Exclusive Interview: Carlmichael “Stokey” Cannady Pursues a Career in Politics to Bring About Social Change to His Community

I had the honor to have a one on one with Mr. Stokey. It is truly encouraging and inspiring to see what he is doing for Baltimore. It goes to show that if you want to help our communities you can as long as you have the drive and love for our own communities. He is the epitome of a true neighborhood hero.

Leslie: Can you tell us a little about yourself and your upbringing?

Mr. Cannady: My name is Carlmichael “Stokey” Cannady. I grew up in Baltimore, on the west side, from a section called “Whitelock”, better known as “Reservoir Hill”, in a single family home. My mom, she did the best that she could do with a limited amount of resources. It was not poverty but it was not the upper-class either. She became addicted to drugs and then went away to drug treatment programs and prison and she could never fully get off of drugs. My father was not in my life and at 10 years old, I would see him in moderation or whenever he could pop up. One particular day, when I was 10 years old, he gave me some drugs to hold for him while he was actually selling them.

I had a fairly good childhood, other than the trauma that I experienced because of my father and my mom. I played sports, went to school, I excelled in school, I was a fast learner, I guess that you could say that I was addicted to learning because I love education. I had fun and I played sports, things like that. I was in love with the community and I did a lot of community initiatives; I had fun and my sister and I made the best out of what little we had; she had her father in her life so she didn’t have the same hardships but she made sure that I was ok. If anything, I was the average kid, I played games, participated in local recreational centers and stuff like that. My grandparents were in my life and they were very strong and respectful. They had a very, very loving household where I was always welcomed. So it wasn’t as bad as it could have been because my grandmother and my grandfather picked up the slack that my father couldn’t maintain and because of my mother’s addiction.

Leslie: Well that’s commendable, you saw the positive path that you could’ve taken and you did take it and you went with it. That’s a great example for our youth nowadays that are actually in similar situations, if not worse.

Mr. Cannady: Again, most of what I experienced coming up has taught me a valuable lesson about life and learning from my mistakes. So I do my best to introduce people to my past by way of telling a story where they won’t make the same mistakes, especially in Baltimore. A lot of these kids today are a little worse off than I was because we still had community back then. Now the community as a whole has been victimized and traumatized with some of the same conditions that I grew up with and it has been perpetuated throughout the entire inner-city of Baltimore; unlike before, it was just in certain areas. So, again I do the best I can do with the limited amount of resources to pretty much reach back and grab kids to change their lives.

Leslie: That is the importance of letting everyone know your story. You can relate with our youth and you are also effecting change. So that’s the important part.

Mr. Cannady: Well I tell people all the time that you can’t fix what’s broken until you know how it works, you know, so me being from Baltimore, being from the inner-city and seeing how a child grew up, a drug invested home, affected by poverty and  lower income housing; all those things are my real life story, my experiences..so, it’s nothing for me to tell the story and how I changed my thinking and made it out. A lot of people got stuck, they lost their life, freedom and their health. I’m blessed to just say, you know what, I’m back, rejuvenated and looking forward to a healthier transition.

Leslie: That’s a beautiful thing. Growing up and still to this day, who are your mentors/inspirations and how have they impacted your life?

Mr. Cannady: Well, one was my mother. Although my mother was addicted to drugs or narcotics, she showed me what never giving up looks like and she also showed me what love feels like; although she had some addictions that was bigger than what she could handle; and as a kid growing up and having a woman in my life that would go to bat for me, at any cost, showed me the definition of love. As I got older I followed winners like JayZ, and Jay Brown who are very sincere about helping people themselves; as individuals. They gave me a blue print on how to believe in myself, follow my vision, and to not let other people stop me from what I want to do for myself. There are a lot of people that inspire me but right now those two individuals based on the way they move has inspired me the most in the last 5 years.

Leslie: When did you know you had a passion for social change and politics?

Mr. Cannady: I have always had a passion for social change, and it really didn’t have anything to do with politics. I know as of right now I am not a politician. I am just a concerned citizen of Baltimore. In 2015 when we experienced the uprising of Baltimore, I knew that someone like myself on the ground had to be a part of the solution. We knew what the children were experiencing, and why they were so frustrated. So, I would say 2015 really caused me to get engaged in the political spectrum, in terms of social change.

Leslie: How are you able to relate to the citizens of Baltimore?

Mr. Cannady: I am Baltimore. There is no issue that I cannot relate to that our young men and women are dealing with. I am Baltimore I am from Baltimore. Especially when you speak about the urban communities and dealing with a lot of automatic issues that have been affecting us for such a long time. I am doing my best to find ways to really look at life from a real perspective and to see what we can do beyond an election cycle to bring change to Baltimore.

Leslie: At what point did you realize you had to make a pivotal movement towards where you stand today?

Mr. Cannady: It started in 2015, but most recently, I was speaking to my youngest son. I told him that I was moving out to Los Angeles and he asked why I was moving? I told him that it was because Baltimore is not the same and that there are more opportunities available out in Los Angeles. He then asked me, Dad, are you moving because of the murders? So, when he said that I went outside and started crying and realized that my son is traumatized and I have got to fix it. So, I can leave Baltimore and be miserable or I can lead Baltimore. So, I decided to lead Baltimore in the right direction.

Leslie: What drives you to run for Mayor? What are your key points?

Mr. Cannady: Eighty percent was not to run for mayor it was to motivate and to show the young people that you can be whatever you want to be and that if you make a mistake you can change your life. Twenty percent was for the win. I am doing really well for myself and it is the first time in my life that I have been healthy, happy and successful. I am making the sacrifice to run for an office that is governed by 6,000 people and 300 of those people get murdered every year. And for me to say I love my city but know that we are dying, and I do not do anything about it, I have to be insane. So I have been doing my best to change lives, inspire people and motivate them to be the change that they want to see. And more importantly to turn the negative into a positive, to help change the culture that we live in that is being affected by poor leadership. That is what motivates me to run for mayor because I understand that if I am on the outside, there is not a lot of things that I can do to bring change but if I am on the inside, then I can evoke change, mandate it and bring about a new complexion that will help change the culture that we live in.

Leslie: What are your core values? What are the “people’s plan & needs”?

Mr. Cannady: My core values anything that concerns the people, to improve the educational system. I want to bring back vocational training so that the 46% of the people who do not graduate, they will have training. It will be vocational training but it will include; engineering, plumbing and HVAC so that if they do not go to college they have a skill to fall back on. I want to improve our infrastructure. I want to invest in Baltimore city to turn the city into a 21st century city so that we can compete with other thriving cities. I want to fix our transit system and I want to fix our corrupt police system to make sure that there is integrity, safety and respect for every citizen in Baltimore in accordance,  with the constitution but that also mandates what everyone deserves. I want to find a way to do some urban development in the city of Baltimore so that we can be proud of our neighborhoods too. I want to create jobs for people, so that they can remain in the city. In order to do that you need to build relationships, trust and respect. But you also need help and I am convinced that the relationships I have will give me a great opportunity to not only to turn Baltimore around but to inspire them to be engaged and involved in the change that they want to see.

Leslie: What will it really take to change Baltimore, in your opinion?

Mr. Cannady: First,  it will take a leader with the resources and the ability to reach the people that have these basic problems. If you can reach them and they respect and trust you, then you will start to see a change. We need to find people that know what the problem is where its coming from, how to solve it and how to help the people to get on their feet.

Leslie: Tell us about the programs you have that give back to the community?

Mr. Cannady: I have something called the Stokey project. There are all types of community initiatives such as; giving the residents toys at Christmas, clothing drives at Easter, back to school events and summer festival. You name it, if it has anything to do with philanthropy we do it. My program intels people that are already on the ground finding a short term solution and not long term excuses.

Leslie: Can you tell us about the time that city officials came to you after the Death of Freddie Gray, and why?

Mr. Cannady: The night that Freddie died, the day of the uprising, I was already engaged to and motivated to help my community. So when the uprising occurred, my friend Henry Jones and myself went to a basketball court called Cloverdale and we summoned the community to come out so that they could  speak about the things that were bothering them or affecting them that caused the uprising. The city saw that I was a leader that could be trusted and who had a good relationship with the people, so they felt that they could call upon me to partner up with them.

Leslie: What great words of wisdom and advice can you offer future politicians and change agents?

Mr. Cannady: Touching people with real relationship, trust and respect. And it does not always mean that it’s the people that are in crisis sometimes it is the people that just need help.  We have a lot of people who do not trust politicians because they might be corrupt and untrustworthy. It is important that people can trust you and hear your message, that way you can be on the same accord.

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