If you drive along West North Avenue from its beginning point near Hilton Street in West Baltimore, down to Pennsylvania Avenue and North Avenue, the epicenter of the Uprising of 2015, “Baltimore Ceasefire: Nobody Kill Anybody,” posters are as ubiquitous as city blight.
The posters adorn vacant row homes, bus stop benches and lamp posts, announcing a prayer of sorts for no violence and no killings in Baltimore for 72 hours, from Friday, Aug, 4 through Sunday, Aug. 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; at 205 murders, as of Aug. 1, the city is on pace this year to eclipse 2015’s horrible record.
The Baltimore Ceasefire movement has captured the international spotlight and even caught the attention of hip hop artist and actor LL Cool J. (Courtesy Photo)
The Ceasefire officially began at 12:01 a.m. Friday morning and through the first several hours no homicides had been reported in the Baltimore. The last two homicides in the city occurred on Aug. 2.
The initial and sustaining energy behind this anti-violence movement 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 went, ‘What’s this thing I’m seeing everywhere?’”
In fact, residents of other cities grappling with epic violence, such as witnessed in past years in Detroit, have acknowledged the Baltimore Ceasefire movement, as well as donated money and resources according to Bridgeford. Celebrities such as LL Cool J have also lent their support.
Gee said the movement and the message resonates 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 peace on 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 are doin 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.”