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Baltimore’s CeaseFire rally remains dedicated to shaping the city for the better, as Mayor Scott challenges all to act

Erricka Bridgeford, co-founder of Baltimore CeaseFire 365 and supporters came together for the first CeaseFire weekend of the year on Saturday. Mayor Brandon Scott and activists said there can be more excuses for not ending the city's unrelenting cycle of violence.
Erricka Bridgeford, co-founder of Baltimore CeaseFire 365 and supporters came together for the first CeaseFire weekend of the year on Saturday. Mayor Brandon Scott and activists said there can be more excuses for not ending the city's unrelenting cycle of violence. (Barbara Haddock Taylor)

Baltimore’s first CeaseFire weekend of 2021 was met with fine weather and enthusiastic crowds Saturday, with organizers of the event and supporters hoping to address relentless violence by focusing on all the good things and people the city has to offer.

While the urgency remains the same — the city has recorded 30 murders in the first five weeks of the year — organizers made some tweaks to the traditional format to deal with the reality of the pandemic. Saturday morning kicked off with a virtual “Speak Joy Over Baltimore” event in which participants highlighted the people and places that make Baltimore much more than its crime rate.

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A second virtual event took place later, in which participants created drawings and art to express their appreciation for the city and what it means to them and residents.

By early afternoon events moved outdoors, where Baltimore CeaseFire 365 co-founder Erricka Bridgeford and group members Ellen Gee and Darnyle Wharton led a group of walkers in the the Walbrook neighborhood of West Baltimore. There they met with leaders and members of community groups, including Baltimore Safe Streets.

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Bridgeford heeds her own call to set a positive example. On Thursday, Bridgeford posted about the city not reporting any murders for three days straight. Bridgeford says those are days that matter, mostly because its a day to “celebrate life.”

During the rally she wore a hoodie with names of friends who have died, including one person who was lost to violence.

Mayor Brandon Scott joined the activities Saturday afternoon and made clear he expects the people of Baltimore to step up if the violence is going to end. He particularly challenged men to get out of the house and join the movement.

“If you are watching this on Facebook, wonder to yourself why you’re not here. Wonder why you are posting. Don’t post, walk. Don’t talk, walk,” Scott said. “Get out in the street ... with all of us who are fighting. ... We have to save this city together.”

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As Bridgeford stood in front of a shop near the corner of Clifton Avenue in front of a crowd of supporters, she said that there is no reason to lose hope.

“We can’t help but make it better. We got no excuses now,” Bridgeford said to the crowd.

The groups splintered a bit as the day wore on, spanning out in different directions. Members of We, Our, Us continued a peaceful march down the street with over a dozen people. Bridegeford and other CeaseFire members prepared for a prayer walk in Northeast Baltimore.

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott, center, participates in a community engagement walk with the We Our Us organization in West Baltimore Saturday.
Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott, center, participates in a community engagement walk with the We Our Us organization in West Baltimore Saturday. (Barbara Haddock Taylor)

Ellen Gee said the group and the Ceasefire weekends are about celebrating life in Baltimore. For Gee and other activists, much of the work they do is aimed at changing how people talk about the city and showing the efforts and sacrifices made to combat a long history of crime, corruption and poverty.

“People tell us all the time about what Baltimore is and what Baltimore is not. And I don’t listen to that because I know what my city is and I know what it can do,” Gee said passionately to the crowd.

More events are scheduled on Sunday. The Black Lives Matter Interfaith Coalition will hold a car caravan from 2:00 pm to 3:30 p.m. in support of Baltimore CeaseFire. The caravan will drive by historically significant Black Institutions as a way of educating “about Black lives well lived” according to brochures publicizing the event.

Participants will meet at the Lake Clifton Campus, 2816 St Lo Drive, parking on the left side. Those attending are asked to decorate their cars with CeaseFire and Black Lives Matter signs, and to meet at 1:30 p.m.

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