The Bloods, Crips, and Black Guerrilla Family—Baltimore's three biggest gangs—are among those unhappy with the leadership of Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. Flex, a member of the Bloods and an author (under his real name Eric Bowman), says that Rawlings-Blake isn't respected in Baltimore's poorer communities because she never shows up without television cameras.
"How are you supposed to be the head of a city and you don't interact with a lot of individuals in your city?" he asks. "The only time we see you is if you're on camera. You don't come out in these communities. You don't know what we go through . . . They say Stephanie grew up in Baltimore. She grew up somewhere where they have silver spoons in their mouth . . . she don't understand our struggle."
Flex, who says he has never voted, contrasts Rawlings-Blake's leadership and upbringing with that of former Mayor Sheila Dixon, for whom there was a standing ovation when she was introduced at the funeral of Freddie Gray.
"If there's a way that Sheila Dixon could get back in office that would be the first time I ever vote—for her to be back in office," he says. "I know a lot of other people who would follow Sheila Dixon . . . she grew up in what we would call the hood. Edmondson Village. If they don't know the struggle up there, who would?"
He says that Dixon would actually spend time in his community. "She trusted us as much as we trusted her. We love Sheila Dixon. Nothing would ever happen to Sheila Dixon . . . She run again, wherever that first office is opened at, I guarantee you, I will be right there on the front line."
Reached by phone, Dixon says that she had not specifically heard of her popularity among gang members and treads carefully when discussing them.
"I wasn't aware of that," she says. "I was at my church, where a meeting took place during that time to really bring all entities together, not just those associated with gangs, those who were part of those organizations and [who] are not. What came out of that was that they wanted to have not only a voice—please don't quote this as I'm supporting gangs—but I will say that there are many people who are a part of gangs or affiliated with gangs—I don't support anything that anyone does that is going to be illegal—but bringing them together to ease some of the tension along with the ministers was very helpful."
Dixon did say that others have come up and told her that if she ran, they would vote for the first time and stresses that it is not a new phenomenon. "Over the last several years, people have been encouraging me to reconsider coming back and running for mayor and I'm giving that some thought," she says of a possible run. She had a campaign fund of $280,000 as of last August.
State Sen. Catherine Pugh, who ran against Rawlings-Blake last election and had $120,000 in campaign cash in August, has also met with the gangs over the last week and helped self-described BGF member Robert "Meech" Tucker see his family Monday before he was taken to Central Booking on gun charges after he was apparently maced by police while trying to dispose of a weapon.
Still, for Flex, "Sheila Dixon the best mayor of all time, I would say and a lot of others would say."
That may change, however.
"Me personally, later on in the future sometime, I am going to run for mayor," Flex says. "Because I know I can run not just this city but a lot of them. Everybody deserves to be equal."