Karin’s Leadership Articles

Riots in Baltimore: Why I Need You to Help Me Write My Next Post

Riots in Baltimore: Why I Need You to Help Me Write My Next Post

by | Apr 28, 2015 | By Karin Hurt, Confident Humility |

I don’t usually write on Tuesdays, but it would be irresponsible to not write in the midst of the chaos brewing in my hometown, Baltimore. For my international viewers, Baltimore has joined the cities featured on CNN and the morning shows due to their looting and protest-related violence as a response to the Freddie Gray tragedy.

As I write this, the sun hasn’t even set. We’re all deeply worried about what will manifest overnight. I’ve lived in the Baltimore area my whole life. I have great childhood memories of sitting with my grandpa with the radio on listening to the Orioles game and the cheers from Memorial Stadium (precursor to Camden Yards) coming across their backyard.

I watched our Inner Harbor go from a place you feared, to “opening day” at Harbor Place with my uncles and feeling like we were in Disneyland.

And tonight we watch our city being torn apart by divergent opinion. The issues are real. People are getting hurt. Those sticking up for what they believe on both sides are suffering. Those working to express their concerns calmly are being overshadowed by violence. As the wife of a firefighter and a good friend of several police officers who I know are deeply committed to ensuring everyone is treated fairly, I worry extra hard about those working to keep the peace.

There are good guys on both sides hurting, expressing, risking.

If there was ever a need for leadership in Baltimore this is it.

What would you do next if you were in charge?

Even if you’ve never commented before, please lean in.

My next post will work to gather your important ideas into themes.


Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt helps human-centered leaders resolve workplace ambiguity and chaos, so that they can drive innovation, productivity and revenue without burning out employees. She’s the founder and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders, an international leadership development and training firm known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. She’s the award-winning author of four books including Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul and a hosts the popular Asking For a Friend Vlog on LinkedIn. A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. Karin and her husband and business partner, David Dye, are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells – building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.


  1. Katy Hildebrand

    The situation in Baltimore is tragic from many angles, but perhaps the most concerning issue is the arms race developing in the absence of leadership. Rather than encouraging an open discussion and quick resolution to the investigation of Freddie Gray’s death, the governmental leaders seem to be rushing toward a battle of willpower.

    From an outsider’s perspective (though, an outsider that experienced something similar during Hurricane Katrina) it seems that a simple conversation between community leaders could not only resolve this, but also serve as a model for communities dealing with similar issues across the US and even the world. I think Baltimore would be smart to capitalize on the opportunity to help the world take a big step forward.

    • Karin Hurt

      Katy, You raise very important points here and I totally agree. In fact, I have written to both the mayor and the police commissioner before all this escalated. We need transparent conversation starting from a place of confident humility. Thanks so much for sharing your insights. I’m hopeful to have many such comments that I can use as I approach them again.

  2. Marilee Groth

    The chaos, rampage, destruction and fear brings me back to memories of 9-11 tragedy. Completely different circumstances clearly but a community that needs to heal, come together and leadership has the opportunity, as you mentioned, to step up. Rudy Guilliana wrote a book on leadership that may have some themes to assist you Karin. My heart goes out to you and all.

    • Karin Hurt

      Marille, Thanks so much. That’s a great suggestion. I’m going to order his book today.

  3. Tara Miller-Hochhalter

    I believe people resort to this extreme behavior (violent acts) out of frustration from not being heard. I would recommend transparency and open communication. Katy (another blog post) is right that a conversation between the Community and the Government/Police could go a long way! Actively listen and start to address concerns through empathy, investigations, data analytics, etc. to help validate their concerns. It feels like their concerns are being minimized and the violence is now distracting everyone from the real issue (root cause) at hand. When this group of protesters feel they have a voice and they are being heard, and that real issues will be addressed, things will definitely start to calm down.

    • Karin Hurt

      Tara, Thanks so much. I totally agree with you. We need to get this conversation moving as quickly as possible.

    • Susan Mazza

      And you Karin are the perfect person to facilitate that conversation! I believe it will take someone who is close enough to care passionately but distant and level headed enough to stand for real dialogue and push through until there is a breakthrough in perspective. And of course you have the exceptional skills required but typically lacking in even the most senior of community leaders.

  4. Lisa Hamaker

    Thank you for providing a space for me to feel like I might be able to do something to help move this situation forward. I too have fond memories of Baltimore as the site of my first business trip in my early 20’s, then touring the waterfront and eating steamed mussels – a unique experience for a kid from southern California.

    I love what you say about good guys (people) on both sides working and risking. We also need to keep in mind that even the “bad” people are hurting and risking too. We humans are all in this together.

    What I will do is meditate and send peaceful, loving thoughts to the folks in the middle of this. In the past I have mostly done this for situations close to me, but now feel emboldened by your request to spread my wings a bit. 😉

    In addition, I think that perhaps viewing the TED talk by William Ury on “Getting to Yes” might be a good way to start the discussions. I have not seen his TED talk, but heard him at a conference recently and was moved by his methods and ideas.

    Mr. Ury’s first questions are to understand deeply what the people want – at their core. Things like respect, connection, love, freedom.

    And remember that “fear says I will keep you safe. love says you are safe.”

    • Karin Hurt

      Lisa, Thanks so much. I have read his book which is excellent. I’ll watch the TED talk today (and use it with my MBA students tomorrow). Here’s the link http://www.ted.com/talks/william_ury?language=en for anyone interested.

      • Lisa Hamaker

        Just watch the TED talk, it’s now my favorite. Why not an Abraham Walk in Baltimore?

  5. Tammy Sellers

    The situation is so very tragic. However, I saw something incredibly powerful on this morning’s news…the scene of the mother going into the chaos yesterday to locate her “hoodie-covered- teen-aged son and dragging him out of there. My husband and I cheered her on as we watched her confront him, push him off towards a parking lot, and reprimand him the entire way for his involvements. She was surely getting his attention among the gangs of young people around him that were involved in so much of this. I was so proud of her…she was fighting for him…she loves him enough to go in and fight to get him back. The message – do not ever give up on your children… go get them, give them as much tough love as possible, stay on them to be the best they can be….no matter how old they are… parent them…. they still need leadership and parenting. Start the conversations now about choices, negotiating, debates, discussions, and continue to teach them better ways of leading and accomplishing great things without violence.

  6. Renee Ruchotzke

    If systems/organizations/institutions don’t have transparent, accessible and trusted channels of communication, and redress, people will use the channels that are available to them.

    • Karin Hurt

      Renee, so true. I hope every local government is noticing this and working to proactively ensuring the right channels are in place.

  7. bill holston

    Tragic. Malcolm X once famously opined that nothing is more dangerous than someone that has nothing left to lose. We have people who are trapped in poverty, lack of economic opportunity and adding on a layer of systematic injustice. I cannot possibly imagine what it is like to life life as a young black man. Every young black man I know reports being harassed for being ‘suspicious.’

    We need a complete and thorough discussion of:
    race, poverty, violence, oppression. None of this will be quick or easy. Our media serves us very poorly. They feature generalizations and stereotypes. I imagine Baltimore is full of people who do not condone riotous vandalism, or police violence.

    If I was a leader I’d know who the leaders of Black Baltimore and I’d ask them, what’s next. There are people black and white that stand for justice and peace, and I’d have them by my side. In fact they should have already been there.

    thanks for asking Karin, namaste indeed.

    • Karin Hurt

      Bill, thanks so much. Yes! Extremely well said. Thank you.

    • Blair Glaser

      I appreciated this response deeply. It speaks of questions and open dialogue — not answers, for which, in truth, we have none at this moment.

      • Karin Hurt


      • bill holston

        Thank you Blair!

    • LaRae Quy

      HI Bill and Karin

      I agree with you Bill Holston…our media is not serving our country well as we try to come to grips with what is happening in Baltimore and other places as well. Media is more concerned with sensationalizing the issues than they are about reporting facts—people who are angry, justifiably, are having their emotions exploited by the news coverage.

      Where are the strong black leaders to stand up to this? Why aren’t the strong white leaders standing beside them?

      It is so ironic that our black American president is making statements when it is clear that equality is not just about the color of one’s skin—we did elect a black man as president. But he was a privileged black man, and does not represent the rest of black America…there are many contradictory issues being tossed about but I do think it’s a great time to talk about what leadership should both look and sound like.

      • Karin Hurt

        LaRae, Thanks. I agree that what we need most is black and white, privileged and underprivileged leaders all standing together with a strong vision and open minds talking about what must happen next.

  8. Chery Gegelman

    Karin, your post articulates the truth so beautifully, there are good people and hurting people on both side is this struggle.

    I have ached as I”ve watched more and more of these issues come to life in our beloved country, and can only imagine how that ache escalates when it hits your hometown.

    I have a dream, a big dream that has been building for years… My internet in the sandbox is behaving badly right now. So I will email you a link to an article I wrote as the events in Ferguson unfolded that includes that dream.

  9. Debbie Dickerson

    As a leader, I find it necessary to acknowledge the actual issues first. The political correctness that dissolves the issues needs to disappear immediately. The fact is that across the nation, we are plagued with injustices, coming from the top all the way down. The fact that there are good and bad on both sides is the obvious…the difference is that one side is being paid to “Protect and serve.” The most important leaders to communicate with are the ones that are running the streets. They are the ones that will make a difference in this situation. The police are puppets to their Chief, who is a puppet to the Mayor, who is a puppet to… I am very passionate about these situations because people tend to turn their cheek until it directly affects them and it will eventually. Clearly, police brutality is not just for minority races. All races are affected and should stand in unity to make sure that all people are treated with dignity and as a human being. I am a huge fan of the people that put their lives at risk for others. I have so much respect for those that do what is right, no matter what. I have zero respect for those that dress the part but are only wolves in sheep clothing. I would guess, 90% of the people on the streets there have zero clue what they are fighting for, however, the 10% that are there standing up and risking for their passion know that without this chaos, it would have simply been swept aside…like the many other cases! My advice is to the leaders on the street, “You have the attention of the world, speak up and explain clearly what results are needed. Right now you have the opportunity to lead a community into a brighter day!”
    I know it was a lot to write, but you asked haha.

    • Karin Hurt

      Debbie, Thank you! What I hear you saying is we need more authentic communication and people being clear about their messages on both sides. The world is watching what you will you say?

  10. Ben Evans

    Mother Teresa once said, “Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do… but how much love we put in that action.” This strikes beyond true as I sit and watch the news, while far away from home, not being able to do much more than tweet and retweet the good that is in Baltimore. I believe we need to trust the calls of those in charge, in hopes that they will restore peace into our home. Let us put in the action of rebuilding the faith in Baltimore.

    I hope this reaches Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, the Mayor of Baltimore, to see all the love and support we have in rebuilding our great city

    • Karin Hurt

      Thanks, Ben. We are seeing all kinds of examples of love in the city clean-up efforts, in gang members coming together, in church leaders walking straight through the city. We need more of that.

  11. Greg Marcus


    Quite a challenge you’ve thrown out – thank you for your leadership in calling on the community for help. We all need to own this, because this is an issue that can hit any of us.

    I can relate in a small way to the issues facing the black community, in terms of frustration, lack of being heard, and lack of justice. I look at the growing wave of anti-semitism in Europe and here in my neck of the woods at Stanford. Swastikas painted on campus is just the latest, and it doesn’t make the news. So I can only imagine what it is like to live in a community where the police are allowed to systematically discriminate and treat people because of their skin color. Paid leave and “an investigation” just doesn’t cut it when a man is beaten to death in police custody. Part of the tragedy of the Holocaust was the silence and indifference of neighbors who could have done something. In America, we all share responsibility for allowing systematic injustice to continue.

    I don’t know what to suggest for the riots. It seems to me that the root cause needs to be addressed and corrected. I don’t know how to do that either.

    A few things jump out at me from the previous comments – one was the story of the mother pulling her son out of the riots, and another was the discussion of good people and bad people. The teen in the hoodie, was he a good person or a bad person? Or maybe he was a young person behaving badly because he has grown up in what he sees as a hopeless situation. What is so powerful is that his mother treated him as an individual with love, care and respect. So it comes down to putting people first.

    Maybe everyone should drop what they are doing, and join the peaceful protest demanding accountability. Selma was a success because fair-minded people of all racial backgrounds joined the march. It is hard to riot when the streets are so jammed that you can’t move because everyone is arm in arm.

    My thoughts and prayers are with you and the whole Baltimore community.

    • Karin Hurt

      Greg, Thanks so much for your beauiful insights. I didn’t know about the Swastikas painted on campus, that’s so sad. I so agree that more people need to come out and show up for peace. The challenge is there is so much fear. They closed the schools in the city which is probably the safest place for the kids to be. So the churches opened up their doors for kids to hang out and not be on the streets or home alone.

      Now there are threats of the violence spreading to the county. We just received notice that our son’s school is closing early because they want all the children home.

      • Greg Marcus

        That is really sad.

  12. Brad Kohlenstein

    What we needs is a place where the anger, heartache, love, and hope can be put to good use. Outside of the broken souls who ransacked stores and scrambled through the streets last night with as much booze and stolen goods as they could carry, I don’t imagine anyone turned on the news last night and said. “Good. Let it burn!” I even saw a young man, who claimed to be Crips leader quoted as saying, “This is our neighborhood, but we can’t control it now.” Even the bad guys want peace and order. The vast majority of us yearn for cities where the police and the citizens they protect are mutually respected, cities where the schools are good, and cities where everyone benefits from economic growth. We have a common goal, but it has yet to be clearly defined and as a result leaves us with the illusion of opposition.

    But where do you start? How can you help? I’m a middle class white-guy, born in Baltimore, but raised in the suburbs. I love the city and like to consider myself from there, but I can’t claimed to have lived it. I’ve been a spectator at best. What should I be doing? Should I grab a shovel and start scooping out the ashes of CVS and the dozens of mom and pop shops that may never recover? Maybe. Should I stand with the non-violent protestors on Eutaw Street? I probably should have done that two days ago, but I don’t know that that would have helped and the truth is we don’t know exactly what happened to Freddie Gray. It’s an injustice to be sure, but a vague one that presents little course of action other than outrage. So, most of us do nothing. We shake our head at the news and then move on with our day.

    I suppose what I would say to our leaders is that the outrage, the sadness, and the concern are wasted resources. There are many who will help if given clear direction. Tell us what to do and where we’re needed. Clear a path to the greater good and build a better city than the one we had. It’s not about one night or one issue. It’s about creating an environment where last night is impossible.

    • Karin Hurt

      Brad, EXCELLENT! Love it, “there are many who will help if given clear direction.” So true, we need strong unifying leadership and a vision and execution plan for what must come next. Thank you.

  13. Jean Joklik

    My heart is heavy, Karin. And yet this is perhaps the most meaningful work any of us can do as leaders of change. It is so clear to me that everyone is going to need a large dose of courage in the face of the events in Baltimore. We ALL need to come to this table with an open mind and an open heart, which means that we have to do the really hard work of suspending or at least detaching from our voices of fear, judgment and cynicism even to sit at the same table. And we need to learn more about empathetic listening – seeing through another’s eyes, hearing through their ears and feeling with another’s heart. What is happening now and where this path leads us is to a future that no one wants. The violence a symptom of deeply embedded social injustice – issues that have not been around for a very long time, and are now the focus of our attention of more people because of the violence. What does it take to bring about meaningful change without violence? Violence is the voice of the unheard. What we are seeing now is a symptom of a whole system problem – and it is going to take whole system engagement to address it. Chicago has done some interesting whole system change focusing on strengths of the community using Appreciative Inquiry (google Bliss Browne, Imagine Chicago). There are other cities that have incorporated Appreciative Inquiry into their community wide engagement, including Cleveland and Atlanta. I believe trust and relationships are going to have to be built or rebuilt, one conversation at a time. And the solutions with the greatest chance of working will be homegrown and grassroots with whole system engagement – everyone, especially those who are most disenfranchised by the current system.

    • Karin Hurt

      Thanks so much, Jean. I do think we need the right leaders from all aspects of this situation coming together to envisioned the desired future. All, here is imagine Chicago. http://www.imaginechicago.org/what.html

  14. Mick Ukleja

    It’s always good to get the perspective of those who have skin in the game. It’s equally as important to listen to those who have gone before. Here’s an example:

    “Let no man pull you low enough to hate him.” MLK

    True leaders know the way, grow the way, and show the way.

    Hate — along with its cousin, violence — will accomplish nothing.

  15. Page Cole

    First, I’m praying for the safety and peace of Baltimore. I can’t imagine the stress your city is enduring, but if it’s a fraction of what it looks like on TV, then it’s incredibly overwhelming.

    You’ve asked for input, and here’s mine.

    First, I hope I would do what you’re doing… seek outside objectivity. It’s terribly difficult to see clearly when you are literally standing in the shadow of fires and waves of smoke. Seeking outside perspective offers vantage points you might not otherwise see. Encouraging your city leadership to seek wise counsel from outside Baltimore is very wise. My suggestion would be that they reach out to former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who as a mayor of New York was able to accomplish amazing things regarding law enforcement, public relations between cops and citizens, and at the same time bringing the overall crime rate down. One side note- not all help is good help. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson have proven through their track records to bring division, not peace. My strong encouragement is for everyone there to hope and pray Al & Jesse’s cars or jets have mechanical problems on the way to Baltimore.

    Second, I would encourage you to reach out to other local key leaders in business for input. My friends Marty Burns and D’Alan Baugh own the Visiting Angels franchises in the Baltimore area. They are men of integrity and wisdom. I am certain they would have positive input to offer, as well as knowing a network of other business people with a vested interest in the community.

    Third, reach out to the churches in your community. Ask them to brainstorm for solutions to rebuild the heart and soul of the community. It’s their calling, their mission to be bringers of peace. Lay the challenge out before them to come together, as well as working as individual congregations, to provide short term events and long term ministry investments in the people of Baltimore.

    Finally, obviously it’s taken some time for Baltimore to reach this point of eruption. It will take some time to move back towards peace. The challenge truly comes in believing and living out this immortal truth- change happens one person, one choice, one act of kindness at a time.

    I know with people like you in the mix, not only can change happen, but it will happen.

    Godspeed to you and your community.

    • Karin Hurt

      Page, Thank you so much for your caring comments. I would love to meet with Mary and D’Alan (I’m [email protected]).

      This will take time to recover, but it’s also a unique opportunity to do it well

      Thanks so much for caring.

      • Page Cole

        I’ll forward this post to them, they truly are two incredible men of integrity.

  16. Mary Schaefer

    Karen, thank you for writing this, and inviting ideas. “If I were in charge,” I don’t know if I would do this “next” but one thing I would do is quickly get community members and leaders trained in non-violent communication – a concept developed by Marshall Rosenberg. See more here: https://www.cnvc.org/about/what-is-nvc.html

    • Karin Hurt

      Mary, Amen.

  17. Cassandra Ferguson

    Hi I grow up in Baltimore. I now live in Harford cty about 30 min north of Baltimore. I think the #1 problem begin when they took prayer out of school. Then closed schools, recreation centers and the drug epidemic. Karin, I am willing to stand with you on this matter. Please let me know. Cassandra Ferguson

  18. Paul LaRue


    While we can’t fully know what you’re going through, we are with you, your family, friends, and the city of Baltimore to finds ways to repair the community!

    Yes there are injustices in the world. But it seems our society has fallen away from constructive solutions and are so emotionally charged – negatively – that these emotions slip to outrage, then to violence. And as was mentioned in a prior comment, without hope, it spirals down to despair and the actions we see unfolding before our very eyes.

    We as a neighbors, communities, cities, and as a country need to remember forgiveness and forbearance. Not in sweeping injustices, real or perceive,under the rug, but in moving beyond reactionary emotions and instil the proactive spirit of forgiveness. It is the one thing that can heal.

    Martin Luther King was a man eager to forgive, even if there were differences. His dream that all people could live in peace and love one another – those words still ring true. maybe loudspeakers blaring his speech across the city may help spread the spirit of forgiveness,love, and healing.
    If the leaders of the community and the city started working in unison to send this message and break down the walls to start building bridges, it may impact future generations to stop reacting to sound bites and part of the story, and look at the bigger picture of how can we use this together our community for our next generation?

    Baltimore should think about their future now,. How they react, and forgive, will cast a foundation that will stand or crumble for the future.

  19. Jesse Stoner

    Hi Karin,

    My thoughts and prayers are with you, your family and everyone in the city of Baltimore. Having been in similar situations in the past, I know how truly frightening this is, especially for parents of young children.

    I think it’s great that you want to step into a leadership role. My advice is to be real. To see others as real. To listen. To acknowledge the reality of systemic racism and its effects. To support those who are trying to contain the acting out and violence. And not to have a goal for things to go back to normal. There is a huge opportunity here to begin the journey toward creating a community that is safe for everyone. But first grief needs to be honored and anger must be acknowledged and respected before we can expect people to be able to listen to each other and engage in real dialogue.

    There are no sidelines. Not even for those of us who are not in Baltimore. Paulo Freire said, “Washing one’s hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral. So, I am personally taking this opportunity to deepen my understanding about the reality of systemic racism in the US. There’s a world that is absolutely invisible to white people, and we don’t know what we don’t know. Here is a link to a very thoughtful and helpful article I have shared with my friends and family about why it is so hard for white people to talk about race: http://www.salon.com/2015/04/10/white_americas_racial_illiteracy_why_our_national_conversation_is_poisoned_from_the_start_partner/ I have invited them to read it and engage in conversation with me and others. Nothing is going to fundamentally change until those of us who are white do our own work. We must change ourselves before we can change the world.

    This is important work you are undertaking, Karin. There is no roadmap. I admire your courage and am sending prayers for support, wisdom and strength.

    • Karin Hurt

      Jesse, Thanks so very much, so appreciate the link as well. You are doing vital work as well. Namaste.

  20. Nancy L. Seibel

    Karin, I want to hear an open conversation about what happened with Freddie Gray. I want to hear the mayor and the police chief pledge to get the true story and to transform the police department into what it should be, one that serves and protects. This is not simple and I realize that. The police force faces real threats to their own safety, but the answer cannot be to brutalize and opporess. I want to hear a commitment from our political leaders to create a Baltimore with opportunity for all. I also want an opportunity for every citizen of Baltimore to engage in meaningful conversation and right action. There are so many ways to do this. I suggest a series of city wide Community Cafes for children, teens and adults where the issues can be laid out, thoughtfully discussed and from which meaningful action can emerge. I am familiar with Community Cafes as a participant and would like to be trained to facilitate them. I would volunteer to conduct them and be part of turning this crisis in Baltimore into an opportunity for transformation and growth. I live in Catonsville and spend a lot time in Baltimore. My husband works in the city and my son and his girlfriend live there. So I care about what is happening in a personal way as well as because of the larger issues of injustice and opporession. Please call upon me if you believe I could contribute to your effort.

  21. Michelle

    Not an answer, but an idea to throw into the mix. Our current welfare system isn’t working. Let’s divert funds from there and re-institute a form of the draft. The military strips everyone down to their essential being and helps people realize we really aren’t different. It creates opportunity by teaching necessary skills, and it broadens horizons by exposing people to foreign cultures. There are plenty of jobs in the military that are not combat positions. This is not a call to militarize our nation, but a way to build a greater unity by forcing people (rich and poor, black and white, male and female) to meet each other within a wholly different context. It also brings the world home. We do not live in a vacuum here in the US, we have to get over our own petty differences and move ourselves to embrace a global community — or our children may not have a future at all. Rep. Rangel, with whom I basically never agree, actually has proposed this several times. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/09/22/charlie-rangel-war-tax_n_5863964.html

  22. Lisa

    If I were in charge, I would focus on changing the narrative around racism and privilege.

    In part, we do this by changing the stories we are sharing – focusing on where the radical change is happening, not where our worst fears or prejudices are reinforced. I love seeing the stories of the community’s respect and resilience – when people say “why do they mess up their own neighborhood”, I say, “don’t you see them cleaning up after the mess?” But mainstream media is often reluctant to shift the narrative in this way. Not everyone reads Mother Jones or listens to NPR. And many people refuse to acknowledge that which doesn’t fit their stereotype. A good example of this is how the Bloods and Crips joined together to work on the issue of police violence and systemic coverup – many people, including myself, were shocked or disbelieving when gang leaders’ gave voice to their hopes for peace in this particular protest. However, this particular story is critical in the narrative shift.

    Those who are privileged need to include that fact in their personal and political narratives. We can teach how this works by doing it ourselves – honestly acknowledging that we benefit from the system that tears down so many others and that our leadership (as privileged people) may or may not be welcome in the community we want to assist. Learning how to lean in by backing off, how to support by protecting and buttressing and listening and following. Leaders in the Black Lives Matter movement are generally very good about communicating this with respect. As a beneficiary to the system that undermines the oppressed black population in Baltimore, I need to be especially sensitive to what I bring when I want to help.

    For people who are disempowered, disenfranchised and oppressed, police officers represent the power in our country more than politicians or corporations. They are, really, the face of the oppressor in the minds of many. Doing whatever we can to shift that understanding is critical – and takes a lot of hard, messy work. Community policing is a big part of this, but we need skilled people to train police officers how to sit and listen and respond to their communities’ individuals in a new way. These sorts of conversations take time and money and faith, however – and likely a systemic change in police departments.

    Staying connected to this unfolding narrative is critical – it is highly likely that most well meaning people will lose interest in helping and supporting those on the front lines of this issue. This is even more difficult today as there tends to be numerous “causes d’jour” which, once they stop entering our social media feeds, we forget about.

    I am surprised that I am thinking so much about narratives in response to your question WHAT NEXT, but – well – that’s where my thoughts are.

    Thank you for asking the question. I hope what I’ve written makes sense.

  23. John E. Smith

    Hi, Karen:

    Just now seeing this in a busy week, so commenting without reading other’s thoughts. Apologies for any duplication. Take my words for whatever they may be worth to you.

    My wife and I were married in her hometown … Ferguson, Missouri.

    I have blogged and shared extensively elsewhere about my personal feelings around those events, which happened back down the road, but I see as linked to what you are facing in Baltimore today and other events around our country.

    From a leader’s perspective, several things seem clear to me:

    1) Resist the tendency to choose sides. People of eloquence and passion will speak from various perspectives, but the voices which seek seriously to understand all aspects of the issue are the ones we all most need to hear.

    2) Consider your own biases and perceptions honestly. Leaders should always be aware of their own motivations, but this is especially important around issues that have grabbed the media’s attention. With high emotion comes the tendency to talk from the heart without engaging the brain.

    3) Leadership is needed now to rise above the heat of the passions and to provide guidance to those who are afraid, confused, and frustrated. At some point, the media focus will shift and another flashpoint will be the center of attention. This is when continued steady and non-partisan leadership will most be needed. The hard work is in dealing with the realities laid bare by events after the attention goes elsewhere.

    In community affairs, authentic leaders try to serve everyone by providing safe places to honestly share and express their viewpoints and perceptions. Leaders also spread verifiable truths, instead of the latest rumor or innuendo.

    Leaders lead by example. In the St. Louis area, many religious leaders were in the forefront of the discussions and activities, trying to balance a concern for those who suffer with healing for the community. You might look to your own local religious leaders at this time … they have more practice balancing needs than many of us do.

    A final thought: Leadership comes from many directions at times like this. Some leaders are driven by personal or political agendas, some come from far away to take part for a short time, and some are just taking advantage of the spotlight. Real leadership here will come from those who are in it for compassionate reasons and the long haul.

    Upon rereading, this is sort of jumbled and may not be useful to you. I will end by saying that many around the country, including me, are praying for peace, understanding, and healing for your area, just as many have prayed for our community.

    This is not a Baltimore issue, it’s an American issue.

    Have courage and know that many are with you.


  24. Jesse Stoner

    Hi Karin, Once the dust settles, here’s another excellent resource to help cross the divide. Artist damali ayo created this guide entitled “You Can Fix Racism!” If contains very helpful, concrete suggestions for both white people and people of color on how to talk with each other: http://damaliayo.com/pdfs/Fix%20Racism%20Guide.pdf

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