(Updated 4/13/2013) Deontae Smith, 15, will never learn how to drive. He will never go to a prom. He will never vote. While thousands of Baltimoreans gathered in downtown Baltimore to celebrate the return of the 2012 Super Bowl Champions, the Ravens, Deontae was stabbed near the parade route, later pronounced dead at a nearby hospital. Deontae is just one of countless young people who lose their lives each year in Baltimore and other urban areas to youth violence.
With the coming of warm weather in Baltimore, the city prepares to deal with spikes in crime and violent behavior. Coined by some locals as “Bodymore, Murderland,” violence in Charm City has resulted in more than 200 homicides in 2012, many of them young Black men and women.
Baltimore natives Bobby Marvin Holmes, producer of “The Marc Steiner Show” and Justin Gladden, a media coordinator who teaches video directing at Morgan State University, are telling the stories of slain youth in Baltimore and other cities in their new documentary “Live Young Blood.”
“Coming out of Baltimore it’s so many negative stories. The drug dealing, the crime, the violence, it’s this god-awful place. Justin and I really wanted to tell a more in-depth balanced story about our city,” said Holmes. “We’ve had some very tough years in Baltimore where our homicide rates were rocketing over 300 a year... But let’s dig deeper and see how it impacts people, how families, mothers and brothers are bothered by violence.”
The long-form filmmakers are scheduled to show their documentary on April 16 at Morgan State University at 7 p.m. in room 101 of the communications building, followed by a roundtable discussion panel by youth advocates, anti-violence and community organizations and educators featured in the film.
More than a decade ago, Baltimore classified youth violence as a public health issue, creating the Office of Youth Violence Prevention (OYVP) as part of the Baltimore City Health Department.
The film explores the impact of youth violence in and around Baltimore, addressing it as an epidemic which has infected block after block, neighborhood after neighborhood in the city. The filmmakers also highlight organizations such as Safe Streets, a center for crime prevention of youth violence which is working on ways to rid the city of youth violence.
“We don’t have our priorities in order. We’re closing schools and investing in things that are failing, like the Grand Prix,” said Holmes. “I understand the need for economic development, but I don’t think city leaders and community leaders make social development a priority and until they do, issues like poverty and violence will continue.”
Holmes and Gladden started the 75-minute documentary in 2011 to address the community upheaval surrounding a new proposed youth jail in the city. Two years later, with tons of footage, the filmmakers plan to release three films surrounding juvenile justice and education, he said.
Gladden said they hope the film can be shown in schools, churches and youth groups around the city to teach students and the community about the impact of youth violence. The filmmakers want the film to become an educational tool to accompany a research-based curriculum exploring conflict resolution, the violent culture and prevention and intervention strategies.
“It’s not a magic bullet that’s going to resolve violence in Baltimore, but it shows the most tangible you can have- hope,” said Holmes.