and will surely push the envelope nowhere.