Just a month ago, in Baltimore, a 14-year-old kid who shouldn’t have had access to a gun allegedly killed a bat-wielding man during rush hour.
That kid’s life is forever changed because we’ve created conditions as a society where a kid has to beg for money to survive.
According to the Baltimore Sun, the man was killed in Baltimore after confronting a group of youth who were part of the City’s long-time tradition of offering to squeegee, or clean, the windshields of motorists in exchange for cash at high-trafficked intersections throughout the City.
Viewed as an entrepreneurial enterprise by some and a quality of life nuisance by others, this everyday occurrence took a turn for the worse.
The result was a father’s death, a son’s incarceration, and my city’s division.
This tragic moment links to many historical factors and evidence of systemic racism. Scholars can, and likely will, pen dissertations on why the incident played out the way it did.
Still, it won’t change what happened that afternoon.
Nothing can resuscitate the two lives lost or comfort their families. But, something has got to give.
The sobering fact is that it’s up to us to fix it, and I accept the challenge.
We have made great strides to address the systemic ills that gravely impact our most underserved and underrepresented communities.
Large corporate entities continually work to support government and nonprofit organizations. They are assessing and improving their social responsibility programs while prioritizing diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Still, we must do more.
I am neither dismissing these offerings nor intending to offend, but I do ask: What happens next?
Let’s be honest — Not much.
And, when there is action, is it a temporary band-aid or a sustainable solution to the problem?
But what do we expect? Strategic soundbites, manicured statements, and money throws do not have the power to evoke meaningful change.
For a day or two, sometimes three, we watch the news reports, post comments on social media posts, and participate in day-long debates about them. Then, life resumes, and we are back to our personal and professional responsibilities until the next emergent issue.
It’s not intentional, and it’s definitely not because we do not care.
Most of us do.
It’s just unhealthy to be consumed by the devastation that constantly overtakes our minds and timelines. We cannot remain in those spaces of despair. So, we move on out of self-preservation because life does not allow us to stop.
Tasks must be completed, and deadlines must be met. So, we move right along. Still, the problem remains.
But, enough is enough.
We must make a Fearless impact in Baltimore.
Day after day after day, local and national news, as well as our social media platforms, depict unaddressed social issues.
Within the past few months…
- The United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, ending the nearly 50-year right to abortion. Congress could have codified this half-century decision decades ago but failed.
- In Maryland, the Department of Education’s Inspector General identified more than 12,500 instances over a four-year span where Baltimore City school administrators changed students’ grades from failing to passing.
- This year, the national inflation rate reached its highest since the 1980s until the United States Senate passed the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 by the skin of its teeth. Vice President Kamala Harris cast the tie-breaking vote after a bi-partisan 50-50 vote split.
And we continue to grapple with gun violence throughout the nation.
Whether on the street or in our homes, grocery stores, schools, or churches, we cannot help but consider our safety.
This year, more than 50,000 lives have been lost or injured in this country due to gun violence. Approximately 3,700 of them were under the age of 18 years old.
In Baltimore, there are already 218 reported homicides. Eighty-eight percent of them were fatal shootings.
These horrific local and national tragedies, and the plethora of other despicable events and situations, constantly remind us of the systemic inequities that impact our historically disadvantaged communities.
And each time disaster hits, we witness business and civic leaders rush to make statements, weighing in on the situation.
CEOs of major corporations, government officials, and other public figures voluntarily provide commentary. They offer ideas for what should, would, or could be done.
Don’t get me wrong, this is important.
It connects the leaders with the community.
It shows that they are paying attention to what’s happening in the communities where their patrons and clients reside.
It indicates that they care and refuse to stand silent.
However, without action, prepared remarks and canned statements do not move the needle toward progress forward.
As business leaders, we must Become Fearless.
We must make a Fearless impact in Baltimore to change the trajectory of our beloved city.
We must work collectively to identify and implement solutions to these societal ills because talk is cheap.
We must be a Fearless Baltimore—taking the initiative, identifying solutions, and making an impact.
We must ask:
- What can we do?
- Who needs to be at the table?
- How can we change the trajectory?
Corporate statements, government press conferences, and peaceful civilian protests are mainstays. But, we all must do our part to realize the world we want to see when there is no crisis and no one is looking for our perspectives.
UCLA Head Basketball Coach John Wooden once said, “The true test of a [person’s] character is what [they do] when no one is watching.”
As the chief executive officer of the largest software developer in Greater Baltimore, I, too, provide the statements. I weigh in on issues that impact me and those I love.
But, I also do the work.
It’s not about what we say but what we do.
So, in all I do, I aim to make a Fearless impact in Baltimore and on every project I touch.
After all, growing up, it was a mandate in the Dzirasa household.
My mother, a nurse, raised my siblings and me to have empathy and compassion for others. After school, we fellowshipped in church and helped those in need throughout the week.
Regardless of what we became in life, my mother’s expectation that we would do our part to make this world a better place was abundantly clear.
She valued service and was intentional in her efforts to instill those same values in us from an early age.
To this day, her efforts are not lost on me. I have carried them with me throughout my life.
John Foster, my partner and Chief Operating Officer of Fearless, embodies these same core values.
Raised in Philadelphia, a city that grapples with issues like those in Baltimore, he understands the nuances of Baltimore. He sees himself in the young men of our city. Therefore, he works tirelessly to create a space of belonging for Black youth in tech.
Our shared passion for making an impact in all we do and being the change we want to see has become the Fearless Experience.
We are making an impact in Baltimore by engaging and serving our community. And we are working to do the same in Montgomery, Alabama, the location of our first satellite office.
As we work to create a world where good software powers the things that matter, we know that change begins at home.
So we give back to our local communities by creating jobs and opportunities.
Within the Baltimore tech community, we are building a technically skilled, empathetic workforce that can provide solutions to the problems that impact our society and improve our overall quality of life.
Through technology, we can create software that inspires, heals, resolves, and restores.
Community engagement and direct service are necessary ingredients of our ‘purple sauce’ at Fearless.
LaToya Staten is leading the charge and curating the Fearless community projects. She has hit the ground running, identifying opportunities for us to make a Fearless impact in Baltimore and beyond.
In Baltimore, we are building a tech ecosystem, mentoring the next generation, and championing digital services. But, most importantly, we are elevating Black and Women tech startup founders and their businesses while amplifying the future of tech among our communities.
The future of tech is bright!
To successfully combat societal ills, we must ensure everyone has an opportunity to contribute.
Through tech, everyone can.
According to U.S. News and World Report, more than 90 percent of Baltimore City Public Schools’ student population are children of color, with more than 52 percent being economically disadvantaged.
Fearless is doing our part to change the trajectory of as many affected by these challenges as possible.
Now, more than ever, we must engage, support, and uplift our youth to make a Fearless impact in Baltimore.
So, we are mentoring students and building community partnerships with nonprofit organizations. Our partners nurture the next generation of tech startup founders by introducing them to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines and careers.
With proper guidance and intentions, this presents an incredible opportunity to build a robust Baltimore tech community that creates future generations of Baltimore-born and raised Black tech leaders.
Named the largest software development firm in the Baltimore area by the Baltimore Business Journal and included in the Inc. 5000 2022 listing as one of the fastest growing companies in the nation, Fearless is a rare gem.
Therefore, we have to influence the next generation of the tech workforce. So we remain committed to ensuring we are accessible to our youth, letting them know that a future in tech is bright.
But we can’t stop there.
We must also establish, cultivate, and grow our tech workforce of Black tech professionals and startup founders by partnering with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).
Our proximity to these institutions presents a prime opportunity to erect a Black Tech Baltimore.
Earlier this year, Fearless partnered with Bowie to host the highly successful and well-attended Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) Basketball Tournament in Baltimore.
During the week-long event, people traveled from near and far to participate.
Fearless hosted a day-long Tech Summit House event to highlight innovative technology trends.
We introduced new tech leadership and provided a space for the tech community to network as they redefine Baltimore’s professional landscape.
Most importantly, we seized the opportunity to meet and recruit HBCU students and alums.
The tech space is growing, and we know we can address and resolve social issues through digital services and technology.
In collaboration with the Dzirasa Family Foundation and the BLK ASS Flea Market, we made a Fearless impact in Baltimore.
Fearless Sports co-hosted the Trap Music Museum Baltimore Pop-Up during CIAA. Fearless’s passion for sports, technology, art and entertainment converged through this event.
We donated five percent of the art sales to a community center in one of Baltimore’s historically under-resourced communities.
During next year’s CIAA Basketball Tournament, we plan to host a pitch competition to promote entrepreneurism among tech professionals.
But, we cannot reserve our commitment for major attractions like CIAA. We must create a Fearless Baltimore.
Throughout the year, we plan to…
- show up at HBCU sports games,
- hold pop-ups on campuses,
- empower student ambassadors,
- provide internships, and
- establish an apprenticeship program.
We will build a Baltimore tech community by creating a pipeline for recent HBCU graduates to begin their professional careers right here at Fearless.
Our time to create a Black Tech Baltimore is now!
While we will always appreciate external support from allies, it is time for us to invest our time and resources in us.
We can no longer wait.
Our communities need us now.
Gone are the days of Black success requiring a corporate savior, where opportunity is scarce, and disruption is fatal.
We must take care of ourselves.
At Fearless, we will continue to lift as we climb.
- We will make a Fearless impact in Baltimore.
- We will empower the next generation of tech leaders.
- We will strengthen the tech ecosystem.
- We will engage the community.
And as a result, Charm City will be the next Black Tech Mecca.
Then one day, I will say in my DJ Khaled voice, “They didn’t believe in us, but God did.”
Want to make a Fearless impact?
Join me in accepting the challenge.