By Sean Yoes, AFRO Baltimore Editor, [email protected]
I love Erricka Bridgeford. And I know I’m not the only one.
Bridgeford and the Baltimore Ceasefire crew have been on the streets of our city engaged in the grimiest, most life-affirming, maddening, exhilirating, heart-breaking crucial fight against murder, mayhem and demonic spirits for the soul of our city for more than two years.
Last weekend, the third November Ceasefire concluded this way:
Day One: Zero murders, 11 life-affirming events.
Day Two: One murder (Daquan Chambers, 28, aka, “Skittles,” was gunned down in the 1000 block of N. Monroe St.), 28 life-affirming events.
Day Three: Zero murders, 14 life-affirming events.
Again, a Ceasefire weekend marked a significant decrease (empirically supported) in homicide and violence in our city. One of those life-affirming events was my conversation with Bridgeford during the recently merged Baltimore Book Festival/Light City event, this year dubbed, “Brilliant Baltimore.” Bridgeford, also known as “E Wonder,” and I talked about the state of our city, as we approach five years since the death of Freddie Gray and the subsequent Uprising in April 2015.
The dialogue between E and me in ways was miraculous, but because we are both West Baltimore at our cores, the conversation was delivered with the matter-of-fact frankness of a perfectly placed punch in the face. But,with love though.
That conversation in front of a multi-racial, multi-cultural, age diverse crowd about race, murder, history, segregation and God was important. But, I suspect the most important moment of that third day of Ceasefire came before Erricka arrived at the World Trade Center for our conversation.
The Ceasefire crew was being honored at the Kingdom Life Church in West Baltimore. As Bridgeford and the members of the Ceasefire Movement stood before the congregation, Pastor Michael Phillips presented them with an enormous jar containing “Oil of Joy.”
“You cannot accomplish what you want to accomplish just on your strength. This is a spiritual fight,” said Phillips speaking life on the lives of those engaged in this ongoing life and death struggle on the streets of our city. Honestly, the three words after “just” were a little garbled to my ears. But, the sentence afterwards resonated loud and clear, “This is a spiritual fight.”
Amen and Ase.
“The Kingdom Life Church gifted the Baltimore Ceasefire 365 crew with enough oil to bless all the murder locations and all the people we come across,” Bridgeford wrote on Facebook. “They also gave everyone in the building their own small vial of oil. To be gifted such a powerful spiritual tool is beyond amazing… it’s Divine order,” she added.
I later saw a photo of Erricka, with the oil in her arms, tears streaming down her face. I immediately thought we need more moments like this.
We need more churches like Kingdom Life to acknowledge Ceasefire, lay hands on them, anoint them with oil, love on them and join them on the streets for this spiritual warfare.
We need more individuals across the city to come out of the house on Ceasefire weekends and be an active part of raising the city’s collective vibration. And we need more Ceasefire moments beyond designated Ceasefire weekends.
Everybody isn’t called to hit the streets of this complicated and violent city and minister to the people struggling mightily on the fringes and in the shadows of Baltimore.
But, there are literally thousands of churches in our city; we need many more to be a part of this life-affirming work.
We have thousands of beautifully resilient people in our city; we need many more of them to be intentional about channeling their energy and power into this life-affirming work.
The whole city needs an anointing, because nobody is coming to save us, but ourselves.
Sean Yoes is the AFRO’s Baltimore editor and author of Baltimore After Freddie Gray: Real Stories From One of America’s Great Imperiled Cities.