By Sean Yoes
AFRO Baltimore Editor
syoes@afro.com

In Baltimore, protests against the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis have been largely peaceful. There have been some scattered incidents of property destruction this week, but the city has not had to endure the type of violence and looting other cities have experienced. No curfew has been instituted in Baltimore like in New York, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and other large cities.

The AFRO sat down with Darnyle Wharton, one of the co-organizers of the Baltimore Ceasefire Movement for his perspective on the protests that have gripped the nation and much of the globe.

Baltimore Ceasefire, which calls for 72 hours of no murders four times a year and facilitates peace and healing for our city all year long, has contributed profoundly to changing the conversation about Baltimore’s reaction to violence, murder and mayhem.

Darnyle Wharton, one of the co-organizers of the Baltimore Ceasefire Movement said, “No matter what I do in life, I’ll always be Baltimore Ceasefire.”

“It has to be a Ceasefire, it has to be a No Shoot Zone, it has to be a Hug Don’t Shoot, it has to be a Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle, it has to be a Algebra Project,” said Wharton as he named checked some of the grass roots organizations providing vital, life saving service to the residents of our city. “It has to be all of those types of things to get people to see that there is a different way to do things now. And I feel that the mountain of violence and systemic racism, and hopelessness, and joblessness, we’re starting to chip away at that with the work we do. Eventually, we’ll reach a point where everybody will start to see there is a different way.”

Wharton, who is the community engagement coordinator for Baltimore’s consent decree monitoring team, sees the violent response of some Black Americans to the murder of Floyd, as well as the general plight of disenfranchised Black communities  through the wider lens of America’s foundational relationship with violence.

“When you are an outsider to the nation, which Black people are because we were brought over here on slave ships, we adapt to where we are after a certain amount of time. So when you say that Black people are violent, no, it’s not just that Black people are violent. Where we live is violent. So we take on what we are a part of,” Wharton said.

“There’s no such thing as Black on Black crime, but there is such a thing as crime based off of what’s going on around you. So, we’ve got systemic racism, we’ve got hopelessness, we’ve got joblessness, we’ve got mental disease, we’ve got poverty. And when you’re brought up in all of that and you feel like you don’t have no other way to react or you don’t think that you have a way to get out of the situation that you’re in you’re going to resort to what you ‘re brought up under. And we’re under this cloud of violence.”

One of the most important aspects of the work Wharton does with the Ceasefire crew, beyond the call for the cessation of violence and murder, is the group’s focus on providing resources for the city’s underserved communities, those most impacted by violence.

“When we go out with Ceasefire we go out with our resources. And basically, we’re telling them we would love for you to be non-violent, but we’re also saying, what is it that you need? Or what is that you are looking for to get you out of the situation that you’re in now?” said Wharton.

“Because I just can’t say be non-violent and then bounce…we’re here to bring you the help. People think Baltimore is resource deficient and it’s not. People just don’t know where the resources are,” he added. 

“You could be living in Park Heights and have a vision of what you want to do, but if you don’t know where to go to look for that. And you don’t have the time to look for it because you’re trying to take care of family, you’re trying to eat it’s going to look insurmountable.” 

Yet, the work the Ceasefire crew has put in during the group’s three years with some of the most imperiled communities in the city has rendered some of the challenges less daunting.

“We still have a lot of work to do,” Wharton said. “But, the response (to Ceasefire) is much better. No matter what I do in life, I’ll always be a part of Baltimore Ceasefire. Baltimore needs it.”

Sean Yoes

AFRO Baltimore Editor