Last Saturday I attended an event called CreateBaltimore. People from the Baltimore area involved in technology, the arts, and creative endeavors gathered at MICA to discuss Baltimore, to network and to learn from one another.
In 2009 I attended a similar event called BarCamp Baltimore. This event introduced me to many smart people in the Baltimore area who I never would have met otherwise. I made a lot of friends and connections at this event. Since I had basically been to the same event already I did not have the rookie fascination that many people in attendance last Saturday rightfully had. When you live and work in and around Baltimore you have to deal with a lot of bureaucracy and drone-like workers. To suddenly be inundated with the opposite vibe is a grand experience and gives hope to even the most pessimistic citizen of Baltimore.
I had a few issues with CreateBaltimore that expose some of the problems we need to address in Baltimore. Many of the people in attendance confuse Baltimore and the Baltimore region. There is a big difference between the two areas. The Baltimore region consists of many wealthy counties and numerous established employers (including the boring federal government). Baltimore city is a poor corrupt jurisdiction that needs outside the box leaders to take over the city. The power structure in Baltimore is rotten. A gathering like CreateBaltimore could easily produce an action plan that could shake Baltimore to its core! I think a lot of attendees were just happy to be around new ideas and new people. Networking is great, but Baltimore needs action! I think a lot of the attendees are unaware of the true situation in the city and are somewhat satisfied with the job options and suburban lifestyles that are available in the region. Leave the Federal Government jobs and the corporate lifestyle for the counties. Baltimore needs people who would never consider such a lifestyle and are willing think outside of the box and make Baltimore a true Startup city. We can’t wait around for corporations to bring us jobs, we need to CREATE our own businesses. Baltimore is a city of opportunity while the region is wasteland for the establishment. The city needs to be the number one priority of the CreateBaltimore movement and the region as whole can not be used as a crutch or an excuse to justify anything less than radical change in Baltimore.
Baltimore seems to have two types of creative people. There are the people who grew up in the region (including the city) who have heard all sorts of stories about Baltimore’s past glory from parents and associates. These people usually can identify the numerous negative aspects of the city with ease. This group of people has a loyalty to the city despite their sometimes harsh comments about it. The other group of creative people in Baltimore are the newcomers. They may have come here because of college, work, or an ex. These people do not fully understand the history of Baltimore and thus they have a more positive (and at times naive) view of the city.
If these two groups combined their strengths they would be an unstoppable force in every aspect of Baltimore life. Combine the loyalty, knowledge, and passion of the people who grew up here with the optimism, experience in other cities, and open minds of the newcomers and you will end up with a movement that will be able to implement real change in Baltimore.
CreateBaltimore people need to set real goals, create real events, realize the difference between Baltimore and the Baltimore region, shun the establishment and its boring lifestyle, and basically create a new paradigm for Baltimore. I believe it can easily be done, we just need to stop talking and start doing. Do not play by their rules. Create your own rules.