By Sean Yoes, AFRO Baltimore Editor, [email protected]
So far in 2019 Baltimore has been averaging almost a murder a day, 26 homicides as of Jan. 26.
There have been six days with multiple homicides. There was a homicide every day from Jan. 8 – Jan. 13. We’ve gotten off to a bad start after registering moderately lower crime rates across the board in 2018.
It seems Ceasefire Weekend is coming right on time, as usual.
“So, the movement itself is based on the idea that Baltimore can collectively put a pause on violence, if we decide as a city, as a community we can do that. We can give one another at least 72 hours,” said Letrice Gant, a co-founder of Baltimore Ceasefire 365, during a recent conversation I had with her at Impact Hub on North Ave.
“The other part of that, the other component we try to stress to people is this idea about celebrating life,” Gant added. “So, one of the things we encourage people to do during Ceasefire Weekend is to plan what we call life affirming events. Life affirming events can be something as intimate as you sitting down with family members and having a conversation about the context of violence and how it impacts you directly.”
The essence of Baltimore Ceasefire and perhaps the main reason the Ceasefire Weekends have been so successful (every Ceasefire weekend has seen a significant decrease in homicides and shootings), is that it is grass roots and community-driven. Ceasefire is not some lumbering entity hovering over the community, handing down edicts to end violence, which the residents of the mostly Black, mostly poor communities most affected by violence would promptly ignore. Ceasefire is of, from and for those communities most impacted by murder and mayhem and the residents of those communities are most important in the battle to change the city’s injurious trajectory.
From the beginning (Aug. 21), I’ve thrown my personal and professional support behind the Ceasefire movement led by Erricka Bridgeford, Gant, Ogun Gordy, Jakia Jason, Michelle Herring and Darnyle Wharton.
But, this Ceasefire Weekend I’m in the game for real–along with many others creating space for peace and healing.
Me and my partner Tiffany Ginyard, (the AFRO’s new managing editor), who happens to be one of the smartest, most talented young people I know, are producing “House Music Heals,” a “life affirming event” at the burgeoning Impact Hub on North Ave.
I may not be totally objective here but, House Music Heals is unique in the sense we are convening a community conversation about the impact of violence on our young people, as well as a traditional Baltimore House Party. Both elements of our forum lend themselves to healing.
Our conversation about the impact of ubiquitous violence (more than 50 percent of 2018 homicides were people aged 13-30) features five dynamic young leaders. Lauren Bell, a 10th grade a multi-talented artist and writer; Deleciea Greene and Keyma Flight, members of the nationally respected Dewmore Baltimore Youth Poetry Team; Khaneef Goode, a West Baltimore community organizer and Ras Tahuti Missouri, another powerhouse spoken word artist.
I first wrote about Missouri in July 2016, when he reflected on the death of murdered West Baltimore rap artist “Lor Scoota” (Tyriece Watson). “He was trying to get away from the street life, he was trying to get away from all of that,” Missouri, who was 15 at the time told me back in 2016. “That was his ticket out of the city…rapping about what he lived…and it’s sad that the reality and what he lived turned around to be his downfall.”
And it is a divine twist of fate that we are also facilitating a House Music set across the street from the mythic Odell’s nightclub. Although Odell’s has been shuttered for decades, the creative energy is crackling once again on North Avenue. Our House Music party features two phenomenal DJs: Henry Da Man (Henry Featherstone) and Sunny T (Monica Taylor). I’ve known Taylor since we were both in Middle School and although she’s always had a deep love of music, she just started DJ’ing a few years ago. Featherstone, who I refer to as “the Professa,” is one of the most knowledgeable DJ’s in Baltimore, a bastion of world class House Music talent.
I wrote about “The Healing Power of House Music” in October 2015, when I referenced the legendary “Deep Sugar” House party, during a special set by Ultra Nate and Lisa Moody shortly after the Uprising of April 2015.
I wrote that Deep Sugar was a spiritual salve for many of the city’s disenfranchised; people of color, the LGBT community and many others.
We need that healing power every day.
Sean Yoes is the AFRO’s Baltimore editor and the author of Baltimore After Freddie Gray: Real Stories From One of America’s Great Imperiled Cities.