Dayjanae Talks Leadership, Baltimore, and the Power of Why

The Inner Harbor Project has developed a new Leadership Training consisting of 12 paid weekly sessions over three months, taking place twice a year in the fall and spring. After completing the training, Youth Leaders who pass the assessment will be promoted to Youth Associate Leaders (YALs), who receive a pay increase in return for increased responsibilities and opportunities. In addition to bolstering the merit-based promotion and leadership structure within the organization, the Leadership Training will also provide participants with crucial professional and life skills that they will be able to use far beyond their time at the Inner Harbor Project.We chatted with Dayjanae Jones, one of the youth leaders in the first cohort of the Leadership Training, to get her take on the training.  Dayjanae has been with the Inner Harbor Project for almost 3 years. She graduated from Harbor City High School in 2016 and her ambition is to be a cosmetologist.


Tell me about the Leadership Training so far. What kind of activities did you do?

The first session was leadership types, and the second session was going out and talking to people. Yesterday’s session was about leadership too, but the way [guest speaker JD Merrill] taught it is going to leave a mark on me. He described a car, but made it refer to leadership as a metaphor. He was describing different parts of the car—horn, pedal, all that--basically saying that all the people in the organization, no matter what type of leader you are, you’ll be one of those parts that we need for the organization to be how it is. Like the horn is someone that is being erky at the organization, the pedal is someone that keeps us going--keeps pushing us. It was really helpful. All of us took notes. Celia [Neustadt, Executive Director] even took notes.

What happened in the second session, where you went out in the Harbor and talked to people?

We talked to people about Trump. It was funny. We were playing the “why” game. We came up with the topics, we picked a topic. We would be like, why did people vote for Trump? And we put them in categories. Basically, we had different bullet points on the board—anti-Hillary, stupidity, racism, sexism, and we made a list. Someone would say “stupidity,” and we would say, “Why?” Then we would keep going and keep asking why and push deeper. Like being a four-year-old--why, why, why? The purpose is to dig deeper into the reasons.

We went out and asked people the question, “Why did people vote for Trump?” I was talking to one lady and she said people voted for Trump because they’re dumb, they’re stupid, they’re assholes. I said, “So did you vote for Trump?” She said “Hell no!” She was funny.

What is your take on the situation in the US right now following the election of Donald Trump? How can activist groups like IHP address the current climate?

I don’t know, because I don’t even think he would get along with us. He might like the kind of work we do, but he’d probably be like “What’s the point?” He’s focused on how he can change the whole world, not how we can change the Inner Harbor. He probably wouldn’t be interested.

What kind of leader do you think you are?

I know that I can be hard at times, and when stuff doesn’t go my way I get frustrated, so I think this leadership training will help me out with that. I let my attitude interfere with work. But other than that, I’m a good leader.

Since you’ve been involved with the Inner Harbor Project, have you seen changes in Baltimore City?

Things have changed in Baltimore and in the Inner Harbor. We got numbers to back us up. Things are better--that’s all I know. I’ve been here a minute. There’s probably stuff I’ve been in that I can’t remember unless people bring it up. I love the Inner Harbor Project. I do!

The only thing that’s still a problem is the Gallery. That’s the only thing. At first, [teens] weren’t allowed in there until 5:00, but now you’re not allowed in there at all unless you’re with a parent. The Gallery situation didn’t get any better.

What skills from the Leadership Training will you be able to use outside of IHP in your future career endeavors?

The business part--I can carry that a long way. Knowing how to be professional. Knowing how to be a leader. I never know what life can bring me. I never know when I will have to be a leader again. So I will remember stuff from this training, and it will help me out in many ways.