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'Why can't you just let us grow up?': A 6-year-old Baltimore girl's plea for peace goes viral

Six-year-old Kelsey Hines was headed to church with her grandma last week when they had to take a detour because of a triple shooting.

Police said the victims were two women — a 19-year-old shot in the stomach and a 23-year-old shot in the leg — and a 31-year-old man who’d been shot in the foot. An unknown suspect had approached them in the 1600 block of Lanvale St. about 6:10 p.m. on April 26.

Kelsey saw yellow evidence markers everywhere — “There was a lot of them,” she said.

When she got home, the kindergartner told her mom to set up the camera because she had a message to get off her chest.

“Why can’t you just let us grow up?” she asked. “Why can’t you just let us have fun when we want to play with our friends, but we can’t because they’re shooting out there?” she said, pounding her tiny fist in her lap.

“We don’t want to go to heaven yet,” she said as the faint siren of an ambulance could be heard.

As she continued her plea, tears began to stream down her face. By the time she finished, her mom, Kelly Ellerbe, was crying, too.

Ellerbe has posted videos of her daughter to Facebook before — the girl “wants to be a superstar” and even has her own Facebook page, managed by her mom.

But this one spoke to people.

A week later, the video has been viewed over 4 million times on Facebook. Hines and her mom have been getting messages from people in Africa and New Jersey and the United Kingdom. They’ve been doing TV interviews, they’ve been invited to speak at marches.

In person, Kelsey is precocious and bubbly, letting her mom know when she has lipstick on her teeth, wandering into the kitchen to pour herself a glass of milk. She occasionally rolls her eyes and throws herself back onto the throw pillows of the living room couch. The sudden fame, she admitted, has been a little tiring. But she wants to keep sharing her message.

“I’m help saving the world,” she said.

Ellerbe said she always knew her baby was special. The pregnancy was tough, she said. Doctors said she might not make it. When Kelsey was first born, two months early, she was afraid to hold her.

“Why was you scared to hold me?” Kelsey asked her.

The girl grew up fast. From age 1, Kelsey was counting. At age 2, she said she wanted to go to Harvard.

“When I turned 2, I already knew everything,” she said.

“Everybody tells me she has an old soul,” Ellerbe said. “She’s been here before.”

Ellerbe said she’s tried to shield her daughter from the violence of the city. They live in a fairly safe neighborhood in Northeast Baltimore. But “she watches the news. We can’t hide it from her,” her mother said.

It’s not easy raising a small child in Baltimore.

“I worry about her all the time,” Ellerbe said. “It’s a lot more dangerous now.”

Though Baltimore’s population has declined in recent decades, the number of killings has spiked in recent years. Ellerbe said when she was young, people didn’t shoot if there were kids and old people around. But today, that’s different.

“Sometimes, I want to pack up and move away,” Ellerbe said.

To cope, she and Kelsey pray throughout the day.

Yet, in the midst of the dangerous city, Kelsey sees herself as a force for good.

“I am a powerful child,” she said.

ctkacik@baltsun.com

twitter.com/xtinatkacik

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