If you drive along W. North Avenue from its beginning point near Hilton Street in West Baltimore, down to Penn and North at the epicenter of the Uprising of 2015, “Baltimore Ceasefire: Nobody Kill Anybody,” posters are ubiquitous like city blight.
The posters adorning vacant rowhouses, bus stopbenches and lamp posts announce a prayer of sorts, no violence, no killings in Baltimore for 72 hours, from August 4-6. It is a desperate prayer for many who have witnessed the third year in a row of record violence and homicides in Baltimore; 2015 was the deadliest year in the city’s history and at 205 murders before August 1, the city is on pace this year to eclipse 2015’s horrible record.
The initial and sustaining energy behind this anti-violence movement for a city devastated byit, comes from Erricka Bridgeford, the director of training for Community Mediation Maryland, which facilitates vital mediation services for Maryland residents and Ellen Gee, the director of The Evolution of Perspective, a women’s group and networking organization.
Since Bridgeford and Gee introduced this incarnation of a ceasefire in Baltimore in May, in the midst of another year of record violence and homicide, the anti-violence movement has grown dramatically, garnering attention nationally and internationally.
“I think that is why the world caught on. Baltimore residents did so much work pushing this message forward and connecting with one another and connecting people to resources and doing the outreach,” Bridgeford said. “It became a thing you could not ignore, because Baltimore said, `we are doing this whether there are cameras there, or a media story about it or not.’ And so the media suddenly meant, ‘What’s this thing I’m seeing everywhere?’”
In fact, residents of other cities grappling with epic violence like Detroit have acknowledged the Baltimore Ceasefire movement (as well as donated money and resources according to Bridgeford), as well as celebrities/legends like L.L. Cool J.
Gee said the movement and the messageresonates with different people for different reasons. “When we were in the planning phases of the Ceasefire, we thought about the messaging and who that specific hashtag would speak to,” she said.
“So, there are people who are very, very aware—acutely aware—of the aggressive nature and the aggressive culture of Baltimore City and there are people who actively participate in that,” Gee added. “I wanted to talk to people who, violence is not on their mind…the message about a Baltimore ceasefire doesn’t speak to people who just go about their day to day…I got to work, I come home, I mind my business. But, the idea to keep peaceon your mind, keep it top of mind…”
Perhaps, one of the most authentic and poignant reactions to the Baltimore Ceasefire movement came from an unidentified young man engaged by Bridgeford on the streets of the city.
“Oh. Y’all are doing this so we can stop dying right?” he said. “That’s wassup. I mean, a lot of stuff we aredoin is just f——-d up. Can you give me a poster? Imma put it on my bedroom wall. I wanna just look at it and think about it.”
Editor’s note: Sean Yoes is the editor of the Baltimore AFRO American Newspaper, one of oldest Black newspapers in the country and host and executive producer of, “First Edition,” which airs Monday through Friday, 5-7 p.m. on NPR station WEAA, 88.9.