More than 600 men marched down Baltimore’s North Avenue July 5- an answer to a call for only 300 to join in solidarity against the violence that has rocked the city in the past two weeks.

Traffic came to a standstill as Black men – joined by non-Blacks– stood unified to send a message about the more than 40 shootings and 16 homicides that have taken place in the last two weeks.

The march came as three more shootings—two of them fatal—occurred July 5 just before the group covered the length of North Avenue from the 3400 block of West North Avenue to the 2500 block of East North Avenue and back again, a total of 10 miles.

The demonstration was only the beginning, according to march organizer Munir Bahar, a 32-year-old accountant and executive director of COR Fitness, a health and exercise facility.

“The real work is what happens after tonight,” Bahar told the AFRO, adding that he wasn’t “gassed up” about the heavy turnout for the event.

“I can only measure the effect of this afterward-by how many actually get inspired and do more in their communities.”

Bahar said that he hoped the march would be used as “inspiration” for men to take a stand because “the violence is unacceptable.”

And he wasn’t the only one who voiced anger at the gun violence and 120 bodies that have dropped this year.

“This is not about numbers for me–it’s about life,” said Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts. “It’s about human beings. It’s about young women and young men who are dying on these streets- not just in Baltimore, but in Chicago, in Detroit, in Philadelphia, in Oakland, in Long Beach.”

“There’s just too many Black faces dying on the streets of America as a whole,” he said at an event that included Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Councilmen Brandon Scott, of the city’s second district, and Nick Mosby, of District 7.

Conveying thanks on behalf of all the women in Baltimore who have been trying desperately to hold their families together while working multiple jobs as single mothers, Rawlings-Blake said looking out at those gathered was evidence that there can be a better Baltimore.

“We have a problem because our young Black men don’t understand their value.

They don’t understand their wealth– somebody told them that they were worthless– and they believed it, she said. “I can tell them different- but the men in our community need to hear it from you.”

Women lined the street to send the men off and manned water stations for participants.

All along the route Baltimoreans came out of their homes with shouts of encouragement, and pride for many of their own men who joined the movement as it was happening.

For more than three hours the men marched as one unit from many different organizations and denominations. Fraternities joined together, and pastors could be seen marching alongside each other, as brothers from the Nation of Islam held the back of the line with extra security.

Men of every walk of life seemed to be in attendance. Some pushed children in strollers. Others with their sons on foot or propped up on their shoulders.

Members of the Baltimore music scene, teachers, business owners, and even young boys made the journey.

“This is a personal accomplishment for me- it lets me know that I can complete any mission in life,” said Pastor Jeffrey Thames, who came from Silver Spring’s Hope Restored! Church to participate.

“We have to show unity,” he said, just moments after completing the march. “Community means we are made up of common unity- and until we identify what commonly unites us all we will never know community again.”

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Alexis Taylor

AFRO Staff Writer