Piece by piece, Sandra Borden and her new friend, Lenora Davis, spent Saturday morning during a Baltimore Ceasefire weekend attempting to put together their own vision for a better and more peaceful world.
They were among half a dozen participants attending a workshop at the Enoch Pratt Free Library’s Pennsylvania branch to design and create peace-inspired picture frames from glass beads, sea shells and tiles.
The mosaic workshop, led by artist Sarah McCann, was among more than 50 peace-themed events scheduled for the weekend as part of Ceasefire Baltimore, which attempts to end the murders plaguing the city — if only for one three-day weekend, four times a year.
An assortment of buttons and other materials used in mosaics might seem an ineffective tool for stopping bullets. Crystals aren’t much use at stanching blood. But McCann said that craft projects and homemade knickknacks can be a more powerful deterrent than they might seem.
“Mosaics are all about shaping something,” McCann said. “They are all about transformation. You put a piece here and a piece there, and you’re part of building something bigger.”
The Ceasefire events lineup for this weekend included everything from basketball games to prayer services. There was a poetry-writing workshop, a community health awareness day, a community vigil and art workshops aimed at everything from creating a peace quilt to decorating rocks for a peace garden.
The first Baltimore Ceasefire weekend was held in August 2017. Erricka Bridgeford and other founders announced a 72-hour period during which, they urge, “nobody kill anybody.” The weekends are repeated every three months; the next one will be in February 2020.
Often, Bridgeford’s hopes are dashed — as they were Saturday afternoon.
Two men were shot in the 1100 block of Monroe St., according to police. A 24-year-old man was pronounced dead, becoming Baltimore’s 286th homicide victim of the year. At a time when other cities have seen violence decrease, Baltimore is expected to record more than 300 homicides for the fifth year in a row.
Nonetheless, a study conducted by Bridgeford’s organization found that there was an average 52% reduction in shootings on Ceasefire weekends, taking into account seasonality and other trends. According to the author, Peter Phalen, “the true effect could be anywhere from a 32% to 66% reduction.”
As one workshop participant, 21-year-old Tenaya Knox, put it:
“In Baltimore, a lot of bad stuff happens. So much has been lost. Sometimes you wake up in the morning wondering if you’ll make it through another day.
"But a lot of good stuff happens in Baltimore, too, and when it does, it warms your soul. There’s a lot of love left in our city. You can never forget that.”
Most of the workshop participants didn’t know one another before they began their mosaics. But over two hours they began to talk about what peace means to them. They bragged in a modest and discreet way about their grandchildren, then acknowledged their worries.
“My two granddaughters are 12 and 16 and they’re good girls,” Borden, 70, said. “But you don’t know how other children they associate with are being raised.”
She and Davis said the library has always been an anchor when they needed it. It was a refuge decades ago when they were young and remains a safe and welcoming place in 2019.
“I lived across the street when I was growing up, and I came here every day," Borden said. "My mom always knew where I was. Regardless of what goes on outside that door, inside that door there was always peace and calm.”
During Davis’ frequent visits the Pennsylvania branch she always stops to read the letters written by schoolchildren after the 2015 uprising that followed the death of Freddie Gray. In the letters, the children thank administrators for keeping the building open. These letters soothe and inspire her.
“The library isn’t just a place,” she said. “It’s a community haven.”
Despite Baltimore’s rising death toll, the women said that their faith in the Ceasefire movement remains undiminished.
“It is very hard to reason out why people hurt one another,” said Rosa Jefferson, 79. “But having these weekends keeps a focus on what we’re trying to achieve. It brings people together to discuss problems and brainstorm solutions.
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“We all want a peaceful city. This reminds us that Baltimore can get better.”