On Feb. 3, Erricka Bridgeford and the Baltimore Ceasefire crew decompressed, exhaled and celebrated all at once at Terra Cafe on E. 25th St., in Charles Village. They, we, have a lot to be thankful for; Baltimore completed more than 72 hours without a murder, from Feb.2 to Feb. 4, and as of Feb. 6, still no homicides.

“It’s amazing…The idea that nobody got that phone call…nobody is planning a funeral right now (because of violence),” said Bridgeford. What is also amazing is this organic Baltimore Ceasefire movement has been in effect for less than a year (the first was Aug. 2017, the second Nov. 2017) yet, there is some empirical evidence that this holistic approach to violence is working.

For most of 2017, Baltimore was on pace to eclipse the grisly homicide record of 344 set in 2015; the city was averaging a murder about every 19 hours. During the first Ceasefire, after 41 hours without violence, there were two homicides within a couple of hours, then none for the remainder of the 72 hour period. During the second Ceasefire, there was a murder after 24.5 hours, then no homicides for 48 hours. But, there were no homicides over this past weekend, so two, then one, then none.

Sean Yoes (Courtesy Photo)

“The next Ceasefire, we’re going to be in the streets like guerilla warfare,” said the indefatigable Bridgeford.

When I originally wrote about the Baltimore Ceasefire movement in this column last August, Letrice Gant (also known as Ellen Gee), one of the co-founders of the movement, explained why Ceasefire isn’t just about laying down guns for 72 hours.

“The goal was 72 hours, no murder and the goal also was to raise the vibration of the energy in Baltimore City, to spread love…to plug people into the resources they need, to create space for people to have conversations about things that they thought about people that weren’t necessarily true,” said Gee. “So, doing outreach in Baltimore City helped to bridge a lot of communication gaps. It helped to show people that people in Baltimore City, they’re not just thugs…they’re human beings,” she said in August 2017.

I think the real goal of the Ceasefire movement is for all Baltimoreans to focus more fully on our collective humanity.

I know Mayor Pugh supports Baltimore Ceasefire and I believe she embraces holistic solutions to the violence that rips at the soul of our city and has claimed the lives of more than 1,000 residents in the last three years. But, we still spend about a half-billion dollars, almost half of the city’s budget, on a broken police department. And the city is poised to spend perhaps millions more on anti-violence programs imported from outside of the city.

But, the truth is, in addition to Baltimore Ceasefire, we’ve got many other beautiful, brilliant people (most of them born and raised right here) doing incredibly vital work in our city, which saves lives every day. Yet, many of those same people are scrambling for resources and struggling to stay alive, while the darlings of the nonprofit industrial complex (for various reasons, some rooted in White supremacy), guzzle the city’s largesse.

I know it is not an either or solution when it comes to violence and murder, it should be all of the above (if it works). But, grassroots organizations like Ceasefire deserve a lot more water, sunlight and money.

“There were people who said, `That (Ceasefire) can’t work in Baltimore.’ Except that it did,” said. Bridgeford.

“That’s something nobody can take from Baltimore. You can’t forget that happened.”

Sean Yoes is the Baltimore AFRO editor and host and executive producer of the AFRO First Edition video podcast, which airs Monday and Friday at 5 p.m. on the AFRO’s Facebook page.

Sean Yoes

AFRO Baltimore Editor