5 Questions That Matter with Chris Wilson

by Peter Davis

In 2012, Chris came to Baltimore to earn a business degree from the University of Baltimore and to start a new job with the Greater Homewood Community Corporation as a community builder and workforce resource coordinator in central Baltimore. A year later, Chris was promoted to director of community workforce development and started two profitable social enterprises that have resulted in fifteen new local jobs.

In the fall of 2013, Chris was accepted into the University of Baltimore’s new Entrepreneurship Fellows Program.

What drives you? Where does your passion lie?

To give back. Growing up I learned the hard way, through a lot of pain and suffering. I felt it was my responsibility to represent African Americans and come back into our communities and create opportunities. This is my calling.

What nucleus of skills, talents and personal characteristics work together to make you an effective leader.

The first one is passion. I’m really passionate about people and community. Discipline is the second. Working hard and taking complex things and breaking them down into pieces, working and working until I can perfect something. Then it’s reaching out for help. I’m not always going to have the answers. If a person can reach out for help, can discipline themselves, and be passionate, you can be good at anything you want to be.

How does a leader cultivate a culture of commitment?

Part of that is listening to the people, the community that you’re working with, and leading by example.

When asked what he was trying to do, Steve Jobs replied: “Tweak the Universe.” What are you trying to do?

I’ve studied the Civil Rights Movement. The people that led that movement did a lot of work around inclusion as citizens and then including economic inclusion. There’s a lot of us, African Americans, today that forgot about that movement. Let’s take this neighborhood, a microcosm of Maryland or the United States. There’s a lot of gun violence, poverty and people outside of this world say, why should we care, it doesn’t affect me? These numbers are growing. And there’s a growing disconnect between the haves and have-nots. Eventually, and history shows, it’s going to strain the system and we’re all going to suffer.

We need to step up. Or, as a race, we’re going to be in trouble. It’s like slavery has morphed into the prison system. And it’s taken my people away from their community. It’s so common now that, unfortunately, a lot of brothers see it as a right of passage. I went through this growing up. I have to put a stop to this. If I could do one thing, if I could just spark that hunger and passion for our people for that movement, if I could do that, then I would consider myself successful. That could be sense of pride, sticking together economically, socially, if I could do that I would be happy.

How does storytelling fit into your leadership style?

It’s a strong pillar in my leadership style. I start all of my workforce orientations off with a story…Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. People who grew up in a cave and that’s all they know. One person got out and realized the world. I read the story when I was young, about 13. One of the things I remember from the interpretation that I read was that when the person was placed back in the cave, the people in the cave mocked him for trying to be different and buck the system. They said we’ve got to stick together. Anyone else tries to escape this cave again we’ll kill him. That’s the same mentality in my community. I always tell that story. It’s a story that’s helped change my life. I went to prison as a juvenile, sentenced to life. I’ve spent half of my life in prison. When I first went to prison I was 17, someone made the comment, we’ve got to stick together, all we have is us. I remembered the story and said, I have to escape. Now that I have escaped the cave I have to go back into the figurative cave and lead my people out.


  • Jasmine February 10, 2014 at 12:45 pm

    Chris is my inspiration to live each day to the fullest, and to strive to close the gaps within our community as well. As a medical professional, it is my duty to service “Our” community with the highest levels of education and quality of care…..it is my mission to promote positive changes within the African American community – right here in Baltimore city!

    Chris, thank you so much for reminding me that I have a greater purpose and responsibility in this world!

  • zaccai free January 24, 2014 at 10:46 am

    Chris has the vision, passion and comittment that we need to change the world. Thank God there are still visionaries with the courage to take action!

  • SD January 23, 2014 at 2:40 pm

    Chris is to be applauded for his determination and drive to not only succeed personally, but to help others succeed. All of us have a stake in promoting positive change and we need to remember that regardless of race.

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