Shelonda Stokes provided a one-word answer to why she is ready to be the next board chair of Downtown Partnership of Baltimore (DPOFB).
“Experience,” said the Baltimore native, who was tabbed to take over the position after the University of Maryland, Baltimore, president Dr. Jay Perman stepped down.
Perman served six years as the chair of Downtown Partnership of Baltimore (DPOB), the nonprofit whose innovative programs stimulate economic development and transform public spaces in Charm City.
“I’m going to say experience from the perspective of having exposure into the different areas of Baltimore,” Stokes said. “I believe I know what works; I know the inner-workings.”
With a degree in Electrical Engineering from Morgan State University, Stokes is a proven leader. Currently, she is president and CEO of greiBO Media and has more than two decades of experience in management, communications, media, and government and commercial arenas.
According to her biography, Stokes is responsible for helping greiBO achieve double-digit growth over five years, and as one of the Top 100 minority businesses in the Greater Baltimore region. Stokes has earned more than 75 professional and community awards. She serves on Morgan State University’s Board of Regents; both the Governor’s and Mayor’s Commission on Minority Business Reform; and the Maryland Information Technology Board.
Previously, she chaired The Leadership Board, and currently serves on both the Center Club and EBDI boards.
“Growing up in Baltimore and being connected to the community is important,” Stokes said. “Being part of the community all of my life and having those differing viewpoints that you get has helped me.”
Kirby Fowler, the president of DPOB, said the organization is fortunate to have Stokes assume the chair’s role vacated by Perman.
“We were fortunate to have had his leadership these past six years and equally fortunate to have a long-time board member, successful entrepreneur, and community leader in Shelonda Stokes to assume the Chair,” Fowler said.
As the first African American to hold the position, Stokes knows there will be challenges.
“I think there’s a sense of bonding, but certainly a sense of responsibility because with great responsibility comes great pressure,” Stokes said. “From the African American community, it’s getting into another door, and it’s having a level of confidence and support. There’s a lot of pride that comes with this, but what I do recognize is that I’m representing a number of talented, confident, and committed people.
“What keeps me motivated— and I don’t feel like I’m alone in this role— is the number of calls of support from all, not just black people, and not just women. But, it’s across the board.”
When asked what she anticipates if she is still the chair after six years, Stokes expressed even more excitement for DPOB.
“In any city, the downtown is usually the core, particularly from a tourism perspective. What’s great about Baltimore, unlike some other cities, is that other neighborhoods have so much interest and exciting things happening, so in six years, I see a core focus on Baltimore holistically,” Stokes said. “It’s not us versus them. I think I’d love to have that be one of the initiatives, and one of the other things I’m excited about is how the Downtown Partnership took the lead in helping to get the minimum wage raised to $15.
“I’d also love to see a flourishing downtown every day where something is going on that you want to be a part of.”