By Deborah Bailey, Special to the AFRO

When the architects of Baltimore Ceasefire 365 announced plans for the first ceasefire weekend in the hot, violent summer of 2017, some laughed, and others shrugged their shoulders in resignation. Few grasped the concept that city residents could pull together and transform the culture of guns and murder gripping the city like heat on asphalt streets.

Last year’s homicide count in Baltimore tipped the scales at 342. This year, things are beginning to shift slightly, with an overall 20% decrease in the murder rate through the end of June, in spite of a rash of recent highly publicized homicides including the recent death of 7-year-old Taylor Hayes.

“We’ve had a year of giving our city hope every three months.  That’s not something only one person can do,” Erricka Bridgeford, founder of Baltimore Ceasefire, describing the goal of quarterly calls for a weekend without gun violence that began in August 2017, told the AFRO.  

Organizers and volunteers involved in this weekend’s Baltimore Ceasefire 365 first anniversary events are buoyed by hopeful signs of a city determined to come together.

Ceasefire will host several special anniversary events to build on that sense of hope and encourage connection between Baltimoreans. “Two rallies will be held on Friday; in Park Heights and Edmondson Avenue,” Bridgeford said.

A parade will be held Saturday morning in Park Heights and then a free concert at the Downtown Cultural Arts Center at 8:00 pm with artists including Eze Jackson and Jahiti from Brown FISH.

The weekend will conclude with a celebration at Kingdom Life Church Sunday morning and close out with dinner in the community at 1511 Ashburton from 4-7 pm.

The organization will also support a wide range of positive community events in neighborhoods across the city weekend as they have each quarter for the past year.

“One of the things that sparked our interest in being a sponsor is the partnership between our Community Engagement Center and Erricka Bridgeford,” said Alex Likowski of The University of Maryland, Baltimore. University of Maryland, Baltimore is one of the sponsors of the Baltimore Ceasefire 365 anniversary weekend.

“Our neighbors there and in the other nearby Southwest Baltimore communities are often the victims of violence and we certainly want to support and work with our neighbors to make our streets safe for everyone,” Likowski said of the Poppleton community where the campus’ Engagement Center is located.

As the Baltimore Ceasefire movement celebrates its first anniversary through August 5th, a sense of cautious optimism coupled with indignation over homicides involving children is slowly taking hold throughout the city. “Especially after the death of a child, people who normally would not find themselves involved will actively look for ways to take action,” explained Bridgeford.

“A lot of people decided they wanted to have hope and joy and they were going to make it happen,” she said in response to the decline in Baltimore’s homicide rate over the past year.

Baltimore Ceasefire 365 co-organizers and volunteers like Letrice Gant, have been on board since the first 72-hour Ceasefire weekend and believes residents are ready to turn the city around neighborhood by neighborhood.

“Ceasefire is passion work that we do because we believe in Baltimore City,” Gant said.

“We saw the vision and we continue to be inspired by what we know Baltimore both is and can be,” Gant declared.

While violent deaths marred the organization’s first Ceasefire weekend events in August and November 2017, Ceasefire weekends in February and May of this year ended with no homicides. The organization’s February 2018 Ceasefire weekend resulted in a cessation of violent deaths for more than 10 days after the weekend ended.   This year there have been several stretches of multiple days without homicide deaths that lead Ceasefire organizers to believe they are at the tipping point in reducing gun violence in the city.

‘‘I knew that it was time for it to happen and it would change the way the city responded to murder but I did not think it was going to happen so quickly,” Bridgeford said of the success of the most recent Ceasefire weekends.

“We are not just ‘The Wire’ and Inner Harbor,” said Gant. “Baltimore is much more robust than those two extremes.”

“I am looking forward to the day when we won’t have to host Ceasefire Weekends because gun violence will no longer be an issue in our city,” Gant said.

Bridgeford hopes the Baltimore Ceasefire movement can continue to inspire a sense of hope in residents who are sometimes overwhelmed by gun violence.

“We want to continue reminding Baltimore of its own resilience. “All I’m doing is something that’s in my heart,” Bridgeford said of the Ceasefire movement.

Events for Baltimore Ceasefire 365 can be found on the organization’s website: