The Glover Report: Things to Consider If You’re Black … Before Running for Office in Maryland

By Doni Glover, Publisher
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(BALTIMORE – January 30, 2022) – Having covered Maryland politics since the mid-90s, I must say that while there have been some sweet, unexpected wins over the decades, I am also saddened by a trail of tragic, unfortunate, and avoidable losses. For instance, we saw Coppin State get the largest investment in its infrastructure ever. And we witnessed increased attention on Minority Business Enterprise statewide, we have also seen calamity after calamity as one Black elected after another has fallen to the throws of corruption.

Born and raised in East and West Baltimore, I often reminisce on the old days, the old Baltimore, the one I grew up in with many of you. The City Fair, Operation Champ mobile units, Baltimore Summer Corps jobs, and BNBL games flood my local memory with many good times indeed.

It is a different world today in so many regards. So much has changed. Yet, I am reminded that the fundamentals remain the same. Basic moral values still withstand the test of time. Integrity and character still matter, no matter how many followers we have or don’t have on social media. A person’s word is still the gold standard – whether they are young or not so young, white, Black, Latino, Asian, Jewish, Muslim, Catholic, Christian, Amish, atheist, or anywhere in between.

From an Afrocentric perspective, it has always been important to this journalist to see Black progress. I want to brag about our Black elected officials the way Washingtonians brag about Mayor for Life Marion Barry or the way Atlantans perpetually celebrate Mayor Maynard Jackson.

Living in Baltimore City for most of my 56 years, I have watched certain communities get a lot of attention while others go ignored. I have seen Black communities in East Baltimore, Park Heights, and West Baltimore utterly removed. For me, this is troubling, particularly given that Baltimore has one of the highest percentages of Black elected officials nationally.

You see, going back to the days of Mayor J. Barry Mahool, the Father of Segregation, Baltimore has always had a plan to confine and eliminate the masses of Black people. Many, for example, do not know that Baltimore had the largest population of freed Blacks in the country prior to the Civil War thus leaving certain white folks with the Negro Dilemma: what to do with all of these Black people.

The Nowhere Highway first comes to mind. That knocked out an entire swath of West Baltimore. East Baltimore Bio-tech also comes to mind; many of those Blacks who were lured away actually thought they’d be returning. Not!

The Park Heights Racetrack Impact Funds also come to mind. So, too, does the Maryland State Lottery and the more than $15 billion it has collected since its inception with the promise of money for public education. What monies have gone to the Black community? Of those dollars earmarked, how many actually go to the communities that need it most?

Here, in Sandtown-Winchester, for example, the latest trend has been closing schools – not opening them.

Given the work done by the likes of Attorney Alicia Wilson, many agree that the residents of Westport fared better than other Black communities in the past as Port Covington comes into fruition. That’s a good thing!

On the other hand, when we do not have an effective voice at the table representing our interests, when we do not keep our eye on the ball, it is the Black community in Baltimore that has consistently gotten the short end of the stick. Sure, certain individuals and communities might benefit, but the masses are left out of the equation.

Just look at our subway system; it has to be the quintessential blueprint of what not to do in public transportation nationally. We have a train that goes from downtown straight to northwest Baltimore County. If you live anywhere else, then you may never have a need to utilize this piece of mass transportation. Built in 1983, I have always wondered how come we didn’t look to Atlanta’s system built just a few years prior. They have a north-south leg that crosses with an east-west leg in the center. That’s egalitarian. That’s utilitarian. That’s frickin’ common sense!

SUCCESSION PLAN

Hence, moving forward, we cannot afford to continue to make fundamental mistakes. For one, we, as a community, have done a horrible job at passing the ball. Truth is, ever since Delegate Howard “Pete” Rawlings and state Senator Clarence Blount passed, we have had a leadership vacuum in Baltimore. To date, no one has stepped into their shoes that I know of – at least, not like them. And we have thus been driving blindly down the road. After Mayor Kurt Schmoke, a plan should have been in place for his replacement and I do mean a Black person. However, there was no succession plan.

That’s from a Black Baltimore perspective.

From a Prince George’s County perspective, the Black political community there wields more political power than ever before. This tells me that it would behoove Black officials in Baltimore to get some friends there and strengthen up current ties.

Yes, Prince George’s County has its own challenges, but from a statewide perspective, these two large majority-Black jurisdictions both need their leaders working together. And this necessary bridge-building between these two jurisdictions is not something new. The late state Senator Clarence Mitchell, III, and others were right there from the beginning for Tommie Broadwater when he became the first Black state Senator in the wealthiest Black county in the country.    

I think Baltimore and Prince George’s County need each other. We both have struggling school systems. We both struggle to get more Black businesses contracts. And we both struggle with drugs and violence.

Maybe, the future of Black leadership in Maryland begins with these two groups of Black folks working more cooperatively. House Speaker Adrienne Jones and Maryland Black Caucus Chair Darryl Barnes, for instance, have a golden opportunity to show how leaders from both jurisdictions can help build a better Maryland for all, including Black people.

This means communication between the leaders. This means cooperation as well. That’s how we improve our state for all people, including Black people.

We also can no longer afford to be separated by –isms.

As if racism isn’t enough, we, in the Black community, have another ism that should be addressed immediately: Classism. Never can a Black person in America think that their income, education, zip code, make of vehicle, or other accouterments of success separates them from the masses. In the eyes of those people climbing the walls of the Capital on January 6th last year, we’re all the same!

Corruption, drunk with power, all caught up …

When a Black candidate first comes on the scene (much like white people), they have great intentions. They develop the elevator pitch about why we should vote for them. As a candidate, it is their job to kiss babies (well, certainly not during the pandemic), visit seniors, knock on doors, and the like.

But, a lot of times something happens in between running for office and actually becoming an elected official. Somewhere in the mix, one can become easily blinded by the lights and cameras, and consequently forget all of the things they said when initially running for office. Too many times, a newly elected person changes. And it is understandable. But, one can never afford to forget the people.

The same things you did to earn people’s vote is the same thing you have to do to keep getting their vote.

I think all too many times, we forget our initial reason for getting involved in politics – our “why”, and we consequently get lost in the sauce, never to return. It becomes more about press conferences and likes on social media than it does about actually helping improve people’s quality of life. That’s dangerous!

At the end of the day, we forget why we got into politics in the first place and become enamored with the “honorable” lifestyle, as if it is ours for life. It is not. It is merely a loan that must be repaid with service to, for, and on behalf of the people.

Political office is innately not for oneself. It’s supposed to benefit the people. All people!

Many of us, for example, were elated to vote for a Black president; but, at the end of the day, many still ask, just how did it improve the conditions of everyday life for the Black man, woman, and child in America? As one politico from Maryland’s Eastern Shore told me when I asked her what Harriet Tubman would say about America’s first Black president, she replied, “It was not supposed to be about Barack Obama, but about all of us.”

So, before we get to yet another election, let’s just make it plain:

Future Black elected officials, please do not apply for elected office if you haven’t done your research and if you are not ready to take responsibility for the assignment. If your best plan of action is to tell me, Joe Citizen, that’s it’s my job to fix the district, city, county, state, or country – then, you need not apply. If you do not have a course of action, do not apply. If you cannot pull together the best and brightest minds in order to find solutions, do not apply. And if this is really a clandestine foray to boost your own ego, please do not apply. If you are only going to give excuses, kick the can down the road, and act impervious and/or arrogant on top of it all, no need to apply, bud!

Maybe Malcolm X had the best advice: “You cannot serve the people if you do not love the people.”

If you are Black and in office, you already know going in the door that you are being watched. If you are Black and vocal, too, you know you have a bullseye on your back. Point is, learn the game. Learn the traps. Truth be told, one has to study the game and the role of the various players for a while to truly understand how politics work. And, if you are not at the table, then you are on the menu.

As a Black man or woman in politics, you already know going in the door that you cannot make sloppy mistakes and you damn sure cannot blame the dog for eating your homework. It’s not going to work in corporate America and it’s not going to work in politics either. In America, it’s been said that we have to be ten times better than our white counterparts just to get a job.

The point is, do not expect it to be easy. Do not think it is a game. It is not! And other people’s lives are more dependent on your actions or inactions than ever before. Serving in political office is a sacred responsibility and must be highly regarded as such.

Further, getting into political office is one thing. Staying there is another.

Hence, do have a qualified team of people around you who you trust. This includes a lawyer and a Certified Public Accountant. A candidate also needs someone who knows the Maryland Constitution, campaign finance laws, and the mechanics of getting legislation passed.

One must have layers of fiscal protection that allow the candidate/elected official to focus on the tasks at hand. The elected official ought not touch the money ever. As it was explicitly explained to me in 1998, if you touch the money, you go to Jessup House of Corrections aka “the Cut”. That was all I needed to hear. Lesson learned! Do not touch the money. Do not accept gifts. Pay for your own meals. Do not take cash from anybody.

Know the media

Another skillset is understanding the media. In my time as a journalist, the late Baltimore City Councilman Kenneth N. Harris was one of the best students of local media ever. He had reporters’ phone numbers. He kept a book of his press clippings. He spent meticulous time nurturing those media relationships. Further, he was the biggest supporter of BmoreNews.com in our formative years. No one understood media like Harris. A key lesson is to not wait until you need them. One should have a rapport with the media long before any potential crisis. Journalists are people, too. Waiting until one is in trouble is way too late to be contacting the press.

And on that note, every Black politician in Maryland should know about the Black media. Besides BmoreNews.com, there’s the Afro, the Baltimore Times, the Washington Informer, Radio One, and WEAA – just to name a few. Black political people should know all of these outlets and the people who work there. It’s only common sense.

Moving forward, if you are Black and considering a life of political service, understand that it is a full-contact sport and not for the faint at heart. It is also the cruddiest game on the planet. Therefore, do not get into this game if you are not willing to, first and foremost, serve the people. Sure, there are multiple balls an elected official must juggle all at the same time. However, it can be done. Stay calm. Keep it simple. Handle one matter at a time, and then move on to the next.

Caution: Do not get in this game for your own ego. Instead, go shopping or learn about the Metaverse. Take a trip. Take up a new hobby. But, don’t become the next political disappointment in Black Maryland, because, quite frankly, we are sick and tired of seeing us fail.

Know your history

Last but not least, learn your Black History in Maryland politics. Please know about the late Congressman Parren J. Mitchell and what he did for Black-owned businesses not just in Maryland, but nationwide. Know about the first Black City Councilman in Baltimore, Harry Cummings. Know about Councilwoman Victorine Adams and Baltimore County icon Ella White Campbell. Know who the movers and shakers were and are in the Black community in Maryland going all the way back to Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass. Know who Isaac Myers was and what he helped organize. And please take some time to understand political economy; that is, the interrelationship of politics and economics. Put simply, if your politics isn’t bringing bacon back to your constituents, then you have failed.

Do these things and you might just succeed in effectively leading and serving the Black community in Maryland as we move deeper into the 21st century. Betray these things, then only gloom and doom await you. This is a golden time for Blacks in political office. Such opportunities should be revered and treasured. We all stand on the shoulders of our ancestors and must work to continually push the envelope for the sake of Black progress.

Ase’