Educators Pushed Inmate's Agenda

City Says It Ignored Bid For Gang Leader's Message

May 13, 2009|By Justin Fenton | Justin Fenton,justin.fenton@baltsun.com

Two city educators whose endorsements appear on the back of what federal authorities describe as a gang handbook recommended the leader's teachings to Mayor Sheila Dixon's education liaison.

The mayor's office refused to elaborate on the meeting, saying it did not pursue the suggestion and has no knowledge of the book or Eric Brown, 40, the man authorities say is the leader of the Black Guerrilla Family. But the disclosure sheds light on how Brown's efforts might have been disseminated from behind prison walls.

Federal prosecutors contend that from the Metropolitan Transition Center, Brown wrote a 125-page book about black empowerment titled The Black Book: Empowering Black Families and Communities, as a ploy to make the group appear legitimate as he orchestrated a vast criminal enterprise. Brown and 23 others were charged last month on drug and weapons charges after a federal wiretap investigation .

The U.S. Department of Justice's Gang Intelligence Center describes the gang as a highly organized paramilitary group that promotes Marxist ideals, and local law enforcement authorities say that much like the Mafia, the gang seeks to place members in positions of power or align itself with unsuspecting officials to appear legitimate.

The gang aspires to "place lower members within the mainstream of legal positions such as lawyers, politicians, judges, legal business owners and other positions of authority," according to Capt. Phil Smith, assistant director of the state prison system's intelligence unit. "These loyal members and sympathizers all have their roles as instruments in the growth and development of BGF's progress and advancement."

The Baltimore Sun reported Saturday that four educators, including two-time mayoral candidate and city schools administrator Andrey Bundley, gave endorsements on the back cover of The Black Book.

Bundley and Bridget Alston-Smith, whose nonprofit Partners in Progress works with at-risk children at three city schools, said that Brown was well-known for helping soon-to-be-released felons as they prepared for life in the outside world. They said they were not aware of Brown's alleged criminal involvement and were only endorsing the outreach work they observed.

They recommended Brown's work during a meeting earlier this year with Sabrina Sutton, Dixon's special assistant for education. While an official in the mayor's office confirmed the meeting, that official and a mayor's spokesman refused to provide additional details. They said Dixon's office is often approached by people or groups seeeking support or an endorsement from the city.

"No one in Mayor Dixon's office has read or has any knowledge about the contents of The Black Book," spokesman Scott Peterson said.

Bundley and Alston-Smith declined to comment, though Alston-Smith reiterated that the book is "not what everybody's making it out to be."

Though it explicitly promotes the Black Guerrilla Family, the book seeks to distance the gang from crime and concentrates on black empowerment, financial sustainability and the need for black men to conduct themselves with poise and professionalism. It advises gang members to "put your gats down and lift your pants up."

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