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Smith: Mayor Makes A Brave Call

Caricature of C. Fraser Smith
Tom Chaulkey
Caricature of C. Fraser Smith

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake calls upon the black men of Baltimore to become mentors and activists in the fight against crime.

Caricature of C. Fraser Smith
Credit Tom Chaulkey

After her state of the city address Monday, Mayor Rawlings-Blake said: "Too many of us in the black community have become complacent about black-on-black crime."

Brave bit of leadership for the mayor. Will she be around to work on the issue? Or will she run for the US Senate?

She certainly has tried to give the issue a sharp profile.

More black men must become involved in their communities as mentors, tutors and activists, she said. According to The Sun's research, all but 22 of the 211 murder victims in Baltimore last year were black males.

Too many in the black community, she said, "turn a blind eye" to the reality of black on black crime. The mayor’s brave call to action is only her latest attempt to stimulate a citywide concern about the long-running problem.

Her effort may have sputtered a bit because it has no visible, day-to-day leader. At Monday’s speech she announced a forum later this month to recruit men who are "committed to making a difference in the lives of children."

The Rev. Jamal Harrison Bryant, pastor of Empowerment Temple, will lead the forum, she said.

The Rawlings-Blake plan drew immediate endorsement from one member of the City Council. City Councilman Brandon Scott said any black man in Baltimore who is not a mentor is "not a man."

If there 10,000 mentors of these young men “we could see a great change in the violence,” he said. "They’re clamoring for attention, but they’re not getting it."

There are many Baltimore groups – black and white – doing good, important work with young people.

More are needed.

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Fraser Smith has been in the news business for over 30 years. He began his reportorial career with the Jersey Journal, a daily New Jersey newspaper and then moved on to the Providence Journal in Providence, Rhode Island. In 1969 Fraser won a prestigious American Political Science Association Public Affairs Fellowship, which enabled him to devote a year to graduate study at Yale University. In 1977, Fraser was hired away by The Baltimore Sun where in 1981, he moved to the newspaper's Washington bureau to focus on policy problems and their everyday effect on Marylanders. In 1983, he became the Sun's chief political reporter.