By Tashi McQueen,
AFRO Political Writer,

On June 2 the Historic East Baltimore Community Action Coalition (HEBCAC) and In All Ways Human led an event commemorating National Gun Violence Awareness Day at the HEBCAC and Youth Opportunity (Yo! Baltimore) center

“Today, we are focusing on the impact and implications of chronic and long-standing gun violence, community violence, and its impact on youth mental health for Black and Brown youth,” said Ninah Bell, director of Youth Programs for HEBCAC. “We are having community members, stakeholders, small nonprofits and some of our community come out and share their stories and connections to gun violence.”

She said the event was created to help attendees process constant exposure to gun violence, death, grieving and harm. 

According to Wear Orange, a gun violence prevention campaign, each year, June 2-4 is a time for Americans to honor the victims and survivors of gun violence and advocate for an end to the crisis.

At the event, a program graduate spoke about his past and what Yo! Baltimore and HEBCAC did for him.

“I’d been out of high school since I was 14. I was being a teenager and didn’t really start trying to get my high school diploma until I was [about] 18,” said Damonte Barnes, now  24. “It wasn’t even hard for me to get it [high school diploma]. It was a confidence issue.”

Barnes spoke about his outlook and experiences with gun violence in Baltimore.

“Murders and killings – it happens everywhere,” said Barnes. “I got shot in the same hood I grew up in, but I still love my hood.”

According to the city’s crime data, at least 113 homicides and more than 245 shootings took place in Baltimore as of June 4. There’s been a 15 percent decline in homicides and a nine percent decrease in shootings since last year. 

“We just got to help the youth more morally, socially, and economically,” said Barnes.

The event concluded with a calling-out ceremony for those lost to gun violence. A calling-out ceremony is where attendees shout out the names of those who have died.

Attendees were also invited to help finish a reinstallment of the In All Ways Human portrait mural located outside the now-abandoned East Baltimore Community School building.

According to a news release, on June 1 Mayor Brandon M. Scott unveiled Baltimore’s first Peace Mobile. It is inspired by LIFE Camp New York’s Peace Mobile, a city-owned RV with a recording studio, punching bag, snacks, toiletry kits and more. The city designed the peace mobile for residents experiencing trauma due to violence.

“Sheer innovation is turning the tide of public safety across our City and we are excited to add the Peace Mobile to our toolkit as we work to reduce violence in Baltimore,” said Scott. “The Peace Mobile embodies the spirit of our city. I look forward to our residents taking advantage of the resources and sense of community that will now literally meet them where they are to facilitate their healing and self-care.”

Gov. Wes Moore also acknowledged National Gun Violence Awareness Day, encouraging Marylanders to support efforts to prevent gun violence and value human lives.

“By this time tomorrow, another two Marylanders will have died from gun violence, and here in Maryland, we’ve had enough of these senseless, preventable tragedies,” said Moore. “This year, we passed common-sense legislation that will ensure you can’t bring a gun into a preschool, a hospital, or a government office—that if you have a mental illness and have a history of violent behavior, you cannot get your hands on a gun.”

Tashi McQueen is a Report For America Corps Member.