“One hour of silence; one hour of no violence,” chanted participants who gathered at a school playground in the heart of Sandtown-Winchester July 14.  Approximately 100 parents, families, youth, teachers, community activists, and residents came braving the near 100-degree heat to stand together in the wake of a rash of shootings involving African-American men and police in Louisiana, Minnesota and Dallas

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Youth leads positive affirmations during Sandtown-Winchester Hands Across Baltimore event. (Photo by Deborah Bailey)

Event organizer, Nova Gray of Sandtown, said the event was mean to serve as the start of a crusade that can transform Baltimore. “One hour of us holding hands across Baltimore can generate an energy that has never been felt. In one hour, if we can be in each other’s presence, we can build bonds that can’t be broken,” Gray told the AFRO.

“We have to be there to interrupt when things are going wrong,” said Nancy Assero.  A Baltimore native, Assero came because she is involved with the city’s schools and wants to support ways for residents to reach across “divided Baltimore.” “When people see things that don’t look right, we can at least be a witness and speak up.  We have to protect Black folks who are dying,” said Assero, who is White.

Participants hugged, spoke affirmations to each other and expressed care for the children and youth who gathered during the hour-long observance.

Patrol Officer Dennis Dour from the Western District was on duty to patrol the event, but got out of his car to join in as the group began giving affirmations.  “It looks like a nice thing that is going on.  This is a start, but I think more of the community might have to get involved.  Maybe a lot of different groups from different areas,” Dour said.

Wilson Park/Penn Lucy resident Marshalynne Seavers, brought her four children to the event to see a different side of the struggle between African Americans and law enforcement. “It’s good to see us taking actions that emphasize love and positivity led by black activists in the city.  I want to raise racially conscious children in this city”, Seavers said.

The next Hands Across Baltimore event will be held in late July-early August, according to Gray. The ultimate goal is a city-wide event that will involve Baltimoreans from every background and community. “If we do more listening and less talking we can hear more of what’s going on in our community,” Gray said.