New Opportunities for Baltimore

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, June 26, 2015 

Earlier this week, I had the remarkable opportunity to stand in front a room of mayors from across the country—mayors of both political parties—to give my inaugural address as President of the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM).

I am so proud to follow in the footsteps of such visionary female leaders of the conference as Helen Boosalis, Kathryn Whitmire, Deedee Corradini, and Elizabeth Kautz. I am especially honored to become the organization’s first African American female President, as well as the first Mayor of Baltimore to be serve in this position. At a time when women—African American women especially— still face so many challenges, this achievement is particularly meaningful for me.

My mother set the example for me as I grew up learning of how she broke through barriers to pursue her own career. As one of the first African-American women to attend the University of Maryland Medical School, she had to overcome overt racism and sexism in what was an overwhelmingly male-dominated field. Now, she could have done any number of things with her career, but she chose to run her practice out of the basement of our house. There she served the needs of our neighborhood and many times those that couldn’t afford it. She did that because she felt a responsibility to make the community—where she lived, where our family lived—a better and healthier place. She has always been such a role model for me, and I was so proud to build on her legacy of breaking down barriers for American women this week.

Approximately 90 percent of our country’s population—and 90 percent of our country’s jobs—are in our metro areas. The opportunity to represent the USCM as President is an opportunity to advocate for many of the issues most important to residents here in Baltimore City. Issues like police-community relations, job creation, and our ongoing efforts to lift families out of poverty. My goal as President of USCM will be to develop an agenda that addresses many of these issues and allows mayors across the country to fight for policies that will life up urban America. Later this year, the nation’s mayors and I will then bring this agenda to the leading presidential candidates, to ensure that the challenges facing our cities are a key part of the national political conversation.

The tensions we saw this spring, and the challenges we still face, can be seen in other urban centers across the country. As we focus on healing our city, I hope that mayors across the country use this moment to renew their focus on the systemic inequalities that their cities have faced for decades. I will continue to lead this fight in Baltimore. Together we will all be stronger.

This originally appeared in the Rawlings-Blake Review. If you do not receive the Mayor's weekly newsletter, subscribe here.

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